Christchurch City Council CEO takes leave

Last updated 17:00 03/07/2013
Iain McGregor

Bob Parker says information was not being passed on from Christchurch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt.

Tony Marryatt
Kirk Hargreaves
UNDER FIRE: Christchurch chief executive Tony Marryatt

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The failure of the Christchurch City Council's chief executive to pass on crucial information about the consenting crisis is the reason why he is on indefinite leave, Mayor Bob Parker says.

The council announced today Tony Marryatt was going on leave "pending further discussions with the council".

Parker said the council had no choice, but to take immediate action.

"What we are discovering is that apparently significant pieces of information crucial to this organisation functioning in the way that we expect it to function do not seem to have reached the governance team. That's an appalling situation to find yourself in as a governance body," he said at a press conference this afternoon.

No disciplinary action had been initiated against Marryatt but investigations were under way to work out why action was not taken earlier to address the problems raised by International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ).

"We have to investigate all of the issues around this," Parker said.

"Councillors have not been receiving all of the information they need on these issues and that is very, very serious. A governance body cannot function in the absence of accurate and timely information."

Parker said he was embarrassed that he had stood in front of people and given them assurances about the council's consenting, believing that he had the "most detailed, accurate and up-to-date information" when that was clearly not the case.

Asked whether he had considered tendering his own resignation, Parker said no.

"I'm intending to resolve this issue. It's a core issue and that's my job. That's what I'm here for. I want this resolved. I want answers and I want to return confidence to a crucial function of the Christchurch City Council."

MARRYATT 'GAGGED FROM SPEAKING'

Marryatt would be replaced by the council's city environment general manager Jane Parfitt in an acting capacity.

When The Press visited Marryatt's Burnside home today to seek comment, he closed the blinds.

A woman came to the door to ask the media to leave .

"He [Marryatt] is not making any comment at this stage," she said. "He needs to consolidate and speak to his own legal team."

Later, a woman calling herself Robyn answered Marryatt's home phone.

Marryatt would be happy to speak to the media when he was able to, but that would not be today, she said.

"He just can't make them [comments] because basically he is being gagged ... by the council and by the mayor," she said.

"I can't say any more than he can't make any comment until the discussions have been concluded."

The consent process was thrown into chaos this week after IANZ said it will pull the council's consents accreditation on Monday.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the council would make the request for a Crown manager tomorrow.

When asked if this would hurt Parker's re-election chances, Brownlee said it was "pretty clear" that Parker had been let down by his officials.

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Labour's earthquake recovery spokeswoman and Christchurch mayoral candidate Lianne Dalziel said Parker had done the right thing by asking the Crown to be involved.

While the mayor had spoken reassuring words to people last week about the consents, it was now time for the truth, Dalziel said.

"I'm afraid this isn't the time for reassuring words. This is the time for the truth. Everything now must be out in the open," she said.

Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network chairman Reverend Mike Coleman said Maryatt's decision to take leave was long overdue.

"I think Marryatt needed to take responsibility for the consent debacle," he said. "He should've resigned last year."

Controversy surrounding the embattled Marryatt, and poor decision-making had led to his demise, Coleman said.

He called for a new chief executive to be found in the private sector. "We just need a lot more efficiency and a lot more expertise. I'm sure he might've been trying his best, but it hasn't been good enough."

CROWN MANAGER 'MAKES SENSE'

Councillors have been called to a special meeting of council at 12.45pm tomorrow when a resolution will be put to invite Local Government Minister Chris Tremain to install a Crown manager to oversee the council's consents department.

After the meeting, councillors will meet with the minister who will discuss the terms of reference for the Crown manager.

Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said it made "very good sense" to appoint a Crown manager.

"It was the obvious course of action," he said.

However, he still hoped someone would be held accountable for letting it get to this point.

"This is right at the core of the council's functions and it has been going on for a long time . . . whoever is responsible needs to be held accountable," he said.

Townsend said Christchurch was in need of the best consenting services in the country.

He expected the Crown manager to be someone of high calibre with expertise in consents who could lead some "serious change management".

"We'll look forward to seeing rapid improvements."

Parker said it was "crucial that the community and the Government have complete confidence in the robustness of the consents process".

This was vital for the city's rebuild, Parker said.

"The situation around building consents is serious, and it has become apparent that councillors have not been well served by the information that has been provided to us," he said.

Marryatt has been a controversial figure since his appointment in 2007.

Hundreds of ratepayers protested outside the council offices in February 2012 after he accepted a $68,000 pay rise.

Marryatt is the highest paid local government executive in New Zealand. 


TIMELINE TO CONSENT CRISIS

October 2009: A routine assessment by IANZ identifies problems with the council's Building Consent Authority.

September 2012: International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) audit.

October 2012: IANZ identifies 17 failings in the way the council performed its building control functions.

February 2013: Deadline for fulfilling corrective actions, majority of corrective actions signed off by IANZ.

May 2013: A reassessment is undertaken.

May 30 2013: Letter from IANZ gives the council formal notice of intention to revoke its accreditation as a consent authority if it does not improve its performance by June 28, as six of the 17 issues raised remain unresolved.

The issues include:

- not meeting the 20-day statutory timeframe for granting consent

-Not completing required competency assessments for staff undertaking a building control function, such as processing inspections.

-Information technology system for consents considered inadequate.

June 25-28, 2013: IANZ reviews the information supplied by council.

July 1, 2013: IANZ informs the council it will revoke its accreditation on July 8, 2013.

July 3, 2013: Council announces a resolution will be put to invite the Minister for Local Government, Chris Tremain, to put in place a Crown Manager to oversee the council's consents department.

- The Press

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