Follow-up to formal complaint to Mayor Goff re Big Mac

In reply to a message of 22 February from a customer issues advisor (below), the following was sent on 5 March 2021:

Dear Jade and Mayor Goff,

FORMAL COMPLAINT: The Scheduled Notable Macrocarpa Tree Located on corner of Ash Street and Gt North Road cut down Friday 12 February 2021

I apologise for the manner in which you, Jade, have been dumped by the Executive Team, and tasked with deflecting this very serious misconduct complaint regarding actions taken by Auckland Council Executive Team, which also implicates the Chair of Panuku.

1.     For the avoidance of doubt please be assured that both letters dated 10th and 17th February 2021 ARE intended to be formal complaints. Both letters have also been circulated to the administrators of both the Appointments and Performance Review Committee and to the Audit and Risk Committee.

2.     Of course we were not asking Council to take responsibility for Ockham’s William Deihl’s Executive Director comments. To spell it out, his comments are evidence of collusion by Council and/or CCO Panuku with Ockham-Marutūāhu.  That evidence is further corroborated by Mark Todd’s letter to “Phil and Jim”, the Mayor and CEO of Auckland Council, dated 18 December 2020. This letter attaches a legal opinion regarding the threat of legal action being made by Ockham-Marutūāhu in the event that they were not able to obtain the Tree Owner Approval fromAuckland Council to remove the Notable Scheduled Macrocarpa Tree known as “Big Mac”. This letter appears to have been sent because a Council Tree Owner Approval to cut down Big Mac had already been refused by Auckland Council staff.

3.     Sadly. your letter demonstrates that there is a lack of honesty and willingness to accept that there is a problem with: (a) the behaviour of Council’s Executive team, and (b) Council’s process in this matter.  Contrary to Mayor Goff’s email dated 17 February 2021 denying that there is a process problem, we believe that your current letter under reply is trying to deflect and is further evidence that there is indeed a problem.

4.     Furthermore, the community is openly discussing that there was a pre-contractual prior agreement between Council/Panuku and Ockham-Marutūāhu (refer the attached FB thread of conversation [below]). The representatives of Mana Rakau in this correspondence, who I understand were or had been in negotiations with Ockham-Maratūāhu (specifically Mark Todd and Paul Majurey) claim it was “common knowledge” that such an agreement existed.

5.     The claim in your letter that “there has never been an agreement between council or Panuku and Ockham-Marutūāhu that the macrocarpa tree would be removed, and council has not made any decisions on the basis that such an agreement was in place.” is not defensible on the facts set out above, together with the decision of your CEO James Stabback dated 23 December 2020 which clearly states it is being made because of the threat of legal action from Ockham-Marutūāhu.

6.     The very fact that there was a prior deal has the consequence of making a mockery of the resource consent and tree owner approval processes that followed, thereby bringing Council and Council processes into serious disrepute.

7.     Without doubt the fact that there was a prior deal is in the public domain, risking reputational damage to Auckland Council and its staff. The community is openly discussing collusion, corruption, lack of impartiality and conflicts of interest about someone in Council or Panuku who made a commitment to Ockham-Marutūāhu. Every person in Auckland Council is de facto implicated and under suspicion. It is therefore incumbent on Auckland Council and Mayor Goff to openly investigate this collusion and if it is proven that it did not happen, to correct the record. This is an issue of serious misconduct.

8.     As regards your mystifying comments regarding LGOIMA. for the avoidance of doubt, this email and our email of the 17 February 2021 are not, and have never been, intended to be LGOIMA requests nor are we requesting information. Nevertheless, with regard to that point I draw your attention to the LGOIMA Part 2 section 10 (1) which states “Any person may request any local authority to make available to that person any specified official information (1AA), A request under subsection (1)(a) may be made in any form and communicated by any means (including orally); and (b) does not need to refer to this Act.” In other words, it does not need to be in any specific form. However, we repeat our email of the 17 February is not a LGOIMA.

9.     It is our view that there is more than enough actual and presumptive evidence to support our formal complaint of serious misconduct and improper process that would be imprudent and contrary to your duties to Auckland’s ratepayers to dismiss our formal complaint without proper investigation.  We therefore call on you to initiate a full investigation leading to public disclosure of the outcome of that investigation.

Yours sincerely
Wendy Gray and Caleb Azor

———- message ———
From: Trees <>
Date: Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 3:43 PM
Subject: FW: The Scheduled Notable Macrocarpa Tree Located on corner of Ash Street and Gt North Road cut down Friday 12 February 2021
To: <>

Kia ora Wendy and Caleb

Your correspondence has been passed to us by the Mayoral Office for a response. We write to correct some of the information you outline below.

The council does not have any influence over statements made by William Deihl. As explained in the Mayoral Office’s email to you on 17 February 2020, council is confident that proper process has been followed in this case. We confirm that prior to the Tree Owner Approval being granted, there has never been an agreement between council or Panuku and Ockham-Marutāāhu that the macrocarpa tree would be removed, and council has not made any decisions on the basis that such an agreement was in place.

With regard to your comments about the Whau Local Board, we also confirm that the decision to engage with the Whau Local Board Chairperson is consistent with the delegation protocols. Should any local board members have questions regarding the process, they may wish to contact the Chairperson or council staff directly.

Wendy, on several occasions council staff have explained that it is not possible to publish all information council holds and it is for council to determine, in its discretion, what information is published on our website. We have suggested that if you wish to request further information that you do so through the usual process and council will respond to the request in accordance with the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987. Please note that council will not continue to answer questions on matters that have already been addressed, as this can have an unreasonable impact on our time and resources.

As advised in the Mayoral Office’s email to you, if you believe that council has not acted fairly and reasonably, you may wish to raise this matter with the Ombudsman.

Ngā mihi | Kind regards
Jade Sutherland
Kaitohutohu take kiritaki | Customer Issues Advisor
Te tari o te kaiwhakahaere matua | Chief Executive Office
Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau