OPINION: That must have stung. Mayor Tim Shadbolt took a heavy slapdown from his council on Tuesday rejecting his nominations for the deputy mayor and finance chairman vacancies.
Cr Darren Ludlow has instead been deputised in preference to Cr Carolyn Dean, and the finance committee will be headed by the long-serving Cr Neil Boniface, rather than Cr Ian Pottinger.
Inevitably, there will now be mutterings that the "old guard" (most of them less experienced than Mr Shadbolt, admittedly) has seized control again – however temporarily.
Indications are that the Government plans to give mayors the power to make appointments, not just recommendations, for these important positions.
That does not mean the councillors were wrong to take what may have been their last chance to exert collective judgment on who best should fill these positions.
Right here, right now, the rules of local government gave them a say, and with it came the responsibility to vote honestly and in accordance to what they really thought.
Essentially, most councillors wound up favouring, shall we say, seasoned councillors over fresh ones. With that seasoning comes a more combative history of dealings with Mr Shadbolt than Crs Dean and Pottinger would have brought to the two roles, though the flintiness of local government is such that this sort of baggage is not to anyone's discredit. Necessarily.
Even by those standards it was a fine-run thing. Under the first votes, Cr Dean lost 8-5 and Cr Pottinger 7-6, though with those two out of the race some of their supporters then voted for the subsequent nominees, who had much clearer wins.
Those margins needn't, and certainly shouldn't, point to 18 months of resolute block-voting. Decisions need to be made on an issue-by-issue basis and the public should be watching both camps to make sure that they live up to this.
In that respect, the rhetoric from Tuesday's council meeting was reassuring. Mr Shadbolt noted that when he "won" with his recommendations at the start of this electoral term, those councillors who lost had put it behind them and had got on with the job. He commended this, and pledged to do likewise.
It was a view others, from both sides, expressed as well.
What's more, the camps aren't completely entrenched. Cr Lloyd Esler voted against Mr Shadbolt's preferred deputy but for his preferred chairman.
There's nothing inconsistent with that, unless we accept – and we should not – that local government should be the same as Parliament, where there are severe sanctions on those who fail to toe a party line.
Whether the Government sees things that way is possibly a different matter, though to be sure we will need to await the details of changes to mayoral powers.
At least Tuesday's debate ended with a sensible note of agreement. There was no contention, really, behind the subsequent decision that the rest of Mr Shadbolt's nominations should be reconsidered next month.
Everybody saw the sense of that.
Mr Shadbolt had prepared the rest of his list based on availabilities and preferences that may have changed now that the deputy and finance chairman are not who he intended.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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