A bridge too far for Coles?

Waipā district councillor Philip Coles apologised at Monday’s candidates’ meeting for what he described as a misunderstanding over comments made about securing land at St Peter’s School for a third bridge site.

Coles made the original comments at a Grey Power candidates’ meeting last week. St Peter’s School immediately countered them and after questions from The News, Coles was rebuked by mayor Jim Mylchreest.

Coles told Monday’s meeting: “The issue of a third bridge was raised and I made a statement which included describing some of the land about where potential locations of a third bridge could be. I understand that some of those present perceived my comments as suggesting that I had negotiated securing land from St Peter’s on behalf of council for a bridge.
“This is not what I said or what I intended. I don’t presume to have authority to negotiate on behalf of either St Peter’s, where I am current president of the alumni, or council. I apologise for any suggestion of this nature or understanding that followed.

“It was my understanding that St Peter’s were open to having discussions with council in the future about a potential location for a third bridge, which the school has since clarified is not the case. I appreciate the school clarifying their position and apologise for any misunderstanding on my part.”

It is understood fellow district councillors discussed a code of conduct complaint, in Cole’s absence, on Tuesday.

In response to questions from The News, Coles said he wanted to continue being an active councillor for the Cambridge and Waipā community.

Coles, who has been the St Peters alumni committee for 15 years and is its chair, has previously announced he will stand down at the end of the current term.

Philip Coles apologising

Saturday 10 September

We asked district councillor Philip Coles to comment on the story below. He instead took to social media and in relation to the St Peter’s land, he said:

“I understand that some of those present perceived my comments as suggesting that I had negotiated securing land from St Peter’s on behalf of council for a bridge.

“This is not what I said or what I intended. I don’t presume to have authority to negotiate on behalf of either St Peter’s, where I am the current president of the Alumni, or council.

“I apologise for any suggestion of this nature or misunderstanding that followed.

“It was my understanding that St Peter’s were open to having discussions with council in the future about a potential location for a third bridge, which the school has since clarified is not the case. I appreciate the school clarifying their position and apologise for any misunderstanding on my part.”

The St Peter’s School development between Te Awa Lifecare and the school campus where a site for a third Cambridge bridge over the Waikato River has been mooted.

Friday 9 September –

A stoush played out in front of The News on email has shown that a sitting Cambridge district councillor may have ruled himself out of any discussions about a third bridge for Cambridge.

Phillip Coles raised the ire of Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest after the audience at a meet the candidates’ function were led to believe he had secured land at St Peter’s School for the road to a new bridge.

“Philip was definitely not authorised by council to undertake any negotiation with St Peter’s and the comments he made at the Greypower meeting were extremely unwise and from my point of view demonstrates a complete predetermination of our Transportation Strategy and he will have to declare that and take no further part in the deliberations,” Mylchreest told The News in response to our questions.

St Peter’s School, Cambridge

A debate between the pair was then played out via email with The News cc’d in.

“I am going to keep this brief,” Coles told The News, Mylchreest and Cr Susan O’Regan, who chairs the Strategic and Policy committee and was asked by The News whether Coles had any delegations from her committee.

“After speaking with mayor Jim Mylchreest he supports the claim that I made a statement on Wednesday that I had successfully negotiated and secured the land at St Peter’s are false. I will however be making a formal statement on Monday night at Cambridge Chamber of Commerce event.”

Mylchreest responded: “…you have put yourself in an invidious position with the statements you made at the Meet the Candidates meeting on Wednesday … I am prepared to confirm that you did not claim to have negotiated a sale and purchase agreement with St Peter’s on behalf of council but you cannot deny that you outlined very detailed discussions you had with representatives of St Peter’s right down to a preferred route.”

The mayor continued: “I believe that anyone in attendance at that meeting would not have drawn the distinction between an actual sale and purchase agreement and the level of discussions you had undertaken and by implication it would have been assumed, by many, that you were acting in your capacity as a councillor.”

O’Regan, said Coles had no delegated authority from her committee to undertake any form of negotiations with any party on the matter “or indeed on any other issues in connection with transport matters in Cambridge”.

At the heart of the issue is a divide between councillors over the progress being made to plan the route for the third bridge and secure land. On the Cambridge side it has been suggested the best route could be lost if land is sold off privately, on the Te Awamutu side councillors and senior staff reject that and are comfortable with the pace of progress.

John Macaskill-Smith

So, a suggestion that Coles, who chairs St Peter’s Alumni, has been involved in securing land owned by St Peter’s was hugely significant.

So much so that St Peter’s Board chairman John Macaskill-Smith called The News the day after the meeting to say it was not true and that the only land St Peter’s had sold to the council was for drainage and stormwater and not for a third bridge. Those negotiations were not done with Coles.

The school had not asked Coles to step down as Alumni chair, he said.

 

 

 

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