Editorial: Council ructions shed no credit

22:03, Feb 14 2013
duynhoven stand
New Plymouth Mayor Harry Duynhoven

"I have been on council for nearly 30 years. This is only the fourth time we have looked at this code of conduct. Three of them have been in this term."

Wise and worrying words from long-term New Plymouth District councillor Lynn Bublitz. Quite possibly enlightening.

But was anybody within the council chamber and around the building really listening. Or learning?

Certainly it appears that this council has been hijacked by at least three people of varying heights and outsized egos.

Unlike the soon-to-be underemployed councillor Sherril George, we're comfortable with naming them: Ms George is a given; Horse McLeod, who is too easily led to the waters of political theatre and populism; and our own mayor, Harry Duynhoven, who seems unable to control them. Even if he will counter that control them he has, through the costly and messy route of code of conduct hearings.

As Gordon Brown highlights in his Second Thoughts column below, no one has won in this latest skirmish of a tiring ongoing war. Councillors and ratepayers must be growing weary of the antics of all three in this exhausting hate triangle.

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But back to Mr Bublitz' pointed reference to council behaviour. It's worth noting that this council's two most troublesome agitators were councillors before Mr Duynhoven was elected as their leader. And the issues faced in this particular council term have been no more tricky and complex than those faced by previous incarnations.

So why have the problems escalated to the point of creating a well-worn carpet line to code of conduct hearings? Mr McLeod and Ms George have often conducted themselves poorly, have been deliberately and mischievously disingenuous, have engaged in virtual guerrilla warfare against their colleagues and the office they purport to serve.

But they have almost gleefully found an ally in their perceived enemy.

Despite so many years of schooling in this country's great national college of political dark arts, the mayor seems to be struggling with the deft touch required of a ringmaster and horse whisperer.

Like the Black Caps in the first losing Twenty20 clash against England, hard hands have spilt too many catches.

In tackling his two mavericks head on and with bluster he no doubt feels he has them penned. But one could argue that he has played to their own dark arts and guerrilla tactics; that rather than cunningly, adroitly exposing their ignorance and ulterior motives, he has created martyrs and boosted their electoral stock.

And possibly undermined his own.

Now he has two councillors with the time and energy to ponder their next move, to organise their next attack. And on full pay.

Mr Duynhoven has argued that he needs more powers and punishments to keep such miscreants in line. Others would argue that he has all the powers and ploys he needs. He just hasn't used them.

And one last thing, while we're on the subject - shouldn't the mayor have some idea why one of his most senior managers, Puke Ariki boss Fiona Emberton, resigned in such strange circumstances?

Taranaki Daily News