Russell Garbutt met with Cr Bill Acklin

The following was received from Russell Garbutt this evening, he says:

Bloggers have been asking how the meeting went with Cr Bill Acklin and it is more than time that I responded.

The meeting was non-confrontational in my view and went over a number of issues. Cr Acklin was anxious to set out the process that was followed in relation to the black penis edifice in the Octagon and essentially outlined the process that was revealed a day later in the ODT. Why a committee has been set up that can outvote elected representatives is an unanswered question. I think it fair to say that the impression I have gained outside this meeting is that it’s clear that Ngai Tahu have had more than a significant amount of say into what the DCC contribution [might be] for what they see is a Ngai Tahu presence at the RWC. Ngai Tahu seems to have made it clear that there would be a downside if the DCC didn’t decide to contribute. None of this came from Cr Acklin, but then again this feeling was not able to be refuted. I sense that this is what the ODT were also saying in their piece. Something just doesn’t smell right with this deal.

The main issue I felt was that Cr Acklin believes that the “private funding” for the stadium has all gone to construction. He has said to me that he will check on my position that the money raised by the sale of product etc will be put into revenue and only after a real profit has been met will anything go into construction. Needless to say, I think it extraordinary that anyone involved in this process has not ensured that what has been presented by staff and the CST was not independently checked out. Cr Acklin’s position was in essence, that the DCC in total was in hock to about $700 million but only about $100 million was due to the stadium. Fair to say that there is a wide gap between what I think is the total stadium debt and what Cr Acklin believes it to be.

I think it fair to say that while I saw that there was huge financial risk if the Highlanders franchise was altered then the City would suffer because purchasers of product at the stadium would not choose to pick up instalments in arrears and hence revenue would be affected in a major way, that Cr Acklin didn’t see this as particularly worrying.

I asked if Cr Acklin would support an independent financial enquiry into the DCC along the lines of the Larsen report. I thought it intriguing that Cr Acklin believed that Larsen was working to a brief and that he was opposed to that. I’m not sure from our conversation whether Cr Acklin didn’t believe that the Board of DCHL had been compromised by conflicts or not, or whether he accepted the main findings of the Larsen report. I still don’t know if Cr Acklin would support an independent enquiry into the DCC finances and what is more concerning is why anyone wouldn’t support that initiative.

I think it also fair to say that some of the comments made on blogs were not surprising to either of us. It is accepted that a person that puts their name up for election does not have to meet any requirements of competence in governance and some that are elected are not qualified to meet the requirements of the job. It is also accepted that some Councillors have personal failings.

Overall, I was impressed that Cr Acklin offered to meet and spent 90 minutes in talking over a range of issues. However, I was not convinced at the end of the meeting that the processes followed and the reasoning followed by Cr Acklin in relation to the stadium could bear any stringent examination. It may be that Cr Acklin would have supported the stadium project no matter what the cost would be, and certainly I never gained the impression at any stage that he would have voted against the proposal.

Quite happy to hear from Cr Acklin of any corrections or other impressions from our meeting which I emphasise again was cordial, constructive and non-confrontational.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under DCC, DCHL, Economics, People, Politics, Project management, Stadiums

30 responses to “Russell Garbutt met with Cr Bill Acklin

  1. Peter

    It sounds like there was no real meeting of minds, Russell.
    Bill, it seems, is prepared to accept the word of others on the CST and on council and accept their direction. End of story.

  2. Amanda kennedy

    “… I still don’t know if Cr Acklin would support an independent enquiry into the DCC finances and what is more concerning is why anyone wouldn’t support that initiative…” This is the crux of it, Russell. We need to find out who on council supports council transparency.

  3. Hype O'Thermia

    Lee Vandervis. The others had their fingers crossed behind their backs.

    • Elizabeth

      OMG. Dumped councillor Walls (EX chair of Finance and Strategy Committee) (EX visionary, the arithmetic aside) says to MikeStk:
      “[The stadium] is grabbing attention and whether we share the same view or not, it is innovative and shows Dunedin is capable of doing things. To me, it is what we (meaning the city) can do with it that is important. Not relitigating the arguments of the past three or four years or sutting [sic] it down. That is not going to help one iota.” [ODT Link]

      We can “do” things here! – an excellent reason to plunge DCC into a financial CRISIS.

      Does Walls imagine no-one’s going to come after him. [that is doing something]

  4. Peter

    I noticed Richard’s comment and just laughed out loud. His small town pride for the ‘little stadium’, as that English footballer recently called it, is admirable, but he should remember that overseas people are generally polite and what would you expect them to say to that common Kiwi question; ‘What do you think of NZ? (substitute, our stadium)
    Richard. If the ‘admirers’ are that stoked with the stadium, maybe you can get a consortium of them to buy the damn thing. If you can do that, I’ll be the first to vote you back in.
    Sorry about the litigation, but someone has to be held responsible for the financial mess we are in. Including you!

  5. Anonymous

    Is Cr Acklin the only performer in this city?

    He has just been awarded a second $40,000 entertainment contract for the 2012 NZ Masters Games in Dunedin by another of the A-B-Cs. And for the seventh time.

    The little rewards are coming thick and fast now. While the stakeholders have drunk long and hard from the public well the little guys now appear to be getting their turn at licking the hole clean. I really don’t think these guys should be on council any longer. The bad mythodology that the public well is a free-for-all has got to be stopped and playing the grey area game with the laws does not make it morally right from the public perspective.

    Acklin defends dual role after gaining entertainment contract
    By Chris Morris on Fri, 16 Sep 2011


    Acklin firm wins seventh games deal
    By Chris Morris on Fri, 30 Sep 2011


    On a different note, the other day someone had written the “DCC IS CORRUPT” in chalk on the footpath. That message needs to go viral around town.

    • Elizabeth

      “He had stepped down from his role as a trustee of the Dunedin (New Zealand) Masters Games Trust last week, but said he had not attended previous trust meetings at which the entertainment contract was to be discussed.” [ODT Link]

  6. Peter

    I wonder if Bill stepped down voluntarily – at last – or did the Auditor General suggest this was the proper thing to do, but the ODT hasn’t reported this recommendation.
    We don’t know who missed out on the contract – yet – and we can’t judge for ourselves whether Bill is indeed ‘The Class Act’ that shone above all others.
    John Bezett should also stand down from the vote deciding this contract as he is widely recognised as a very close colleague of Bill’s on council. They almost seem joined at the hip.

  7. Amanda kennedy

    I think it is pathetic that Acklin can even put himself forward for this gig, talk about having an unfair advantage. Who are Hudson, Bezett, Noone and pals going to vote for? A fellow councillor or some unknown entertainment act that has no political leverage whatsoever? It’s not rocket science. These old boys, and younger hangers on need to go.

  8. Peter

    Also there comes a time for graciously accepting that ‘I’ve had a good innings. It’s time for others to have the same opportunity’.

  9. Russell Garbutt

    Good Lord, I see Walls adopting his usual mantra – “that unlike yourself, I am not indebted to my imagination for my facts” this time to Rob Hamlin on the ODT site. Can anyone name anyone so…..what’s the word?

    I also note that he ignores any suggestions to provide some answers to how the stadium can be made to pay. Of course he does – the paucity of his ideas is matched by the positive outlook of Greece. Methinks the ditched ex-Councillor is still smarting at not still being part of what he thinks he is entitled to. Also he maybe doesn’t want to engage in anything that might put him closer to the firing line when it comes to the full stadium story being exposed. A sad little man.

    • Elizabeth

      Dunedin City Council
      Media release
      NZ Masters Games Entertainment 2012 (29 Sep 2011)

      The Dunedin (New Zealand) Masters Games Trust has announced that Bill Acklin Entertainments has been awarded the contract to provide entertainment services.
      Read more

    • Elizabeth

      Russell – there’s the air of someone wishing to assume the mantle of elder council statesman, luckily no such role exists.
      Of course, irony of the line you cite is tremendous!

  10. Anonymous

    I know it’s ‘small’ amounts compared to the massive debt this city is in but now Cr Bill Acklin has been awarded two substantial contracts in relation to the Dunedin City Council.

    This time it has been awarded by colleague and Games chairman Cr John Bezett. This is the same councillor that only three weeks ago was practically exposed in the D Scene after the newspaper found out the Games management were getting its medals made in China.

    Which is another service lost to Dunedin.

    And now Cr Bezett is in the Otago Daily Times awarding a $40,000 contract to another councillor.

    Just because Cr Acklin sought the approval of the Office of the Auditor-General does not necessarily make these contracts morally correct from a public perspective.

    Almost every day I overhear the same confusion about how these things are possible, the on-going frustration on what can be done about it, and hopelessness of trying to make a difference.

    But people still acknowledge that something is horribly wrong in Dunedin.

    China-made Masters medals irk companies
    D Scene, 14 September 2011

    Local tenders possible for medals
    D Scene, 21 September 2011
    However, where there was still an opportunity for locals to be considered, their prices would have to be competitive to be accepted, Bezett said.

  11. Hype O'Thermia

    Funny – it was worth going into debt for $ millions to build a stadium to bring in a pittance of out-of-town dollars. But it’s not worth paying a pittance extra to keep Dunedin dollars in Dunedin (let alone in NZ) to get the medals made here.

  12. Russell Garbutt

    I see that the NZ Masters Games will be based at the Farry Foobar this coming year. A couple of interesting questions that arise that no-one seems to be able to answer that should be of considerable interest to those parting out the entrance money. Who is providing the catering at this new stadium?

    The problem is that for rugby crowds large quantities of over-priced chips, luke-warm pies and beer is what is required. Upstairs in the “conference” centres, small groups of people get to eat more salubrious tucker that may or may not be cooked on site.

    What those that have attended previous Masters Games are used to is a huge choice of food at very reasonable charges, easy access to bars and also to a dance floor. But of course we have that well-known rugby stadium supporter, Cr “what do mean I need a haircut” Bezett in charge of things and so those that attend the Games at his beloved stadium will be most surprised at the changes for the next Games.

    And of course, if you are at the stadium, you also get to get the stadium caterers. I do hear that questions are being asked in a number of forums but not too many answers are being provided. What a surprise that is.

    • Elizabeth

      I’m surprised NZMG budgets extend to use of the stadium. Not sure what was wrong with the University Union, at least it was closer to town and filled a relative dead spot in the university calendar.

  13. Robert Hamlin

    Well, we paid the money and the rugby fraternity and their opinion leaders came. What did they think of us, and what’s the overseas feedback? Well here’s the write up about Dunedin from the Irish Independent Rugby correspondent earlier this week. Make of it what you will. The Independent is one of Ireland’s ‘majors’. The last line is particularly enigmatic. So, was it worth $250m+ to bring this particular market segment to Dunedin just for the feedback?

    By Hugh Farrelly

    Saturday October 01 2011

    HAVING learnt through bitter experience the perils of passing less-than-fawning judgment on anywhere in New Zealand, there is a reluctance to put the boot into Dunedin.

    However, it is impossible to stay quiet because there is something about this place that is … not … quite … right. It is hard to put your finger on it, just a feeling you get — an itch on the back of your neck that something is a bit, well, off.

    We are all in glasshouses, of course, but the citizenry of this South Island city are an eclectic looking bunch. There are the students, or ‘Scarfies’, who provide the expected combination of high-fives, random whooping and saggy trousers, and then there is the older generation, who wander the streets portraying a general air of bewilderment.

    There is nothing in between.

    It is as though, as soon as people hit 30, they are whisked away Logan’s Run-style and not reintroduced to society until they pass 65.

    Sitting outside a cafe watching the world go by is not quite a Parisian experience. Old fellas shuffle past sporting woolly hats and beards, looking like they should be on a toadstool in somebody’s garden with a fishing rod. Wild-haired women cackle aloud for no particular reason before throwing you a piercing look and cackling again. It is all a bit ‘Wicker Man’.

    As soon as you arrive at the airport, everyone is mad to tell you about the nude rugby festival they hold here, their accounts interspersed with proud chuckles at their sense of fun and daring.

    This event is all you would imagine it to be (insert ‘Carry On Dunedin’ gag about tackle and funny-shaped balls here) and, as well as a general array of wobbly bits, the festival, of course, includes the obligatory haka, which can be viewed on YouTube if you have a strong stomach.

    In common with many places in this country, Dunedin exudes an old-world feel, if the old world is the one that existed four decades ago.

    The motel rooms this week are vast and kitted out with a decor that falls somewhere between Alpine ski-lodge and (apparently) a 1970s porn movie set.

    But no real complaints on the accommodation front, which is clean and spacious — save for the internet server which crashes more regularly than Jody Scheckter in his heyday.

    This led to a 2.0am march to find wifi the other morning, which took in the 24-hour McDonalds down the road and ended up in the lobby of the Italian team hotel.

    No opportunity to upset the opposition, however, as the players were all safely tucked up in their specially sectioned-off wing towards the back of the hotel, with their own security detail to guard against any intrusions.

    Dunedin is the second biggest city in the South Island, but carries a small-town feel.

    Having worked as a sub-editor for many years, headline-spotting is a favourite pastime (‘100 Blind Children See Pope’ and ‘Death of Well Known Secret Agent’ are two favourites) and the attention-grabbing efforts in the local paper could provide a clue to the Dunedin mystery.

    ‘Road-Workers Seething Over Spike In Sign Thefts’ screamed one last Wednesday, alongside another article telling us there were ‘Many Ways To Festival’, which was situated just above the ‘Warehouse Plans New Stationery Store’ yarn. If there was a play about an equivalent Irish town it could be: ‘Clonmel — The Wilderness Years’.

    However, once you adjust to Dunedin’s idiosyncrasies, there is much to uncover. A fantastic sports museum, a collection of art galleries and laid-back cafes, and a strong musical heritage manifesting itself in a variety of concerts and impromptu busking sessions.

    All in all, a fascinating place to visit. And, it would be no word of a lie to declare that this trip to Dunedin feels very much like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    – Hugh Farrelly

    Source: Irish Independent
    Dunedin — a town where annual ‘nude haka’ says it all

  14. Anonymous

    “And, it would be no word of a lie to declare that this trip to Dunedin feels very much like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

    Not much in the way of repeat business, then?

  15. Calvin Oaten

    He’s right of course. Dunedin exudes what I call the “cringe factor”. Desperately wants to be liked, hanging on like grim death to past glories. Everything has to be economically qualified. Like for instance, the stadium will bring a $20m per year benefit to the region. Yep, it’s true, Malcolm said it. Then the zillion cruise ships will bring $40m economic benefit to the city. No Kidding, Hamish Saxton said it. Why? Is it because we are so close to beggary that we are so desperate. Why can’t we just celebrate who and what we are? Are we deep down ashamed that we somehow don’t measure up? Jim Harland, Peter Chin, Dave Cull and our councillors obviously thought / think so, and crazily believed that we could spend our way to Nirvana. What Hugh Farrelly sees is a city feeling betrayed, in hock to dreams destined to be unfulfilled, because the rest of the world just doesn’t give a damn.

  16. Amanda kennedy

    Yes. It has been a funny experience. I looked at the rugby visitors here as unwitting innocent participants in the stadium con. What an amusing little charade it has been. This writer could care less about this, of course. Fair enough.

  17. Amanda kennedy

    I like this though “… there is something about this place that is … not … quite … right. It is hard to put your finger on it, just a feeling you get …” If he had cared to investigate further he might have figured out what that was. People don’t generally like having the future of their city stolen to feather the nest of a few stakeholders. Funny that. Lol.

  18. Peter

    Ouch! This is pretty scathing. Trouble is much of what the writer says rings true.
    The nude rugby thing is pretty banal. Not surprising because it was dreamt up by super rugby jock, Marc Ellis. No doubt he and other commentators were badgered with ‘what do you think of our new stadium?’
    and would have felt obliged to give the usual courteous response.
    The over use of the haka is obviously wearing thin. Far too try hard and childishly, and inappropriately, assertive in demonstrating our place in the sun.
    Not sure if the Irish Independent has a wide circulation, but this Dunedin story isn’t going to do us much good.
    I’m sure the overseas press will not be impressed with all the news stories here concerning the economic impact of the RWC and how much money we’ll be making off the tourists. Pretty crass, really.
    Mind you, the Irish, to be fair, haven’t got much to crow about now that the Celtic Tiger has turned in to a Celtic Pussy and they are in the dog cart, economically, with their consumer based debt. We are in good company.

  19. Calvin Oaten

    Further to my “cringe factor” comments, look no further than page 4 today’s ODT. ‘Consents figure questioned. Says it all really, a pathetic little whinge.

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