30 November 2018

Media: Rotorua Daily Post
Topic: RDRR news release regarding complaint to Auditor General about Mudtopia


See the RDRR release below. Forwarding to you in its entirety to give you a chance to respond to any or all points made in the release. 

As it's been released to all media, we will need to get something up shortly, but I am happy to hold off until 11.30 to give you guys time to provide a statement. Please let me know asap if you do not want to respond. If I don't hear from you by 11.30, we'll go ahead and publish sans council comment.


Press Release: Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers, 30 November 2018

RDRR is expecting the Auditor General’s evaluation of Rotorua Lakes Council’s management of the Mudtopia mud festival any day soon. It will be in response to complaints RDRR submitted on 2 August 2018. While concerned about some aspects of the process, RDRR says that the OAG’s investigation appears to have been rigorous. It expects that the OAG’s findings could be as controversial as Mayor Steve Chadwick’s bizarre attempt to buy mud from South Korea.

“Our submission is openly available at our website” said Glenys Searancke, RDRR Chair. “It became necessary when four attempts by elected councillors and the RDRR to have the Council refer Mudtopia to independent and forensic audit were rejected.”

Our complaints, she said, were about the propriety of delegations, the hidden business case, planning and management, due diligence, potential conflicts of interest, the integrity of officials’ advice, underwriting authorities, ignoring growing concerns and playing political ‘blame games’, slippage in objectives, abrogation of responsibility, reconciling decisions with transactions, the return on investment and falling confidence in accounts.

“There were also eight unanswered questions about payments,” said RDRR’s Secretary Reynold Macpherson, “refusing to conduct proper audit and offer public accountability, doubts about the Council’s Audit and Risk Committee and indications of nepotism. Exchanges with the OAG indicate that a great deal of information had been sought from Council and subjected to intense legal review.”

As complainant, he said, we have expressed concern about asymmetric aspects of the process. Council was given access to the substance of the complaints and yet RDRR was not given equivalent access to responses, and there were no public truth tests. Unlike Council, RDRR can’t purchase expert legal advice using public money. Neither the RDRR nor the Council will get to correct matters of facts or to advise the OAG on its interpretation of facts before release.

The OAG will set out its understanding of the facts based on the information provided by RDRR and the Council and provide conclusions and decisions on that basis. The report is expected in coming days.


From Manager CE Office, Craig Tiriana:

It would be inappropriate to comment on this prior to receiving the Office of the Auditor General’s determination about whether it will conduct a formal investigation.


Media: Stuff
Topic: Council Christmas celebration


Can you please provide answers to the following questions?

1. What is your council doing for staff to celebrate Christmas?

2. How much is the council spending on staff for a Christmas function/gifts etc?

3. Has this changed from previous years? How?

4. How much per person is allocated for Christmas functions? Is this limit ever exceeded? Do some staff get more money allocated for gifts?

NOTE: This enquiry went to all district councils in NZ


See information below in response to your enquiry:

On last day of business for the year Council provides lunch for staff who are working that day. This generally consists of ham, chicken, salads, bread, a small selection of desserts and juice. It is an alcohol-free occasion. This costs approximately $3000 and is attended by approximately 150 staff so works out to $20 per head.

Staff values champions are acknowledged as part of the lunch.

Any leftovers are donated to the annual Rotorua combined churches Christmas dinner or a charitable organisation like Love Soup which feeds the homeless.

Individual teams are able to arrange their own Christmas function, generally a lunch or activity, to which managers may contribute if able/appropriate. Managers are able to contribute up to $15 per staff member. This must come from their existing budgets.

Council does not allocate additional budget for Christmas functions or gifts and staff do not receive gifts from the organisation.

The council social club also organises an annual Christmas function, usually a dinner, which is held at other venues (ie not at council) and is paid for through staff’s weekly social club fee with no contribution from the organisation.

There is no change to any of the above this year from previous years.


Page reviewed: 05 Jan 2019 2:03pm