9 October 2019. Two Auckland Council representatives, Councillor Greg Sayers and Local Board member Colin Smith, say they have come to the end of the road in their search to uncover why the Araparera forest joint venture failed.
The venture raised just $2.6 million plus interest, a return far lower than anticipated when the scheme was set up in 1984. Cr Sayers and Mr Smith say that despite determined efforts over many years, they have been unable to uncover crucial documents vital to exposing how the joint venture was managed.
They say they have exhausted every option available to them to seek justice and accountability, and are deeply sorry they could not find any conclusive answers for their constituents.
“Thirty years have passed and our communities have little or nothing to show for generations of rate paying,” Mr Smith says. “Ratepayers in the former northern riding are angry, and rightly so.”
As part of the investigation, Cr Sayers requested a full independent audit into the joint venture in 2016, but Council only supplied an independent “report”, which failed to satisfy concerns around the management of the scheme.
Cr Sayers and Mr Smith enlisted the help of accountants and foresters to determine exactly what documents would be needed to fulfil the requirements of a full and proper audit.
“We trawled through thousands of Council archival documents to try to uncover the vital weigh-station log sheets from the forest’s harvest, but this proved fruitless,” Mr Smith says.
“Without those documents it was impossible to answer the obvious questions ratepayers had over the low return of the scheme. The records were either never kept or were destroyed.”
A total of 96,000 tonnes of timber was produced from 200 hectares, with about 70 per cent of revenue earned from exports. The scheme was a joint venture with Ngati Whatua O Kaipara.