Rating the Christchurch City councillors

01:07, Apr 10 2012
Christchurch City councillor ratings
REPORT CARD: Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button.
Christchurch City councillor ratings
REPORT CARD: Clockwise from top left, Jamie Gough, Ngaire Button, Aaron Keown, Peter Beck, Barry Corbett, and Sally Buck.
Christchurch City councillor ratings
REPORT CARD: Clockwise from top left, Claudia Reid, Tim Carter, Yani Johanson, Jimmy Chen, Sue Wells, and Glenn Livingstone.

A Press mid-term review of Christchurch City councillors has found significant differences in the performance of elected members.

The latest council term began in October 2010, shortly after the September 4 earthquake. Councillors have faced big challenges in the 18 months since.

The February 2011 quake left councillors with several difficult decisions to make, some of which will be debated during the council's draft annual-plan meetings today and tomorrow.

Sharp divisions were exposed last year during council chief executive Tony Marryatt's controversial reappointment, with former councillor Chrissie Williams resigning in protest against the council's "dysfunctional" leadership.

Public outrage over a $68,000 pay rise for Marryatt led to the Government appointing a Crown observer to monitor the council and provide regular reports.

Qualities considered during the ratings process included the councillors' effectiveness, enthusiasm for their work and ability to influence council decisions.


While some have fared well in the ratings, others, including several senior figures, have been found wanting.

First-term councillors have received mixed ratings, with some performing well and others failing to meet expectations.

The Press will rate the councillors again shortly before next year's local body elections.



Probably the smartest councillor around the table, Wells' wealth of regulatory and planning knowledge is often on display.

Gone off the boil somewhat since the city's earthquakes, however, and throws herself into the fray less often.

Questions remain over her future, particularly after she called on the Government to sack the entire council in January.


Carter has quickly built up a reputation as a formidable councillor in his first term, leading a crusade against council staff on insurance issues and rule breaches.

However, he has been noticeably quiet in the past few months, perhaps chastened by the Government after unsuccessfully urging them to sack chief executive Tony Marryatt.


Reid is an intelligent and eloquent councillor who has been a strong advocate for the people of Banks Peninsula.

She makes sound points during debates, but has an occasional tendency to talk down to people.

Overall, Reid is a hard worker who adds much-needed value to the council.


Button has been unnecessarily combative since being appointed as deputy mayor.

Her witch-hunt to expose leakers within the council ignored the broader issue of the organisation's transparency.

Button clearly possesses some leadership skills, but her ineffectiveness and negativity have been disappointing, given the importance of her role.


Knocking on thousands of doors helped Chen to win his seat and the respect of his constituents, but he has struggled to make his mark since then.

He often fails to get his points across during debates, limiting his ability to sway his colleagues on an important issue.

Chen cares about the city, but needs to improve his communication skills if he is to make that clear.


A councillor since 1998, Corbett brings life to the adage that experience does not always mean quality.

He contributes little of note during discussions, other than thanking council staff for their efforts.

Some have remarked, not unfairly, that few would notice if he was not there.


Keown's willingness to pitch crazy ideas may be inadvertently amusing, but rarely addresses the serious issues facing the city.

He has done some good work to address prostitution-related issues, but his unyielding support of Marryatt last year led to a legal challenge and damaged the council's credibility.

Enthusiastic about his work, but needs to channel his efforts more effectively.


Nobody doubts that Broughton means well, but her effectiveness is questionable.

She still struggles with council processes and procedures, while her abstention during the crucial vote to reappoint Marryatt was a travesty for a former human resources manager.

The city needs more from a four-term councillor.


The former Christ Church Cathedral dean has neither disgraced nor distinguished himself since replacing former councillor Chrissie Williams in a February by-election.

It is too early to deliver a verdict, given that Beck has been in the role for less than two months.

However, his performance will be watched with interest by many.


Popular in his ward, Gough has tried not to rock the boat too much in his first term.

After siding with the so-called B team early on, he appears to have been brought back into line and has tried to avoid clashes since.

Gough has a lot of potential, but needs to find his voice and make a stand on the issues he cares about.


Johanson has been a much smarter councillor since winning re-election, shedding his reputation as the council's rebel without a cause.

He now picks his battles wisely, while his 10-point plan to get the council back on track was widely lauded last year.

If he can continue his good work, Johanson will be a valuable asset for the city's ratepayers.


A useful ally for the anti-Parker faction, Livingstone has also been effective in raising the concerns of those in the eastern suburbs.

A good ideas man, he has pitched proposals to increase land affordability and improve the council's tendering process, but still appears a bit hesitant to make himself heard.


When Buck makes an interjection during a council meeting, it is most often to inject a note of pessimism into proceedings.

She hardly seems to make a positive contribution and gets involved in needless bickering at times.

Buck has been a good supporter of her ward on occasion, but overall has failed to achieve what most would expect from a councillor.


Parker has had a torrid time since winning a second term, and has not helped himself.

His statesmanlike repose after the city's earthquakes was quickly replaced with belligerence towards those who dared to question the council.

The appointment of a Government observer and the looming presence of Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee have brought him back into line and limited his power.

Must heed calls for greater transparency.


Tim Carter: B+
Yani Johanson: B+
Glenn Livingstone: B+


Jamie Gough: B
Claudia Reid: B
Sue Wells: B
Ngaire Button: C
Aaron Keown: C
Bob Parker: C
Jimmy Chen: C-


Helen Broughton: D+
Sally Buck: D
Barry Corbett: D

The ratings are based on what we have seen of the councillors in the debating chamber, as well as the public's perception of their community involvement.

Some of the qualities considered during the unscientific process included the councillors' effectiveness, their enthusiasm for their work and their ability to influence council decisions.

Controversial council chief executive Tony Marryatt was not rated, but the public's perception of his work will undoubtedly be considered when his contract is up for renewal in 2014.

The Press