The board of inquiry chosen by the government to decide on the Basin Reserve flyover has struck a problem. One of its four members has resigned. Today’s official announcement says her decision follows consideration of “objections raised alleging conflict of interest.”
A political observer comments:
Many people will see the resignation as a negative for the board of inquiry. Mrs Foster was highly regarded as a person who would act professionally and independently – her resignation can be seen as a sign of her integrity. The next challenge is to find someone with the same integrity and ability.
Here is the official announcement, from retired judge Whiting who is chairperson of the Board of Inquiry.
1. Mrs Christine Foster has given consideration to the objections raised alleging conflict of interest.
2. Mrs Foster has, in the interests of the Board and process, recused herself
and offered her resignation to the Minister for the Environment.
3. The Minister has accepted the resignation.
4. The Board has decided to ask the EPA to seek the Minister’s consideration of appointing a replacement Board member.
5. The hearing (proposed for Friday 11 October) on the objections is no longer necessary.
Last month Judge Whiting issued an official memorandum about “possible and potential conflicts of interest” relating to Opus International Consultants who have written ten of the technical reports commissioned by the Transport Agency in support of the flyover proposal. At that time, he stated:
Board member Christine Foster is contracted to provide peer review of selected aspects of Opus International Consultants Limited’s work on scheme investigations for the Petone-to-Grenada route. That role has required comment on an early project component (completed some time ago and there are no residual tasks arising from that) and would require input at a later stage of investigations commenting on the RMA planning content of the assessment of scheme alternatives. That would potentially be some time in 2014 – but the precise time frame has not yet been confirmed and may post-date the Basin Bridge Board of Inquiry.
On 27 September, Mrs Foster released a two page letter in which she wrote:
Having reflected on the concerns … about my role on this board of inquiry, I do not consider that my ability to impartially fulfil my duties to the board will be impaired in any way by the limited association with Opus and the NZTA with regard to the Petone to Grenada project.
Less than two weeks later, she has changed her mind.