Mayor set to declare commercial interests
THE commercial interests of Wellington city councillors will soon be made available on the council’s website.
Mayor Kerry Prendergast (left) told councillors she is putting her interests on the council’s website following a number of queries made by members of the public concerning her commercial interests.
All councillors, except for one, have agreed to put their interests up on the website – however it is unclear if their spouses’ interests will be included in the Register of Interests.
Council communications manager Michelle Brooker says the decision has been made by individual councillors and is about being transparent to the public.
“We [the council] are going to put up our Register of Interests up on the website once the Democratic Services Department have checked that the information of councillors is up to date.”
It is not currently a legal requirement to do this. The Manukau City Council in Auckland is the only council which publish a register of their councillors’ interests.
Under the present system, set out in the Local Members Interest Act 1968, the Mayor and councillors must declare personal and or commercial interests as they arise at meetings and debates. If a person has a conflict of interest they are excluded from the meeting.
Maria Van Der Meel from the “City is Ours” campaign has been collecting signatures for an ePetition which is calling for the Register of Interests for elected members of council and their spouses to be made publicly available on the council’s website.
She is pleased with the council’s decision.
“The Register of Interest is not available to the public, because I asked to view it, and it wasn’t an option,” she says.
As a result she started the ePetition which will be presented during public participation at the Strategy and Policy meeting, after the new council is sworn in.
“It’s not aimed at anyone per se, it’s just for the purpose of transparency,” says Ms Van Der Meel.
Auckland anti-corruption campaigner Penny Bright says that the Register of Interests should be available to the public.
Ms Bright has made an Official Information Act requesting to see the Register of Interests from 85 councils nationwide.
“You are reliant on the integrity of individual councillors to stand on their hind legs and declare an interest at the time something is an item of business.
“If an interest is not declared, how can it be checked for a conflict of interest? Who’s double checking?”
Declaring commercial interests, like parliamentarians do, should already be a statutory requirement for councillors and mayors, says Ms Bright.
She says there needs to be a legislative change to The Local Members Interest Act 1968.