A local government expert is calling on ministerial intervention for the Invercargill City Council after a tumultuous week in the deep south.
On Tuesday, deputy mayor Nobby Clark indicated Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt could be facing a vote of no confidence.
The claim came hours after a closed meeting where Shadbolt said he was bullied by fellow councillors about a pending media statement.
The incident is the latest addition to a growing list of complications in Shadbolt’s ninth term as mayor.
Former Massey University lecturer Dr Andy Asquith has a PhD in public sector change management, governance, policy and strategy. He wonders “how much longer the minister can fiddle whilst Invercargill burns”.
“For any local authority to function with any level of normality, you have to have
understanding between the CEO, mayor and deputy mayor,” he said.
“I cannot believe what’s happening.”
Asquith believed the situation had reached a point worse than last November, when Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell resigned after the Tauranga City Council’s decision to bring in a Crown manager on the back of conflict and dysfunction within elected ranks.
Sir Tim Shadbolt became mayor of Invercargill in 1993. Photo / Matthew Rosenberg, LDR
Asquith said Invercargill needed similar action.
“What you really need is a clean sweep of everyone clearing out. You need a fresh start.
“When you have elections, you find the same people standing and the same people being
Approached for comment, Clark called Asquith’s statements “outrageous”.
He said feedback from the Department of Internal Affairs said the council was now the “model” in New Zealand for resolving internal issues.
“If you read the Thomson Report from six months ago, you will see this council has made
some huge gains.
“And given that I was one of the people that was very frustrated at the council, things are working very, very well here.”
The Thomson Report was a damning independent review of Invercargill City Council released last October.
Deputy Mayor Nobby Clark says Asquith's claims are “outrageous”. Photo / Luisa Girao, ODT
It highlighted a “leadership void” with Shadbolt at the helm, and strained relationships between the mayor, deputy and chief executive.
Clark maintained the only issue the council now faced was the mayor.
In Tuesday’s media statement, Shadbolt called the council a “regime” and accused an unnamed staff member of going through his personal documents held in storage at a council-owned building.”
“All the councillors took turns to disgrace me for the use of this word [regime], which I consider appropriate,” Shadbolt said.
Yesterday, he said he stood by his comments about being bullied, and noted no councillors or staff had checked on his welfare.
Council chief executive Clare Hadley denied the mayor’s claim that she appointed a staff member to undertake the task of sorting through his possessions.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta was approached for comment but could not respond by deadline.