Wellington Scoop

They knew nothing about it

After we reported the city council’s secret memorandum of understanding with the Transport Agency two weeks ago, we discovered that our elected city councillors had no idea of its existence.

So we expected some response from them – because the MOU had committed the council to supporting a $12million cricket pavilion, something which at that time they had not discussed.

But since we reported the existence of the MOU, no one from the council was willing to say a word about it.

On Friday, however, the Wellingtonian reported some comments. Nothing from the mayor or her deputy, who might have been expected to have some concerns about the MOU, but from two councillors.

Councillor Iona Pannett said it was shocking the mayor was not told about the MOU.

“It’s an MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] to commit to a building the council had not yet committed to,” she said. “I’m raising questions about whether someone should have been told and other questions should be asked about whether [Mr Poole] exceeded his authority in signing it.

“It brushes off all the other mitigating factors and seems to say that we won’t stop the flyover going through if we get the building. I don’t think John and Garry had the authority to do that…”

Andy Foster said he didn’t have a problem with the document, but thought it was unwise for Mr Morrison and Mr Poole to have signed it. “The first time I was aware of it existing was two weeks ago,” he said. “I would have thought that they would have informed us. Also I don’t think it was wise for John to be signing it on the Basin’s behalf and Garry signing it on his last day was probably not the smartest. But what they signed was not inconsistent with [the] council’s policy at the time.”

Garry Poole and John Morrison both defended their part in signing the MOU before councillors had made a decision on the issue. “The deal is an incredible thing for the city,” John Morrison told the Wellingtonian. “It’s been given a $12 million gift from taxpayers. The stand was the negotiating point. We wouldn’t have signed it otherwise. It was a great deal.”

No one could disagree that the $12m pavilion is a great deal for the cricketing community. But as the board of inquiry into the Basin flyover continues, it’s becoming clear that there are persuasive arguments as to why the new building would not in any way be an attractive or acceptable “gift” for the city as a whole.


  1. Pollyanna, 24. February 2014, 15:16

    Almost had to smile at the comment from ex Councillor Morrison (who was the council representative on the Basin Reserve Trust) re a gift of $12m from the taxpayers. Like us ratepayers I presume he is also a taxpayer!

    In the time he was on the Trust did he ever take any steps to recommend the upgrade of the Robert Vance and Museum stands – both I presume listed heritage buildings. There is also the rundown caretaker’s cottage much in need of a coat of paint etc.

    He now appears to be sitting on the fence with regard to the Westpac Stadium debate, helping many of us to understand the many references to “Mystery Morrison.”

  2. Driver, 24. February 2014, 18:25

    Surely it’s time for the mayor to say something about how it was possible for council processes to be ignored so blatantly. Are there other secret deals yet to be uncovered?

  3. Alana, 24. February 2014, 21:45

    I was lucky enough to be at the Basin for Brendon McCullum’s 302 and it was the most glorious cricket ground for it. But the Museum stand sits empty, the groundsmen’s cottage remains unpainted and rotting, and the grounds – other than the really beautiful cricket ground itself – are just shabby.

    And what will the fans at the Basin receive in return for losing the oasis of green? A pavilion for the few. Media and VIP/corporate boxes? The players deserve an upgrade from the apparently crowded and inadequate facilities, but why not refurbish the Museum Stand to a top notch level for players, too?

    And why aren’t the rest of the Council and the Mayor infuriated with Morrison, Poole and Council staff hiding this MOU?

  4. Ellie, 25. February 2014, 9:38

    Can someone explain to me how an MOU committing the Council to this example of architectural vandalism using public money could become a fait accompli without a public Council vote.

    Andy – not inconsistent with Council policy at the time – is this more flip flop? The whole Basin issue has vigorously debated on a narrow margin more than once.

    Democracy in action?

  5. Celia Wade-Brown, 25. February 2014, 11:45

    I was asked to comment for the Wellingtonian article and provided the following response, which they did not publish:

    The MOU was an arrangement that addressed only issues of particular and common interest to Council, NZTA and Basin Reserve Trust.

    On 21 March 2013 the Council had made its decisions about the Basin Reserve roading project. We agreed that neither Option X nor the Richard Reid option appeared to offer more benefits than the flyover but we still noted that we preferred undergrounding.

    The MOU was signed after that decision and deals only with Basin Reserve Trust matters. The Council had many other mitigation measures to work through with the NZTA. The Basin Reserve Trust aspect was just a slice of a much larger range of mitigation measures. The work on mitigation with NZTA continued on all other measures.

    Delegations for the CEO are agreed at the start of each triennium as part of the democratic process. In this case, the CEO was entering an arrangement for the purpose of giving effect to a decision of Council. In November 2013, as we began a new triennium, we tightened up the procedures for MOU delegations which you can find online here: http://wellington.govt.nz/~/media/your-council/meetings/files/terms-reference-delegations2013-2016.pdf

    While the document could have been better phrased, it was limited to the Basin Reserve and issues between the NZTA and BRT. The MOU obviously did not close off the broader mitigation discussions as agreement on the wider mitigation issues was achieved and reported to Council in October 2013 and formed part of our Council submission.

  6. lindsay, 25. February 2014, 16:22

    With respect to the Mayor, she doesn’t deal with the main issue, which is that the secret MOU committed the council to supporting a new cricket pavilion, when the council had not discussed the subject and had not agreed on any such support.

  7. CC, 26. February 2014, 6:47

    You are too polite Lindsay. It looks pretty much like another ‘hands off the wheel’ moment with yet another confused PR response. It will be a great day when the administration is controlled by the Council instead of the apparent converse situation.

  8. mickey, 27. February 2014, 22:22

    Celia is continuing to be a disappointment. I admit I voted for her as Mayor but reluctantly as the thought of Morrison being Mayor was just too shameful for me to handle. When is she going to stand for her principles and what actually are her principles? I thought that the combination of Celia/Justin was going to inspire Wellington but they just waffle along.
    The MOU was an abuse of process and should have been vigorously condemned by our community leaders but what did we get – a PR waffle of lame excuses from the Mayor and a flip flop councilor intimating that this is quite acceptable.