Stadium: Accountability, paper trail leads unavoidably to NEWS

Stadium, Dunedin [espnscrum.com]Stadium under construction [photo via espnscrum.com]

Comments received.

Bev Butler
Submitted on 2013/07/30 at 2:25 pm

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8981153/Phone-records-given-to-inquiry
Parliament’s speaker, David Carter:
“I view any actions that may put at risk journalists’ ability to report very seriously.”

Both Sir Eion Edgar and Sir Julian Smith have some explaining to do as to their “actions” in preventing the reporting of the information contained in the press release below which one of the ODT reporters contacted me about on 3 July 2013, asked me questions, then nothing being published in the ODT.

PRESS RELEASE
“Philanthropist” reneges on promised $1m donation
Full independent enquiry sought

The deceptions surrounding the Forsyth Barr Stadium continue to be revealed by official documents released on 11 June 2013.

The public, on many occasions raised doubts that the promises of private funding for construction of the stadium, had been met, but were assured by Mr Malcolm Farry, Chair of the Carisbrook Stadium Trust as reported in NBR and ODT 2007 that in fact several substantial donations had been promised. Indeed he went so far to tell the public that he had promises of three individual donations of $1 million each to be put to the costs of construction. Sir Eion Edgar also confirmed in DScene in 2009 that he would be making a donation of $1m.

That, as has now been revealed officially, was untrue.

It was also untrue as Mr Farry claimed when leading the project, that advance ticket or product sales revenue could be counted as construction capital. This was nothing other, as many ratepayers pointed out, simply advance operational revenue which could not be charged in the future. While Mr Farry denied this, the PricewaterhouseCoopers investigation found that there was little or no capital raised from ‘private funding’ for construction.

The relevance of this should not be lost when the evidence supplied to the High Court in Christchurch by the Carisbrook Stadium Trust through the DCC also stated that substantial private donations had been made for construction. At the time of the Stop The Stadium court case in April 2009, Mr Farry had stated publicly that more than $30m of the required $45m had already been contracted in private funding for construction of the stadium. It appears that evidence in the High Court case was also not truthful.

The role played by Forsyth Barr and its Chair, Sir Eion Edgar also come directly under a brighter spotlight from the release of the documentation. Sir Eion Edgar promised a substantial donation of $1m as reported in DScene 2009, but again this has proven not to be true. But this lack of philanthropy also extended to an obscuring of the facts surrounding the naming rights of the stadium. Despite Sir Eion Edgar claiming in the National Business Review (29/01/09) that a “substantial cheque” had been written for these rights, and The Marketing Bureau commissioned by the CST reporting to council the naming rights were worth $10m, the fact was that instead the stadium was named after his company for a period of two and a half years before any revenue was received. It has already been reported in the media that the naming rights were no more than $5m. An upfront substantial sum in advance reported in PwC peer reviews was somehow altered to a much lesser sum in monthly arrears payments which didn’t begin until late 2011.

Sir Edgar also had a significant role as President in his connections with the Otago Rugby Football Union when a fundraising function for the ORFU in August 2011 at the new Forsyth Barr Stadium defaulted in its payments to the Dunedin City Council leaving ratepayers to pick up the tab for booze, food, hireage and cleaning while the ORFU pocketed the gross income less a substantial organisational fee paid to the wife of the Deputy Chair of the ORFU, Laurie Mains.

While the PwC investigation was not intended to be a forensic audit of all financial matters surrounding the stadium, sufficient grounds now exist for such a full independent investigation to be carried out, and it is difficult to see just why this should be resisted unless some have got matters to try and continue to conceal. Doubts have also been expressed over the laxity of the billing and payment processes whereby blanket monthly CST accounts with no detail were passed for payment by the then CEO of the Dunedin City Council, Jim Harland, and there remains uncertainty over the validity of many of the expenses and other monies claimed for and paid by the ratepayers of the City.

[Response 1]

Elizabeth
Submitted on 2013/07/30 at 2:46 pm

Bev, quite apart from the content of the Press Release, are you saying the ODT journalist who contacted you about the release was lined up to do a story based on the content of the press release? Or that the editorial team did not support the reporter and canned the story as filed? Or for the newspaper’s own reasons there was never a story?! In other words, something of a spying mission took place?

Media can choose whether or not to cite the content of press releases in whole or in part.

Should a newspaper decline to reference a press release in its general news coverage, surely that leaves the writers of the release free to pay for an advertising statement. This is exactly what has been required with The Press in Christchurch over the fight to restore the Christ Church Cathedral – paid advertising by Cathedral advocates tied to education of the Press editor underlining the editorial bias which has run to the benefit of the Bishop and the CPT. We consider The Press’s stance deliberate to force use of paid advertising. The Press has softened since being SPOKEN TO.

****

[Response 2]

Russell Garbutt
Submitted on 2013/07/30 at 8:25 pm

Bev’s post needs as wide a circulation as possible and I would urge any readers to pass on the URL of this post to as many of their friends as possible, but it is as sure as God made little green apples, that the ODT will neither investigate nor publish anything that is detrimental to the interests of those that have certain influence and connections. I wonder if Sir Julian would be willing to show his phone records? Particularly those from the Central Otago region?

All of the material that Bev mentions regarding the naming rights is backed up by documentation – in fact so much of what Bev is talking about is now being played out in National politics with the Henry inquiry and Vance’s phone records. The story has to be dragged out before it is grudgingly admitted that a great wrong was done. And even then the perpetrators can’t get their story straight.

This is what I mean by accountability in many ways. Many have claimed that deceit, lies and obfuscation were just part of the normal business around the CST, DCC, ORFU and associated parties and it has also been suggested that this culture of deceit and lies extended to the High Court. Who am I to argue that this was not the case? But the same people’s names turn up time and time again. Reported are Farry, who continues to harangue from the side-lines, Edgar promising much and apparently confused between what is a donation and what is part of a payment for a sweetheart deal with the organisation of which he was part, or Harland, in the middle authorising payments on behalf of the ratepayers to the CST – a private Trust that remains a closed window.

And who is going to push for exposure of all the facts? We should be forever grateful for Bev’s assiduous work in prying out the necessary documentation and proof of what many have alleged for years. I can only hope that Bev Butler is, within the near future, able to ensure that any serious wrong-doing by those connected with the greatest waste of ratepayer funds, is put forward in a high profile way.

And if it can be shown in a separate jurisdiction that the allegations are well-founded – and I’m sure it can by the documentation that exists in private and on public record, then hopefully these people will be made accountable. But I’m not holding my breath.

****

[Response 3]

Bev Butler
Submitted on 2013/07/30 at 10:11 pm

Elizabeth, to now answer your questions – just briefly for now.
“The Edgar Story” was first published on Stuff News on Wednesday 3 July 2013. About an hour later the story was “pulled”.
Rarely does a story get “pulled” – it is generally due to major factual errors or a threat of defamation. As I know the information was correct then I assumed the latter.
I wrote to Fairfax management then emailed Forsyth Barr/Edgar’s lawyers. Two days later the story was published in The Mirror – a Central Otago Fairfax publication.
Interestingly, also on Wednesday 3 July an ODT reporter contacted me, questioning me about the Stuff News item. The reporter wanted to know who else I had sent the press release to. At the time I thought this was unusual – what did that have to do with reporting the news? I suspected that someone was wanting to do damage control behind the scenes. A week later I then heard from a good source that this was the case.
What really concerns me, apart from the serious issues in the press release, is the behind-the-scenes manipulation of ‘freedom of the press’. Dunedin citizens are no longer able to rely on the local media for local news. The damage done by this behind-the-scenes manipulation is dangerous. How this can be allowed to happen in a democratic society should be a concern for all in Dunedin. I don’t blame the reporter as he/she would have been instructed to question me.

[ends]

Related Posts and Comments:
18.7.13 ODT won’t touch Fairfax story
3.7.13 [Pulled!] Call for Dunedin stadium cash
24.12.12 A Christmas Tale
7.6.12 Stadium: Forsyth Barr naming rights
6.7.09 Eion Edgar on ‘stadium haters’

ODT Online:
11.5.12 $100m hotel for Dunedin waterfront [Edgar support]
11.5.12 Harbour hotel proposed for Dunedin

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

12 Comments

Filed under Business, Construction, CST, DCC, DCHL, Delta, Democracy, DVL, DVML, Economics, Media, Name, New Zealand, ORFU, People, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Sport, Stadiums, STS

12 responses to “Stadium: Accountability, paper trail leads unavoidably to NEWS

  1. Somewhere in all of this sad litany lies the culpability of elected council. It surely condoned the actions of the CST, the CEO and the ORFU, either by inexcusable ignorance or willful disregard. Mayor Dave Cull has to stand up and state his position loud and clear before the election so the citizens can form their own conclusions over the matter. But if he runs true to form he will just keep his head down hoping it will all go away. For the duration of his term he has never shown the stomach to stand up for the city’s rights. So many issues are simply put aside by him on the premise that there is nothing to be gained by re-litigating the past.
    It all must come out, and I suspect that the hard work that Bev is doing will eventually bear fruit, albeit some of which will be fairly rotten.

  2. Peter

    Yes, Calvin, all the lies and deceit has to come out, and be dealt with, and for those responsible to face the consequences. Not to do so invites further, and more cockier, raids on the public purse for private interests.

    That we have a complicit daily paper locally doesn’t help, in one sense, but the ODT has become largely irrelevant now. (Thank God for social media and journalists who still hold true to the principles of their profession.) The ODT is not held in high regard in the community and they have only themselves to blame. Those running it should hang their heads in shame for their role in hiding the truth. I now look at some of these people and you can see the life force has been slowly squeezed out of them over the years. They play ‘make believe’ that they are still effective newspaper men/women. They will no doubt one day retire and join those who, in the comfort of their retirement, I hear, feel safer to be critical of the paper they once served in similar fashion.

    There will be the expected rationale from many of these people that those who pursue the wash up from this stadium scandal are just ‘bitter and twisted’ and can’t ‘get over it’. How far from the truth this is. I know in our household this is not the case. Assembling the facts and making connections is now just part of a dispassionate, academic exercise in seeking justice…. by Bev and many outraged others.

    We know people want this scandal fully uncovered because information still gets leaked. I would encourage even more people out there, who have solid information that can be backed up, to have courage and come out and leak. Confidentiality is ensured if wanted. All verified information completes the picture.

  3. Diane Yeldon

    That the elected reps (DCC councillors) of the time allowed the setting up of the Carisbrook Working Party and its virtually complete control being assumed and retained by former CEO Jim Harland was the first step down this slippery slope. But, of course, councilors, as a group, were formally told very little. Later, before the crucial decision, collectively, they were clearly bullied/threatened by Harland in a report given to a council meeting about how many millions had already been spent on the ‘ investigations’, the implication being if they did not proceed at this late stage all that money would be simply wasted. When all the time they had been told there were prudent escape clauses. This report is in the DCC minutes and a matter of record. Harland’s report given to the DCC on a referendum, also in the minutes, was so biased against referenda that it makes a reader wonder why any are ever considered anywhere.

    Bev Butler’s work in the public interest is most admirable and worthwhile.

    The whole process of the stadium decision making needs to be clearly understood or there is a risk a repeat performance of such shocking abuse of local government powers.

    Dave Cull has never wanted the truth to come out. He voted for the stadium. And that vote was not ‘procedural’ as he later weakly claimed. He never opposed it. His own words on record confirm this. Yet the ODT has constantly incorrectly reported him as having being opposed to it.

    {DCC’s Sandy Graham was reported correctly in explaining the difference between the committee vote and the procedural vote at Council. We have this on record. -Eds}

  4. Whippet

    If the procedural vote had a majority against, the stadium would never have been built. End of story.

    • Quite early in the piece, following the procedural vote, Lesser Dunedin councillors floated the idea they had voted the way they did due to, alas and alack, their first-term naivety! Normally, we call this buckling under the persuasion of the chairman of Finance, Strategy and Development Syd Brown and his Stadium Councillor cohorts.

  5. Boldor

    I would like to know why these goddamned criminals are not rotting in klink where scum like these people belong, Harland, Farry and the yes men brigade, Guest, Chin, Brown, Acklin and all the rest; they have all committed fraud against the ratepayers of this city in the highest order. In the real world this is where these bastards would be.

  6. amanda

    In Dunedin, they get re-elected to office. Their fraud is not spoken of, any debt they created is Never to be Mentioned. They are the great and the Good for whom there is never any accountabilty. Not if the local media has any say in it. And they do. Big Fat SILENCE on the hand these individuals have had in the city’s debt creation.

  7. amanda

    Cr Hudson? Noone? Acklin? Bezett? I am looking at you. Everytime the local media mention you but not your incompetence and debt creation, we know we have a soft and complicit media.

  8. Russell Garbutt

    For those that are interested, the Press did a comprehensive score card on all of the Councillors on the CCC. It was within the last week and I guess could be searched for on the Press website.

    From this distance, it appeared to be a comprehensive and neutral appraisal of all of the Councillors and contained a full voting record on all of the important votes during the life of this Council.

    Why do I raise this?

    I doubt whether the ODT has the capability of providing a similar service to the readers of the paper and its online site on two counts. I suspect it is beyond them in terms of the presentation online with drop-down menus and the like, and the second is that I don’t think that they have the proven neutrality to provide the basic information. Editorially and ownership-wise the ODT are tainted with their blind support of certain Councillors. They are also effectively strangled by the lack of cash in the business for innovation – too much of the readies is being provided back to the owners for their own private use and never enough for investigations or modern technology. The challenge is, ODT, to come up with your version of the Press assessment which was provided, one can only assume, as a service to its readers.

  9. Peter

    The general idea has merit, Russell, but not for the ODT to meddle with.
    I have no problem with the media exposing the stupidity etc of candidates for office, but not for attacking good- minded, decent people who might come across as naive, but are well meaning.Best to treat those ones a bit more gently, but still insisting on them to explain their waffle.

  10. Diane Yeldon

    Re the ‘procedural vote’. I’m aware that Sandy Graham was reported in ODT as supporting Cull’s claim that his vote in favour of the stadium commitment at the full council meeting immediately following the Finance, Strategy and Development Committee meeting was purely ‘procedural’. But Sandy is wrong. I have checked Standing Orders. Also, if it was a ‘procedural vote’, why did Crs Stevenson and Butcher vote against it. No, it wasn’t a ‘procedural vote’ (such as “I move the motion be put”). It was ratification of a committee recommendation because only the full council had the authority to spend and commit to the amount of money involved. Cull and (I think Staynes and Wilson) were reported by ODT as doing valiant struggling to get a better deal for ratepayers at the FSD Committee meeting. But I think a good case can be made that this was no more than cynical grandstanding – the whole thing was done deal by this stage. Far too much money had already been committed and the pro-stadium councillors had the numbers. I believe Cull was there to see the project through right from when he was first elected as a councillor and that is exactly what he did. While trying to sit on the fence so he could win the mayoralty as an anti-stadium councillor/mayor. If you don’t believe me, put yourself in the GOB place. What would you have done if you were them and you knew very well the stadium was likely to be very unpopular and a financial nightmare? Answer: put in your supposed anti-stadium stooge ready to see the whole project completed next triennium. And that’s exactly what Cull did, with pro-stadium councillors like Brown working in close co-operation with him.

    If Cull had been opposed to the stadium, he would have voted no at the full council meeting just as Crs Stevenson and Butcher did.

    Check again with Sandy if you like, but the ratification of a committee recommendation at a full council meeting is not ‘procedural’. It is a meaningful vote where yes means yes and no means no. The fact that a committee does not have the delegated power to spend beyond a certain limit is part of the legal checks and balances and no rubber-stamping is supposed to take place. Rather, all committee recommendations to full council should be properly scrutinised and considered by all councillors.

  11. Anonymous

    A plate load of national assets for special dinner guests. Dunedin’s are still to be served up but you know the local minions are busy in the kitchen preparing that special feast too.

    The Weinbergs, who renounced US citizenship last year, were joined on the register by a who’s who of wealthy investors, including interests associated with Sir Eion Edgar, Lyn Erceg, Peter Masfen, Rod Duke, Stefan Lepionka and Peter Francis, whose stakes were all at least 250,000 shares.

    ### Stuff.co.nz Last updated 05:00 27/07/2014
    Asset sale ‘screwed’ NZ buyers
    By Tim Hunter and Steve Kilgallon
    A controversial American couple are the biggest investors in recently floated Genesis Energy – sparking angry claims the Government has been caught out “screwing the scrum” against mum and dad Kiwi buyers.
    Read more

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