'Legit to take perks' says mayoress

MAYORESS: Jo Nicholls-Parker.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/The Press
MAYORESS: Jo Nicholls-Parker.

Christchurch mayoress Jo Nicholls-Parker said it was "perfectly legit to take some perks" such as coffee and muffins because she worked fulltime for the city for free.

Nicholls-Parker yesterday responded to criticism of her role after revelations that she sat in on breakfast meetings with her husband, Mayor Bob Parker, and spent ratepayer money on muffins and coffees. The couple later paid back more than $600.

Nicholls-Parker yesterday defended her role, saying some people had shown "mean-spiritness", although she had generally been well-treated as mayoress.

"I'm working fulltime for this city without getting paid to do that, so I think it's perfectly legit to take some perks, even if it is just a small muffin and coffee."

She said she and Parker ate in the same cafe every morning, and it was a conscious decision to stall her art career to focus on being a fulltime mayoress.

She denied she stayed at breakfast meetings when confidential talks were held between Parker and council chief executive Tony Marryatt.

"I don't need to be there for the sensitive stuff, but I do like to keep up to date with the issues of the city," she said.

"I think it's important I do that. How many coffees I have is beside the point."

She said she was aware of the public scrutiny that came with the role, but she relished being mayoress.

The role had "grown" over the past three years. She attended many mayoral functions, often deputising for her husband, and was patron of several trusts.

An art auctioneer before Parker became mayor, she had been studying for a postgraduate degree in art curatorship, but that was put on hold after the 2007 election.

The lowest point of the term had been the media printing "misinformation" when they did not "translate Bob's messages correctly".

The Press