Parker soaks up the love after horror week

GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 07/07/2013
Parker
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker.

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After a tough week in the job, Bob Parker finally felt some love yesterday.

The Christchurch mayor surprised many on Friday night when he announced he would not stand for re-election later this year.

It capped a horror week for Parker, with his council under fire over losing its building consent powers and his trusted chief executive Tony Marryatt put on leave pending an investigation.

His decision leaves would-be mayor, Labour MP Lianne Dalziel, in prime spot to take the chains - a Press Research First Poll yesterday showed she had the support of 70 per cent of respondents.

The poll, taken before Parker's announcement, put him at just 30 per cent support.

But yesterday, the texts and emails of support were rolling in, and Parker said he'd taken a "superb and most unexpected" call from Prime Minister John Key.

And so on a sunny Canterbury winter's day, he confidently strode hand-in-hand with wife Joanna Nicholls-Parker into Cathedral Square to officially reopen what he calls the "heart of the city".

Gripping a coffee cup, dressed in a smart dark blue suit, sans the mayoral chains, Parker mingled with his citizens who, just 17 hours earlier, had heard his bombshell announcement.

This was Parker's moment back in the limelight after the most significant political decision in his career. There he was, on stage with a microphone in hand, taking centre stage again in the centre of his city.

There was the odd handshake and some back-patting from supporters and some filmed his appearance on their phones.

His octogenarian parents, Bob and Audrey, turned up to support their son as he made his first public appearance since confirming he'd pulled out of the mayoral race.

Audrey said her son had done his very best for the city and was sad to see him pull out, but there was fighting talk from his father who'd hoped he'd contest the October elections. "I wish he hadn't [quit] but, oh well, politics intervened," Parker senior said.

His mother said Parker had "done everything" for the city and could have led it for another three years, but she respected his decision. "There is a bit of sadness and a bit of joy today."

Although he had been contemplating the move for some time, Parker revealed it was only when he woke on Friday morning that he decided to make the call. "After I made that decision, I actually felt quite good."

Nicholls-Parker said she was glad she wouldn't have to share her husband with the city.

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Parker said he would miss part of the job but, with a glance towards his wife, said he was looking forward to "taking the hand of this beautiful woman and disappearing into the sunset for some rest and relaxation".

And with that, the man who virtually gained rock star-like celebrity status with his reassuring words after the twin major Christchurch earthquakes, vanished back into the crowd, looking like a mayor, and a man at peace with the world.

- Sunday Star Times

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