Councillor threatens legal action over Mission St
A Tauranga City Councillor is planning to spend $50,000 of his own money to challenge a controversial decision to gift a section of land to a Māori Trust.
On Tuesday councillors voted 6-5 to gift a million-dollar section of land adjacent to The Elms heritage building to the Otamataha Trust, subject to their endorsement of a peppercorn rent to The Elms Foundation (who run the heritage building).
An earlier motion to gift the land directly to The Elms Foundation, rather than the trust, was defeated 5-6.
But Councillor Rick Curach, who was the swing vote in that earlier decision, says he "absolutely would have" voted for it had some omitted information been included in the council briefing.
Rick says he was under the impression The Elms Foundation was neutral on which trust was given the section but, after the meeting, it was revealed The Elms Foundation preferred the section be transferred to them and they sent a letter to council on May 20 saying so.
"This information showed that The Elms Foundation had a preference.
"It's my understanding the issue will come back to council to be reconsidered."
Fellow councillor John Robson says the letter from The Elms Foundation should have been included in the councillor briefing and he was planning to fund a judicial review if the decision is not revisited.
"I will leave $50,000 with my barrister with instructions," he says.
"This is not the first instance of something like this happening. We need to make sure the council machine works properly."
The decision on whether to gift the section of land at 11 Mission Street to either trust has been divisive.
There were 775 public submissions on the proposal with 58 per cent opposed to the Otamataha Trust being given the section.
Councillor Larry Baldock says some of the submissions should be "sent to the race-relations commissioner" as racist tones slipped into the rhetoric.
Former mayor of Tauranga, and The Elms board member, Stuart Crosby says The Elms had previously taken a neutral stance on who was gifted the section and confirmed a letter was sent to council on May 20.
"We had to consider the proposed agreement Tauranga City Council had drafted between Otamataha Trust, The Elms where they would own the land and lease it to us for $1 a year.
"Our trustees did resolve our first preference would be for the section to be transferred directly with our second preference being the proposed agreement."
He says he had seen the draft deliberation report and said to council staff the letter from The Elms was missing.
Stuart was also the mayor in 2006 when Council agreed to purchase the section at 11 Mission Street.
"The was always the expectation that it would go to The Elms," he says. "But it is a different time now."
An Otamataha Trust spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Council communications manager Aimee Driscoll says a staff report would be tabled at the September 17 council meeting to provide more information to councillors.
"Between now and then we are engaging and having discussions with iwi and The Elms," she says.