Outbreak of love hijacks district council meeting

21:04, May 10 2012
tdn harry
Harry Duynhoven feels the love.

Tuesday, May 8, was a day New Plymouth District councillors will always be able to look back on fondly. In a much lesser way, of course, it was a bit like Christmas Day during World War I when the Germans and the British took time out from hostilities to have a friendly game of football. Then they went back to killing each other.

And so it was in the debating chamber on Tuesday, for almost a whole hour. Between 4.30pm and 5.24pm Mayor Harry and most of the councillors, (John "Horse" McLeod was absent) were actually nice to each other. By that, I mean they weren't unpleasant to each other, which almost amounts to the same thing, given the recent form. Once again members of the Youth Council were present around the table. This time they seemed to be a good influence on their elders. They were a bright young bunch, although one turned up in his jandals, boardshorts and T-shirt. The young 'uns all get a buddy councillor and the young man lucky enough to have the "Head Monitor", Heather Dodunski, as his buddy, shared the job of chairing the meeting with her. He was an impeccably groomed, bright young man by the name of Mark Houwers. One of the pleasures of writing this column is that intelligent people read it. Therefore many will have spotted the unusual last name and be wondering if he is related to that other chap, Len Houwers. The one who organised the online petition against rates increases and has been a constant blackberry bush in the side of the council ever since.

The answer is yes; Mark is Len's son and looks to be a chip off the old block. The Head Monitor introduced him and the meeting got off to a good start, with no deputations. Under chairman Houwers Junior, councillors whizzed through the first part of the agenda. "I'm going to chair the first half of the meeting, so please be on your best behaviour." They were. At one stage Cr Sherril "Sledgehammer" George positively radiated respect as she asked a question of a staff member: "Through you, sir" she said, addressing the chairman. The Honourable Harry must have wondered if she would ever address him in such a respectful manner when he was in the hot seat.

When the Head Monitor took over, councillors remained on their best behaviour. The only item to create much of a stir was item B2: Meeting Cycle Review. It wasn't a new innovation under the Let's Go Strategy, checking on how many councillors cycled to meetings, rather it was an opportunity for them to reconsider the frequency and structure of their meetings.

Andrew Judd asked if they could change it now, or did they have to wait until the next term? Chief executive Big Boss Barbs told them there was nothing stopping them changing it mid- term, should they wish to.

That was the opening Great Uncle Bulgaria, Lynn Bublitz, was waiting for. He was at his oratorical best as he gently outlined his concerns over the way council was conducting its business these days.


"I have some concerns about our present structure and systems," he started. Unky Bulgars continued with his seemingly endless supply of wisdom.

The public were unaware of many of the jobs councillors did; the portfolio system was working better than ever and he suggested five new committees: works, parks, cultural services, environmental and finance- governance.

"The present structure was introduced by former chief executive Rodger Kerr-Newell." At that stage everyone sat up.

Not so much at the new structure bit, but at the mention of The Hyphenated One.

Several more councillors also wanted change while others were happy with the status quo. Many thought the former CEO had to take some of the blame.

The present CEO pointed out they could change anything they liked but, under the proposed legislation, it was the mayor who would decide.

While this was going on, Colonel Ants (territorial), Anthony Wilson the general manager of community assets, strolled over to Cr Bublitz and showed him a piece of paper.

Soon after Great Unky pointed out to the meeting that someone (Colonel Ants) with "a far superior brain to mine" had pointed out to him that it was actually Kinsley Sampson, the former, former CEO, who had made the changes to structure.

In the interests of institutional accuracy, the team at Second Thoughts (me) challenged Colonel Ants and his superior brain by pointing out that it was indeed Mr Kerr-Newell who abolished the Environment Committee. While the good Colonel was explaining why that was right, but he was still right, Big Boss Barbs popped over and said, "I thought Rodger abolished the Environment Committee".

While the good colonel was explaining to her why that was true and how he was still right, I left them to it, secure in the knowledge that my own superior brain was intact.

Taranaki Daily News