Inquiry clears council manager

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A council inquiry has found its cancellation of a consent was flawed but clears a senior manager of acting inappropriately. 

Rafting operator Stefan Craw­ford had previously alleged Queenstown Lakes District Council cancelled his resource consent last year in the mistaken belief he’d not operated for the previous five years. 

Further, he alleged the council acted due to a “personal vendetta” by its regulatory boss Roger Taylor. 

Taylor had also been influenced by business rival Queenstown Rafting, Crawford claimed. 

Following these allegations, council chief executive Debra Lawson instructed top Dunedin lawyer QC Royden Somerville to conduct an independent investigation. 

The inquiry was put on hold while Crawford’s lawyer Graeme Todd applied to the High Court to reinstate his resource consent. 

The consent was reinstated before the case got to court. Mean-while, Lawson scrapped the Somerville investigation in favour of an inquiry by herself with help from council lawyers Simpson Grierson. 

In findings released to Crawford last week, Simpson Grierson partner Jonathan Salter says the initial review didn’t proceed because Somerville and Todd had “some associations”. 

Salter finds the process council used to cancel Crawford’s consent was “flawed”. 

“Information adverse to your interests ought to have been made known to you before it was acted upon …” Salter’s report says. 

However, the inquiry finds Taylor had no “personal vendetta” against Crawford. 

“No disciplinary action is to be taken against Mr Taylor,” Salter’s finding states. 

In a reply to Lawson, Crawford now accuses her of “a whitewash of the actual concerns I raised”. 

The inquiry hasn’t addressed several of his concerns including the allegation Taylor colluded with Queenstown Rafting, Crawford says. 

Nor was there reference to Taylor allegedly contacting a whitewater safety client of Crawford to say he had no credibility with the council. 

“If such comments are repeated they will result in civil proceedings,” Crawford writes. 

The comment that Todd had “some associations” with Somerville is also rebutted. 

Crawford concludes: “On the basis of my rejection of the findings … I will now file a complaint to the Ombudsman and raise this issue with my MP as well as the Local Government Minister.”