Conflict over conflict-of-interest

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Queenstown’s councillors have overridden officialdom to release confidential conflict-of-interest information. 

Senior Queenstown Lakes District Council manager Roger Taylor initially refused an Official Information request for conflict-of-interest statements, saying: “Supply of personal information is voluntary.” 

Taylor shut the door on democracy citing legal defences to the requests. 

Approached by Mountain Scene, mayor Vanessa van Uden and her councillors saw things differently. 

“It doesn’t worry me at all,” Van Uden says, adding she “absolutely” believes in open government. 

Her council colleagues followed suit also agreeing to release their statements. 

Unless the Auditor-General gives advance approval, councillors or companies they’re involved with are banned from supplying QLDC with goods or services over $25,000 a year. Under $25,000, “a conflict of interest/pecuniary interest situation would arise” if: 

- a councillor or spouse owned 10 per cent or more of a company, or one that controls that company, which “deals with” QLDC 

– or the councillor owns shares in a company “dealing with” the council, or any company controlling another company that deals with the council, and in which a councillor or spouse is general manager or managing director. 
Van Uden and councillors were also asked to declare to Lawson “on a strictly confidential basis” their “assets and business interests” as well as “non-financial interests, memberships or relationships.” 

They had the choice of not disclosing interests – but no one opted for secrecy.