Parker humiliated by Brownlee's 'clown' comment

LOIS CAIRNS AND ANNA TURNER
Last updated 07:50 10/11/2012

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Ripped Apart: A City in Chaos

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Christchurch earthquake

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Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker was on the verge of quitting after Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee publicly labelled him a clown.

Parker says he felt "slighted and humiliated" by Brownlee's comments and worried that if the minister genuinely thought he was a clown, continuing in the role of mayor would not be in the city's best interests.

Only an apology from Brownlee stopped him from resigning, Parker reveals in his new book Ripped Apart: A City in Chaos.

He also says councillors were "shocked, angry and disappointed" to find the preferred joint-funding model they had discussed with Christchurch Central Development Unit director Warwick Isaacs had not been signed off by the Cabinet and there was a funding gap of $1 billion.

Last night, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority head Roger Sutton moved to dismiss the notion Parker's book would affect the relationship between Cera and the council. "The two organisations enjoy a positive and effective working relationship. Political comment made from time to time has no bearing on that relationship or the overall recovery effort," Sutton said.

A spokesman for Brownlee said the minister would not comment on Parker's book.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend called for unity. "The important thing for the rebuild is that central government, local government and the community must all be seen to be working together. They must have common objectives, otherwise it will compromise the future."

Christchurch MP Lianne Dalziel hoped Parker's book would not adversely affect the city's rebuild. "If this is the mayor's honest view, I am glad he is sharing it and I don't think he should be criticised for expressing it," she said. "I would be appalled to think that one mayor speaking his mind could affect the rebuild, and the relationship between council and government."

Parker also tells of how betrayed he felt when comments he made in committee, saying he would resign if chief executive Tony Marryatt's contract was not reviewed, were leaked to The Press.

"It could have been disclosed only by somebody attending that meeting," he writes.

"I considered the leak an act of treachery. The meeting was confidential."

The mayor also believes he and Marryatt have been subject to bullying, threats and intimidation because they dared to change the approach to land development in Christchurch. He also says a well-known businessman wants him and Marryatt out.

Parker also talks of his decision to ask the Government to step in and help the city council sort through its problems after the furore over Marryatt's pay rise. He says the situation came to crisis point when Cr Sue Wells threatened to resign because she was sick of the unprofessional behaviour.

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"I feared her decision could provoke at least one other councillor into tendering her resignation," he writes.

"This would leave me with a council that would no longer, in my view, be able to function in the best interest of the city. Fearing the imminent collapse of the council, I had no choice other than to ring the prime minister and brief him."

When contacted by The Press last night, Wells declined to comment on Parker's take on her threat to quit.

Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button said she was not surprised Parker came close to leaving his job. "I think all of us have considered resigning over the last three years.

"It has been an incredibly difficult time for all of us."

- The Press

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