7 Aug 2018

Horowhenua Mayor's funding allocations questioned

10:11 am on 7 August 2018

The Horowhenua District Council is in the spotlight - again for all the wrong reasons - after documents appear to show misuse of the Mayor's Discretionary Fund.

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Photo: Google Maps

Documents released under a Local Government Official Information Act (LGOIMA) request show more than half the grants given out in the last financial year did not meet the council's own criteria.

The LGOIMA was discussed at a Finance, Audit and Risk Subcommittee meeting last week.

Chairperson Philip Jones said the committee then voted on what to do about it.

"Council resolved to receive the report and any future grants from that discretionary fund have to be co-signed by another councillor who is also the chair of the grants committee."

The Mayor, Michael Feyen, who has now lost absolute control over his own discretionary fund, said the result was laughable.

Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen

Michael Feyen (left) Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

"I think it's an absolute joke, it's farcical. It's sort of like Monty Python - they could do some good skits on what happens up here."

The fund allowed the mayor to give money to those not eligible via other funding streams within council, or approve emergency requests.

There were a number of criteria that must be met, including a requirement that applicants have at least two references to testify for them, be from the Horowhenua region, and not receive more than $1000.

Six out of the 10 grants did not meet all of the requirements, with one person receiving two grants totalling $3500.

But Mr Feyen said he was not hiding anything.

"In all cases that I gave money away I spoke with management first before I did it."

He said a Facebook page - The Cold Hard Truth - which was where the information was first published, was run by councillors opposed to his leadership, and the LGOIMA was an attempt to make him look bad.

"It's absolutely disgusting what they put on [that page] and it's pretty much set up for having a good go at me really."

But, local Horowhenua resident Maree, who helped administer the page said it was nothing to do with the council or councillors.

"The page is completely separate from council ... there is no connection to council at all, or any of the councillors."

She said it simply worked as a platform to share information obtained through official channels, like the LGOIMA.

"It's a place where information is received through legitimate sources and then it's pushed out to the wider community so people can see the true information."

It's not the first time the region's local politics have been in the spotlight, last year the council passed a vote of no confidence against Mr Feyen, but he refused to step down.

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