The Ombudsman has rejected complaints that Masterton District Council’s public consultation about financing the Civic Facility was flawed and not compliant with the Local Government Act 2002.
The complainant also said the decision not to inform councillors of the complaint was unreasonable, a claim also rejected by the Ombudsman.
Today (11 July), Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier advised the Council that he considered that the Council’s administration of the community consultation process “was neither contrary to law nor unreasonable”.
“I am satisfied that the Council has engaged with the community for several years on the issue of whether to construct a new civic centre and its financing, including through public drop-in sessions, face-to-face engagements, workplace meetings, and both informal and formal consultation,” Mr Boshier said.
“Attempts were made to reach groups that do not typically engage in civic discussion, relevant information was accessible, readily available, and presented in a variety of formats, and the public were afforded a reasonable opportunity to present their views via a method of their choosing.
“Although there are some who are not satisfied with the community consultation and direction of subsequent decisions, this is not evidence that the Council has acted unreasonably or failed to meet its obligations under the Local Government Act 2002. Often the adequacy of consultation is conflated with outcomes. In my view, that is what has occurred here.”
Council Chief Executive David Hopman said he was gratified with the Ombudsman’s opinion.
“In particular, I am pleased that it was recognised that considerable efforts were made to reach people that do not typically engage with consultation of this kind.
“That was one of the goals of staff.”
Mayor Lyn Patterson also welcomed the response.
“There have been suggestions made that this process was flawed, and I am very pleased the Ombudsman has recognised the validity and integrity of the consultation process undertaken,” she said.