Council is tearing itself apart - Sue Wells

Last updated 16:18 23/01/2012
Sue Wells
Kirk Hargreaves
LONG-SERVING: Sue Wells has been a city councillor since 1998.
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Kirk Hargreaves
UNSURPRISED: Local Government minister Nick Smith says problems at the council are "not entirely surprising".
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OUTSPOKEN: Tim Carter was elected to the council in 2010.

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The Government will not "interfere" in the troubled Christchurch City Council, says Local Government Minister Nick Smith.

Smith, who visited Christchurch today, said the Government had no plans to appoint commissioners to run the council, despite calls to do so from two councillors.

Problems at the council were "not entirely surprising", given the scale of the challenge facing the council, but needed to be dealt with without government intervention, he said.

This morning, senior councillor Sue Wells said councillors could no longer do their jobs properly and should be replaced by a Government-appointed commission.

Her statement followed Sunday's plea by Cr Tim Carter for a commissioner to replace council chief executive Tony Marryatt.

Carter said the city needed better leadership, with an institution that was "publicly serving rather than one that serves itself and the people within it".

Wells, who has served on the council since 1998, said she no longer had confidence in councillors' ability to work together for the good of the city.

"I have never, since I was elected to local government in 1995, seen a governing body of the city tear itself apart the way we are currently doing," she said.

The council has come under increased scrutiny after a series of public blunders, while a $68,000 pay rise for Marryatt has attracted public outrage.

Wells said councillors had provided a "constant source of negativity" that was impeding the city's recovery, while council staff faced constant attack from councillors who were "intent" on overthrowing Marryatt.

Councillors had lost trust in each other after the leaking of confidential information and could no longer work together effectively, she said.

"You can't have a confidential conversation with your colleagues because all the trust is gone, and that is absolutely toxic in any relationship."

Wells said the Government needed to have "a good hard look" at whether councillors needed to be replaced for the good of the city.

"I don't believe this council is going to be competent to deliver an annual plan. I don't believe we will be able to get it together in order to strike the rates,'' she said.

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"We are there to set policy, we are there to lead strategically and I have to say I'm not seeing that, and I cannot see it changing."

There was "real confusion" about the overlap between the council and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), which was "effectively" carrying out four-fifths of the council's normal duties.

Wells said the city needed to have a "big talk" about integrating the council, Cera and Environment Canterbury into a unitary commission responsible for citywide governance.

She had not spoken to Mayor Bob Parker about her proposal for a citywide commission, but said he would not be surprised by her criticism of the elected members.

- The Press


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