It must be serious – the flyover, and the conflict of interest

It must be serious. After editorialising enthusiastically about the Transport Agency’s plan to build a flyover alongside the Basin Reserve, the DomPost is now accepting that there’s a problem. Saturday’s paper reported: “The proposed flyover near the hallowed Basin Reserve is causing uproar within the city and fierce debate within the council.”

And there’s more, in an article by Anthony Hubbard:

“The flyover … is widely disliked. Despite the arguments of the New Zealand Transport Agency, few believe that flyovers enhance the landscape … The trouble for the politicians is that the flyover, as city councillor Justin Lester put it, would be ‘butt ugly.’ ”

However, the DomPost hasn’t paid much attention to the issue of conflict of interest for Transport Agency chairman Chris Moller, which we reported on December 26 and 28. Yet it’s not difficult to start checking whether or not the conflicted chairman has been removing himself from any discussion of the flyover, as his deputy has claimed.

The Agency’s minutes (online) show that his first meeting as chair was in April 2010, when a Board paper on financing Roads of National Significance was discussed in committee. It’s not unreasonable to assume that the Basin Reserve section of RONS was included in the paper. But there’s nothing to indicate that he left the chair if this was discussed. And though a resolution was passed agreeing to “keep [the paper] in committee to enable the Board to have a free and frank discussion…” there’s nothing in the minutes to show that he didn’t vote on the issue.

Mr Moller was absent from the Agency’s next two meetings, on May 27 and June 17. He returned to the chair at the June 24 meeting, and noted his interest in the Rugby World Cup, but not his involvement with NZ Cricket.

At the July 2010 meeting, there was discussion on travel times for the Wellington City SH1 urban network (which runs past the Basin Reserve, where the Agency wants to build the flyover.) The Board agreed on “a journey time level of service target … for the section of State Highway 1 between the Terrace Tunnel and the Kilbirnie Park.” It also agreed to keep the relevant Board paper in committee “until the Board’s preferred option for the Wellington Corridor is communicated and consulted on.” Again, these minutes do not show that the chairman declared any conflict of interest or that he absented himself from the discussions.

Minutes of the September meeting are the first time that he is recorded as declaring a conflict due to his membership of the Cricket NZ and the Westpac Stadium boards. This is in relation to item 13 which is described as “Report back from the NZTA Investment and Operations Board committee.” No details are provided in the minutes, except “there was no further discussion.”

At the November 2010 meeting, Mr Moller’s stance was becoming more focused. The minutes show that he advised his intention to step aside as chair on any matters relating to the Basin Reserve and Buckle Street given his NZ Cricket Inc and Wellington Regional Stadium roles. Chris will seek a Board member to stand in for him on relevant occasions.

This was, however, six months after he had been appointed chair. The minutes for the previous six months are less than specific about whether there was a conflict between roading and cricket, and if so, whether or not he stepped aside from any conflicted discussions.

And it took two more years before the Agency made any public announcement of the conflict of interest, first in last month’s letter to Celia Wade-Brown, and then (seemingly on the same day) in deputy chair Patsy Reddy’s statement on the website.

Our analysis of the minutes raises a question for the deputy chair to answer. She states that from the time of his appointment Mr Moller declared that he had an interest because of these roles. But the minutes do not contain any proof that he did this – not till he had been chair for more than six months.


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