My concerns about the Film Studios are well documented on this site but the purchase of Tony Tay Film Limited’s share for $1.5m gives me further cause for concern. How well informed were Auckland Councillors before voting for this to go ahead?
On Thursday 4th August I applied to Graham Wakefield, Secretary of Auckland Film Studios Limited (AFSL) for a copy of the AFSL accounts to 31 March 2011, as it was my understanding settlement would take place that day. As a ratepayer I had now become one of many ratepayers who now indirectly owned AFSL entirely. Although Graham sent a copy of my request to the AFSL directors, he advised me he thought they were likely to regard the information as “commercially sensitive.”
On Sunday 7th August I put in a request to Gary Swift, CEO of Auckland Council Investments Limited (ACIL) under Section 67 of the Local Government Act 2002 asking him for a copy of the AFSL accounts.
On Monday 8th August I rang Gary Swift to ask when I could expect a reply. He said “I’m working on it.”
On Tuesday 9th August I rang him again. I was told “I’m working on it.”
I could see myself heading down a familiar path so I sent an email to Darryl Griffin, Manager, Democracy Services, asking him to treat my request to Graham Wakefield of 4th August as a LGOIMA (Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act) request.
By Thursday 11th August I had heard nothing so I put in an official complaint to the Ombudsmen.
Today, when I asked Gary Swift when I can expect a reply, I was told “I’m working on it.” I sent an email to the Mayor, Len Brown with a copy to the CEO, Doug McKay asking 3 questions:
- Will this Council provide me with a copy of the 2011 AFSL accounts?
- If not, why not?
- Were any Councillors presented with a copy of the accounts before voting on the purchase of the Tony Tay Film shareholding in AFSL?
As luck would have it, Mayor Brown was visiting Te Atatu today so I was able to have a one to one with him at 12.30 pm. I presented him with a copy of the email I had sent this morning and asked why the Council had purchased Tony Tay Film’s share for $1.5m. He said “It’s a bloody good buy.” I asked if any Councillors had seen the 2011 accounts to which he replied “They got as good information as you would expect to get.” I then pointed out that the last public report on the Film Studios amounted to no more than a one page photograph of the Film Studios. The Mayor said something about “commercial sensitivity.” I said I noted he had made a public comment this week about a need for more accountability to the public. I said Penny Hulse had also made a comment in last Friday’s Western Leader saying the Council needed to be more transparent. I said I thoroughly endorsed those sentiments but wondered when the rhetoric was going to be put into practice. I said I was disappointed at not receiving the accounts. He did not answer me directly but undertook to follow matters up.
At 4.27 pm this afternoon I received an email from Gary Swift saying “I expect to be able to provide you with the information you requested, next week.”
There will need to be a remarkable turnaround in the accounts for me to be convinced the Council has got a bloody good buy!