Penny Hulse, Len Brown’s hand picked Deputy Mayor, is in the thick of the allegations along with former Mayor of Waitakere Sir Bob Harvey.
These two brought huge debt, much of it accumulated in the early days of this project, into the Supercity.
Auditor-General Lyn Provost has begun an inquiry into Auckland Council's involvement in a new town centre at Westgate, which is costing ratepayers about $200 million.
The inquiry follows concerns raised with the Office of the Auditor-General about the way the project was established by the former Waitakere City Council and is being managed.
The Westgate town centre at Massey North is a $1 billion public-private partnership between New Zealand Retail Property Group (NZRPG) and council, first mooted in 2002.
Among the concerns and allegations raised with the Auditor-General are ratepayer cash being used to purchase Westgate Rd through the current Westgate Shopping Centre for about $7 million, the council buying assets to help NZRPG's financial position to start construction early and NZRPG receiving a council-funded project management fee of 8.5 per cent when the going rate was about 4 per cent.
The Auditor-General has been told the council paid $1000sq m for Westgate Rd that should have been vested free to the council and a "high" price of $630sq m to buy land for the library and town centre.
Councillor Chris Fletcher, who has held concerns about the project for several years, said the matter was a bigger scandal than the original Britomart scheme and an inquiry was long overdue.
She raised the issue in 2011, leading to the council obtaining an independent report on the allegations from a senior partner at law firm Meredith Connell, Chris Moore.
The report, completed in April 2012, has not been made public.
Former Waitakere Mayor Sir Bob Harvey could not be reached for comment.
His deputy, Penny Hulse, who is deputy mayor of Auckland Council, said it was a huge project - not without its complexities and everyone did everything they could to ensure all the i's were dotted and t's crossed.
It was up to the Office of the Auditor-General to make the call if it thought any issues needed investigating, she said.
Ms Provost is not expected to make any public comment on the inquiry until her report is released.
The council will not be commenting during the inquiry.
Council squabbles miss the real story
Auckland Councillors squabbling like old hens isn’t anything new. Nor are the barbed jibes about past decisions. So to see Councillor Chris Darby come out to rain on Penny Hulse about Auckland’s newest shopping mall isn’t exactly news.
But Penny Hulse is easy fodder when it comes to that new West Auckland mall that opened last week. She was right in the depth of negotiating with developers to allow the project to happen before the supercity amalgamation.
What Chris Darby did – however – was miss the opportunity to point out that the deals done with the property developer by Penny Hulse and her Council – are under official investigation.
The real issue is that accusations exist levelling criticism against Hulse and her Council regarding whether these deals were improper. Enough evidence exists to warrant the enquiry.
Where there is smoke there is fire. I’m not confident that the investigation will result in proving empirically that the deals are dodgy because Councils have a deliberate habit of being quite evasive about paperwork in a self serving self preservation modus operandi. What did exist is surely shredded by now.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a good look for those involved. Having yourself formerly investigated is an indictment in itself.
Going into next year’s local government elections it is highly possible that this new mall could taint Hulse. Whether impropriety is upheld or not – the fact is – once something dodgy is levelled at a politician it’s hard to claw back from it.
Old Len is proof of that.
Hulse, like Brown, is tainted by the whiff of corruption: so is that arch trougher Sir Bob Harvey who continues to be paid mega bucks of our money by Len Brown as his hand-picked ‘ambassador’. Birds of a feather stick together.
No wonder 'out west' is considered cowboy (and cowgirl) territory. It’s about time a new sheriff rode into town to bring some law and order into Dodgy City.