Who is the treacherous Chch councillor?

WILL HARVIE
Last updated 11:09 12/11/2012

Mayor Bob Parker's autobiography is now published and in an extract published in Saturday's Press, Parker recounts how he was betrayed by an unnamed Christchurch City councillor in June 2011.

It was one of these people: Sue Wells, Barry Corbett, Helen Broughton, Glenn Livingstone or Tim Carter. According to Parker's recollection, he and these five elected councillors were in a committee room discussing whether to renew the contract of chief executive Tony Marryatt.

Parker backed Marryatt, for the good reason that months after the big earthquake and amid important recovery work, letting go of the chief executive and finding another would have "significant negative consequences for the city".

"A vigorous, often terse, debate took place," Parker reports from the meeting. It doesn't seem to have been going his way, so Parker told the meeting that if Marryatt's contract was not renewed, "I would have to consider whether I would continue as mayor".

This was promptly leaked and The Press reported it the next morning.

"The leak was an act of treachery," writes Bob in his book, Ripped Apart: A City in Chaos. One of the Suspect Five was "breaking the trust of the others". What's said in committee rooms stays in committee rooms. This had never happened before in Parker's 20 years in local government. The "established conventions of confidentiality [were] shattered" etc etc.

So, whodunit? Parker doesn't say, but he leaves enough hints in this chapter for us to guess who he guesses left the stinker.

Early on he identifies "inexperience" as one of the problems affecting councillor performance after the quakes. "New councillors were thrown into the roles without proper induction or training," he writes.

Councillors Sue Wells, Barry Corbett and Helen Broughton couldn't be described as new or inexperienced. All three have been on council a while and were "trained".

Livingstone and Carter were both newly elected to council. So now we've got a Suspect Two.

It seems Parker plants a Big Red Flag for us to spot. Parker and Marryatt's enemies are the "elite business cartel". Livingstone is a former pastor, Carter the scion of a Christchurch business and political dynasty.

I believe Parker has fingered Carter.

Let me add here that although I work at The Press, I have no idea who leaked. That information is held on a ''need to know'' basis. I haven't asked who leaked and wouldn't be told if I did. This blog relies entirely on Parker's book.

Anyway, can we agree that a political autobiography by man running for re-election is a suspect document? Parker has old scores to settle and new opponents to stain.

It's surely no coincidence that Carter and Livingstone are tipped to be Parker's opponents in the next mayoralty election. Would this incident get as big an airing if Parker had written this book years after retiring?

Moreover, Parker's indignation implies that he's never leaked anything in 20 years. Again, I have no direct knowledge of whether Parker leaks, but here's a entire book of presumed confidentialities.

Lastly, opponents of Marryatt (and therefore Parker) were almost gifted a two-fer. Aiming for Marryatt, they almost got Parker too. Don't cry wolf too often, Bob.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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