Council observer to meet councillors
A Nelson marriage counsellor will meet Christchurch City councillors today in an attempt to mend relationships around the council table.
Veteran local government politician and relationship counsellor Kerry Marshall was appointed Government "observer" on Friday, charged with watching, advising and reporting on the beleaguered Christchurch City Council.
"My job is to get up to speed with the situation in Christchurch," he told The Press.
His appointment follows a series of blunders by the council and public outrage over chief executive Tony Marryatt's $68,000 pay rise, which he has since agreed to partially pay back.
Marshall will report back to Local Government Minister Nick Smith on the council's performance.
Marshall has plenty of first-hand experience in local government intrigue, ousted as Nelson's Mayor in 2010 in a landslide defeat to his one-time ally, Aldo Miccio.
Despite being the incumbent mayor, Marshall garnered only 1929 votes, placing third after Miccio on 6832 and deputy mayor Rachel Reese on 5405 votes.
In 2007, all three had been elected as part of the same "Hands Up" team, coming to office on promises of promoting the economy, arts and the environment.
Before that, Marshall was involved in the formation of the Tasman District Council in 1986 and served as its first mayor for nearly a decade.
He is also a former chairman of Local Government New Zealand and is still a practising business and marriage relationship counsellor.
Yesterday, Marshall said he was looking forward to helping the Christchurch City Council resolve its problems and had already called Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker to discuss his new role.
However, he would not discuss how he expected the council to change, insisting it was "premature".
He did not have anything "on paper" but saw his role broadly as "observing and assisting the council".
With the lingering threat of the Government replacing councillors with commissioners, change was clearly needed, he said.
"He's (Smith) already indicated if nothing changes what might happen, and I don't think many people want that to happen. So we are working through a process that will resolve the current paradigm."
Marshall has often worked with Smith, who is the MP for Nelson.