Council chairman's future hangs in balance

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 15/12/2012

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Environment Southland councillors will have to balance the "one-off mistake" of embattled chairman Ali Timms against the positive things she has done in her role when deciding her fate, Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule says.

Ms Timms' fate as chair is expected to be decided by regional councillors at an extraordinary council meeting late next month.

Early indications are that she may have the numbers to retain the job, with six councillors this week voting in a closed-doors meeting for her to take six weeks leave, against four who had wanted her to stand down.

If axed next month, she will remain as a councillor unless she resigns from the council.

Mr Yule said Ms Timms had done a good job over the years and he had a lot of respect for her.

However, he could not condone her actions in making a hoax phone call to talkback television to grill Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt about the Auckland to Bluff yacht race.

"It will be up to her councillor colleagues to balance this one-off mistake against all the other positives.

"That will be their decision," Mr Yule said.

Ms Timms was first elected to Environment Southland in 2001. She was chairwoman of the regional services committee and the land administration committees from 2004-2007 and chairwoman of the environmental management committee from 2007-2010. She was elected chairwoman of Environment Southland in 2010.

Environment Southland councillor Ross Cockburn said Ms Timms had been under a lot of pressure in recent months, with troubles in the regional council's compliance division and appointment of a new chief executive Rob Phillips among the issues she had dealt with.

Mr Yule said every council had its problems and one of the key roles of regional council chairs was to help resolve those problems.

"I have had a lot of respect for Ali over the years and she's done a good job, but I can't condone what she's done here and I don't know what would have made her do it."

When confronted about the hoax call early this week, Ms Timms told The Southland Times she had done it as a practical joke but refused to comment further.

Her actions have been widely condemned by both Invercargill city and Environment Southland councillors.

She has not answered or returned Southland Times phone calls for the last three days.

evan.harding@stl.co.nz

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