Marryatt will exit if lacking support

SAM SACHDEVA
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2012
Tony Marryatt
DAVE HALLETT/The Press
ANSWERING HIS CRITICS: Tony Marryatt.

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Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt says he will "negotiate an exit" from the council if he loses the support of a majority of councillors.

In an interview with Newstalk ZB's Mike Yardley yesterday, Marryatt also said he "got quite a surprise" when he was awarded a $68,000 pay rise.

The chief executive went on air to answer questions from Yardley and listeners after criticism of his performance and the controversial pay rise he was given in December.

Marryatt put a stop to accepting the increase in late January, but has held on to more than $25,000 of the rise that he had already received.

He acknowledged yesterday he had "polarised" the city's residents but believed anger about his performance was based on a lack of understanding.

"I don't think the majority of the community knows what I do, or why I'm working in local government."

He had to "take the hit" for the misconception, as he had not spent enough time in the community. However, he did not believe he had problems understanding ratepayers' views.

"I don't struggle with it, I just haven't prioritised it as much as I could have: I've been really busy trying to keep the city running and help lead a recovery."

He would not continue as chief executive if most councillors did not want him to remain in the role, Marryatt said.

"I've always said that to the mayor: `The day I lose the support of the majority of council, come in here and we'll negotiate an exit'."

He did not believe that was likely, but said there were "some that would like it to happen".

Marryatt said he was not involved in the decision to increase his salary, and had not expected the increase to be so large.

"I got quite a surprise, but it wasn't my decision."

He would hold on to the money he had already received until he could "have a discussion" with councillors about his future, likely to take place before the end of March.

"I'm not trying to blackmail anyone or hold anyone to ransom.

"I just want to see what the future is, simple as that."

Marryatt defended his decision to commission an $80,000 review of the council's communication problems, saying the organisation needed to address "valid questions" about its communication after the city's earthquakes.

"We're in a different environment now: we need to know what we're doing well and what we're not doing well."

Yardley said he had received more than 300 emails from people with questions for Marryatt, including from council staff who said Marryatt was nicknamed "The Phantom" for his lack of visibility within the organisation.

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Marryatt said he had "good support" from most staff and believed it was unrealistic to expect that he would meet every staff member.

"We're too big an organisation and we have too many remote sites ... I have to rely on the cascade of the message."

He relied on a 50-strong leadership team to "get the message out" to staff.

- The Press

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