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.