Wellington Scoop

Conflicts of interest: a secret flyover MOU and its three signatories

Evidence now available online from the Basin flyover inquiry has shown a strange and conflicting contradiction between a decision made by Wellington city councillors and an agreement that was formalised a few days later.

The conflict is evident in a Memorandum of Understanding signed in March last year. The MOU was signed by the council’s then chief executive Garry Poole, by Wellington City Councillor John Morrison for the Basin Reserve Trust, and by Rod James for the Transport Agency.

Shortly before the MOU was signed, councillors had resolved that a number of ways to “mitigate” any flyover should be explored. And their resolution had repeated that their preference continued to be for an underground solution.

Their resolution is not reflected in the MOU, which does not mention the ways with which councillors wanted the flyover to be mitigated. The three signatories of the MOU agreed with each other that the only important mitigation was the building of a new cricket pavilion – a structure which was not mentioned by councillors in their resolution a few days earlier.

The three people who signed the MOU also committed the council to conditions that were to be followed provided the Transport Agency paid for the cricket pavilion. The MOU states that it is intended to provide the basis to ensure that the adverse effects of the flyover “can be mitigated in such a manner as not to prevent the NZ Transport Agency from obtaining consent” for the flyover. In effect dismissing the specific issues that councillors had only just decided were important, the MOU states that the council would not present any evidence on mitigation issues “if that could prevent the Transport Agency from obtaining consent” for the flyover.

The MOU was a secret document. Its existence was not revealed till Sir John Anderson of the Basin Reserve Trust mentioned it in his evidence to the board of inquiry. Its existence has since been confirmed by Selwyn Blackmore of the Transport Agency in rebuttal evidence.

Given that John Morrison – signing the MOU for the Basin Reserve Trust – was also a city councillor, there would seem to have been a very apparent conflict of interest. Councillors, including Morrison, had agreed to a different set of conditions from what was set down in the MOU which he signed. But the council’s then chief executive may also have been conflicted, by signing a document which failed to reflect a decision that had been made by councillors.

There’s more. A clause in the MOU seems to contravene the rule that expert witnesses must act impartially and must not act as advocates for the party that engaged them. Disregarding this, the MOU agrees that the council and the trust “will provide expert evidence to support the 65metre structure during the consenting process”. If this is pre-determining what expert witnesses would be expected to say, it sets up a serious issue for the council, and the board of inquiry, to confront.

Most serious of all is the fact that the MOU, signed by a councillor and by the council’s chief executive, failed to reflect a decision that had been made by city councillors in a formal resolution.


  1. Traveller, 11. February 2014, 18:04

    Are our councillors satisfied that officers of the WCC are now acting in the best interests of Wellington, as opposed to the best interests of professional cricket?

  2. Frank Buddingh', 12. February 2014, 0:45

    I think that wording like ‘conflict of interest’ are words of polite understatement.
    The secret wheelings and dealings are nothing short of political corruption.
    Everybody who was involved in the ‘decision making’ process and somehow acted in a compromising manner in order to push this project through in the interest of few and thereby ignoring overwhelmingly excellent and strong arguments of the public at large to look for different solutions should be fired.

  3. Kent Duston, 12. February 2014, 12:40

    This is a shocking state of affairs. On what basis are these public organisations making secret agreements with each other? If they are taking public money for their salaries and their projects, then they have the obligation to be transparent with and accountable to the people who pay them – i.e. us. They have neither the right nor the justification to be doing secret deals, hidden from view, on matters which are of concern to a great many Wellingtonians.

    Given their obvious penchant for back-room deals, Wellington is clearly better off without the ex-CEO Garry Poole and the ex-Councillor John Morrison.

  4. B Smyth, 13. February 2014, 14:30

    I just want to THANK Wellington Scoop for keeping us informed about these important issues. Please keep up the transparency.

  5. P FitzGerald, 14. February 2014, 12:00

    Surely there must be some come-back by WCC against G Poole.

  6. Esjay, 14. February 2014, 19:12

    There is a conflict of interest with WCC and WIAL (airport company) and here we go again. Secrecy reigns supreme – to hell with democracy!

  7. Rufus Sixsmith, 15. February 2014, 10:43

    Garry Poole had no authority to sign the MOU but I assume he had an inkling of how the Councillors would vote and decided to get in first.

    What authority did John Morrison have to sign the MOU on behalf of the Basin Reserve Trust? The Chair of the Trust would have been the normal signatory.

  8. Neil Douglas, 17. February 2014, 21:02

    The cost of the Flyover is $100 million exclusive of the new obscuring new stand at the cricket ground which increases the cost to $112million.

    Given that $1 million could fix the earthquake stickered Museum stand and thus provide the seating capacity required, my primary school maths makes the net cost $111 million. So the BCR must now be less than 1, right?

    And therefore are we not pouring money
    Down the JohnQuay/Brownlee dunny?