Signing of sister-city deal upsets councillors

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2013

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Some city councillors are disappointed that Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt has signed a sister-city agreement without the council voting on it, and have labelled it a "Mickey Mouse" situation.

But it looks as though Mr Shadbolt will have enough support that he will not have to worry.

He signed a sister-city agreement with the mayor of Chinese city Suqian this month.

In the finance and policy committee meeting, to be held on Tuesday, councillors will be asked to endorse his decision, but some are "frustrated" with his decision-making without their formal input.

Cr Ian Pottinger said Mr Shadbolt's single-handed decision-making was "not good governance" and he was disappointed the mayor had not gained the formal support of the council.

This year Mr Shadbolt changed the committee structure so that only six councillors have the right to vote in the meeting.

Cr Pottinger is not one of them. He said the situation was like Mickey Mouse and lacked transparency.

"Maybe China has a better democratic system than we do."

Cr Pottinger said he would raise his concerns at the meeting, and again when the matter arose at full council.

When the matter first came to Invercargill City Council's attention, a feasibility report was asked for, but they were yet to see that report, he said.

"Until we have that and in our own mind that we have chosen the right city, then there's no point in voting on it."

Cr Lindsay Abbott agreed that the feasibility study had never come back to the council.

His understanding was that it was meant to be a friendship agreement not a sister-city agreement.

"It's disappointing that somebody is making these decisions," he said

Cr Graham Sycamore said the procedure might have been "a bit out of line" and "a bit naughty" but he would be voting in favour of the sister-city agreement.

First-term councillor Rebecca Amundsen said she was concerned the decision was made without voting from the council.

She said the agenda showed there would have to be a budget amendment and she questioned how much the agreement would cost the council.

"It doesn't indicate where the money is coming from.

"It doesn't tell you actually what is the dollar terms, what the benefit would be."

Cr Lloyd Esler said while the situation "seemed to be a fait accompli", he thought the agreement was a good idea.

City council chief executive Richard King said it was given little notice about the delegation visiting Invercargill and would have been able to vote on the agreement only if it had held an extraordinary meeting.

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"The mayor wouldn't have signed it if he didn't have the support of the majority of the council."

Mr Shadbolt did not return phone calls.

- The Southland Times

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