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Councillors remove Connelly from roles

South Wairarapa’s mayor has been stripped of a range of representative roles after an extraordinary meeting held yesterday – the last day of his leave of absence.

Mayor Martin Connelly said he was not aware of the move and couldn’t comment further at this stage.

Councillors voted to remove Connelly from a number of forums, groups, and committees during the South Wairarapa District Council meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting was held the day before Connelly’s scheduled return from a two-month leave of absence that was granted in March due to “wellbeing issues”.

Connelly was elected South Wairarapa’s mayor in October 2022 with a mission to improve the quality of the council’s decision-making.

In October last year, the council unanimously made a vote of no-confidence in Connelly in a public-excluded meeting, claiming he had been dismissive towards some community members and absent from several important meetings.

An extraordinary meeting was called on Tuesday to strip Connelly of his membership on the following committees, forums, and groups: Wellington Water Committee, Wellington Regional Leadership Committee, Civil Defence Committee, Regional Transport Committee, Wairarapa Committee, Wairarapa Moana Statutory Board, Maori Standing Committee, Wairarapa Trails Action Group, Remutaka Transport Group, Wairarapa Safer Communities, and the Mayoral Forum.

Deputy Mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter said the outcome being sought at the extraordinary meeting was “inclusive, transparent representation across our external committees”.

She said she had not had contact with Connelly regarding his return as mayor and transition arrangements.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] chief executive Janice Smith said she also had no direct contact with Connelly.

Councillor Aidan Ellims said that Connelly had not provided visibility to elected members about what went on at various forums and committees since he had been elected.

He said that, in contrast, the previous mayor Alex Beijen had recorded and reported back to the council on topics discussed in his capacity as mayor.

Councillor Colin Olds said that with Sadler-Futter as acting mayor, “we’ve had the opportunity to see what we can really achieve in terms of getting information”.

“Melissa has done a sterling job of filling that gap in the interim, and we are grateful for that to be quite honest, we really are,” Olds said.

“We have never been so well-informed as we have been over the past eight weeks and that has shone through.”

Local Democracy Reporting has asked SWDC for a direct explanation as to why Connelly was removed as a representative on the 11 groups.

In a statement, Sadler-Futter said: “To encourage visible and inclusive representation for the important committees South Wairarapa are part of, and to maintain an open and well-informed governance table, council have reviewed committee appointments, so they’re not only spread across council but are also represented by those with an interest, experience or expertise on a particular committee.”

– NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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