APL boss caught in conflict


The conflict of interest case involving a Queenstown council contractor has taken an unexpected twist.

Official documents reveal Dan Cruickshank - the consultant property manager haggling with the council over access to the Fernhill reservoir across his family’s land - ended up negotiating an access agreement with his boss, APL Property director Jo Conroy.

The firm only stepped aside in March, a month after Mountain Scene started sniffing around - 17 months after negotiations started.

This newspaper asked the council several questions, including if it still has confidence in APL.

Council infrastructure boss Pete Hansby says the council will make further inquiries before responding.

Conroy says it was appropriate for APL to negotiate the agreement, adding: “We revealed the conflict and Queenstown Lakes District Council had the opportunity to determine their own level of comfort.”

APL stepped aside because Hansby raised a perceived conflict.

Conroy: “We believe we’ve handled this issue with integrity and have been open and honest with our client right the way through.”

As of March 1, when APL stepped aside, no agreement had been reached.

Cruickshank’s family company, One Mile Holdings, bought the pricey Fernhill plot in mid-2013 and then haggled over access - an issue Cruickshank had identified in his professional capacity.

One council estimate suggested an agreement might have cost ratepayers as much as $250,000.

Council documents released to Mountain Scene show Cruickshank, who declared his conflict, wrote to Conroy in October 2013 to begin negotiations.

He asked the council to remove a covenant on the land restricting developments to hotel and tourism activities, pay compensation in return for access and cover all legal costs.

In December last year, Conroy wrote to lawyers Mactodd asking a legal agreement to be drafted.

Mountain Scene’s investigation prompted the council to call in Simpson Grierson, which cleared Cruickshank of any wrongdoing.

But it told the council to include contractors in its conflicts policy.