A Waipā district councillor earned himself a strong rebuke from mayor Jim Mylchreest last week for lobbying for an organisation the Cambridge representative had declared a conflict of interest with.
Philip Coles is a member of the council’s District Promotions committee which was considering – and eventually approved – a $5000 application from Destination Cambridge for a movie night at Cambridge Raceway on Saturday.
Coles, who chairs the tourism information organisation, declared his conflict of interest at the start of the meeting, saying: “if I am able to say a couple of things, that would be great.”
Under the Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act 1968, councillors cannot discuss or vote on matters before the authority in which they have a direct or indirect pecuniary interest, other than an interest in common with the public. The Act protects the integrity of local authority decision-making by ensuring that people are not affected by personal motives when they participate in local authority decision-making and cannot use their position to obtain preferential access to contracts.
In the agenda for the meeting, Event and Marketing advisor Amber Diprose recommended the council grant Destination Cambridge $4000.
Coles urged the committee to give the organisation $5000, saying it would still run at a loss with that sum.
“This is a great initiative for the community as everyone has said and with Covid and everything like that, we’re just trying to put smiles on people’s faces so if we can get the five grand, I’d, we’d really appreciate that…
“If you guys could consider the full funding, that would be really, really appreciative and it’s for the community which all these events are for the community.”
Committee member Merv Gyde then asked if there would be a cost for movie attendees.
“Yes, there is a charge $15 a car, so however many people in the car. Even at that we still make a loss,” said Coles.
Gyde suggested if Destination Cambridge was going to make a loss, people should pay more to go to the movie.
“We were considering charging more but with inflation rising and everything like that, we’re just trying to keep the cost down as much as possible, so we came to an agreement on $15, we were looking at $20,” said Coles.
It is understood the actual charge for each car is $10.
When deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk asked for more information about the budget, Coles said: “Just let me see if I can find an email, please.”
Stolwyk then pointed out to Mylchreest, who was chairing the meeting, that there was a conflict in the room with one member providing more information to the committee than other events were able to do.
“We need to be a bit cautious here.”
Members Kevin Burgess and Marcus Gower both said they supported giving Destination Cambridge $5000.
Coles started to say something at which point Mylchreest said: “Phil, I don’t think you should be saying too much more here. It’s almost getting to a point where it’s lobbying rather than information.”
Destination Cambridge had already received $2000 from the Cambridge Community Board discretionary fund for other Christmas-related activities which could not include the Movie Night, said Diprose.
“The event looked really good. I think it’s a great way to have some sort of celebratory event around town before Christmas.”
Stolwyk said she was pleased to see the application. “We all need a little bit of a lift going into Christmas. The timing is really good.”
It was a shame other groups had not tried to access the fund, she said.
“I don’t know if it is because people don’t know whether to apply. But it’s the only thing in front of us at the moment, so why not?”
The Movie Night will be held at Cambridge Raceway with gates opening at 4.30pm and the movie, the Christmas classic Elf, running from 6pm-8pm. The film will be screened on an 8m x 5m outdoor screen with speakers.