Houwers questions adviser's roading submission

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2014

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Questions are already being raised about how mayor Andrew Judd is choosing to use his adviser.

Outspoken councillor Len Houwers raised the concerns about the work the New Plymouth District Council's mayoral adviser has been doing since he started early last month. Judd's adviser, Greg Stephens, wrote the submission to central government that has made front page news twice this week.

The submission called on the Government to invest more money in regional roading and led to Judd labelling Taranaki's roading funding as "crumbs".

However, Houwers believed the council should not be submitting about roading funding at all, and writing the response was a waste of Stephens' time and of his $89,902 to $105,767 salary.

"Is this really the best use of our mayoral adviser," Houwers asked at the council's policy meeting. "At the end of the day it's like buying a new sports car and using it to tow a trailer."

Houwers said he would vote against making the transport submission because he did not think submissions to central government were useful.

"You already have Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) submitting on behalf of the sector and . . . I'm really concerned that we continue to make these submissions in addition to work other people are doing," he said.

"I would have thought an organisation with scarce resources would want to be careful about how we allocate that."

However, Judd rejected the claim that writing a submission about a government policy was a waste of Stephens' expertise.

The role of the mayoral adviser falls within the policy department of the council, and Stephens has experience in central government.

The regional roading funding was an important issue for the community, Judd said. "I am completely in favour of this and couldn't disagree more with my colleague. I think it's a fantastic use of our resources and our mayoral adviser."

Judd said relying on a submission from LGNZ was not good enough when the issue was this important. "Goodness gracious, if we don't say how we see it then I am not going to rely on others to do it for us. We have our own view and it is important that that view is heard through the ability to make submissions in our own right."

Councillor Shaun Biesiek backed up Judd, and said councillors were elected to speak for the community and advocate on their behalf. "We definitely need to rattle the cage and be the squeaky wheel to get this funding."

All councillors voted in favour of making the submission, except Houwers, who maintained the council should let LGNZ submit for them.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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