Waikato Regional Council’s regulatory committee has today formally instructed staff to review the role of councillors in deciding what prosecutions the council undertakes.
It follows a recent recommendation from the Auditor-General that councils review their procedures to ensure that prosecution decisions are free from actual or perceived political bias.
Immediately following that recommendation, the council indicated publicly it was happy to look at the process whereby the committee is required to authorise the initiation of a prosecution. This authorisation is given subject to an independent legal opinion and based on a staff recommendation that a prosecution is appropriate.
Today the committee formally agreed that staff should review the terms of reference for the committee’s involvement in the prosecutions decision process and recommend any changes.
The committee also asked staff to develop a new enforcement guideline for consideration.
Chairperson Lois Livingston said she was open to the idea of making changes.
“The council has a well-established process for deciding on what cases to prosecute and I know of no cases where political bias has meant the committee voted against a case going forward for independent legal review.
“However, the majority of the committee agreed the issue is one we need to look at again in light of the Auditor-General’s report so we can consider whether changes should be made.”
Cr Theresa Stark voted against the decision, saying she thought the current system was working fine.