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No confidence – Councillors send unanimous message

The Department of Internal Affairs has been asked to provide support to South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] after councillors passed a vote of no-confidence in the mayor.

A statement issued yesterday on behalf of the councillors said they and the deputy mayor had unanimously passed the vote about Mayor Martin Connelly.

Local Government Minister and Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty has now asked the Department of Internal Affairs to get involved.

He described the vote of no confidence as highly symbolic and said any move to put commissioners in at SWDC would be a last resort.

“I am taking this very seriously, but a vote of no confidence has no legal standing.

“As minister, I have asked officials at the Department of Internal Affairs to contact the council to provide support. It is my expectation support will be provided,” he said.

McAnulty said he has asked for advice on what support can be provided and said the threshold for ministerial intervention is very high.

“In order for intervention to be considered, a council must not be meeting its statutory obligations. At this stage, pending advice, I have seen no evidence it [SWDC] is not meeting its obligations,” he said.

“Putting in commissioners is a last resort, and would involve all the councillors, not just the mayor. I hope to avoid commissioners, and my hope is we can provide support and resolve this matter.”

The vote was taken in Greytown at a public-excluded extraordinary meeting of the council.

It is understood Connelly was invited to the meeting called to address concerns about his conduct, but he did not attend. In his absence, the meeting took a different course, and the vote of no-confidence was taken.

The council statement listed a litany of concerns about Connelly including claims of inconsistent and disrespectful treatment of presenters in public participation and of staff, acting in isolation, and provocative behaviour on social media.

Connelly, who was elected last year, said he is aware of the vote and wants to work with the councillors.

“I will do my best to restore the councillors’ confidence so that it matches the confidence of those who voted for me,” he said shortly after the statement was issued.

The council’s statement was accompanied by a copy of a five-page letter councillors had sent to the mayor listing their concerns.

SWDC members who voted against Connelly are deputy-mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter, and councillors Rebecca Gray, Colin Olds, Aaron Woodcock, Martin Bosley, Alistair Plimmer, Pip Maynard, Kaye McAulay, and Aidan Ellims.

The statement said the councillors have worked towards a strong, united council for the district.

“Regrettably, we have been consistently hindered by the underperformance of the mayor, culminating in a unanimous vote of no confidence today,” it said.

Councillors claim Connelly has shown a lack of inclusivity during meetings and workshops, and there has been inconsistent engagement with things like the recent annual plan and long-term plan.

This has caused concern about the mayor distancing himself from pivotal responsibilities, which has a substantial impact on residents and ratepayers, councillors said.

Other issues include the mayor acting alone and purporting to represent the council without a mandate, the statement said.

The councillors said this hampers their ability to represent the community and do their job properly.

“The South Wairarapa District Councillors find these issues wholly unacceptable,” the statement said.

The councillors said they have tried to make their concerns known through things like code of conduct complaints, meetings, discussions, and emails.

“Despite previous attempts to address these matters on numerous occasions, the situation has persisted.

“Regrettably, the mayor chose not to attend the extraordinary meeting, depriving us of the opportunity to discuss steps for improvement.”

The councillors said they understand the vote will be of concern to the community.

“We want to assure our residents that we, the South Wairarapa councillors, stand united and resolute in our commitment to creating the best environment for robust decision-making on your behalf,” they said.

“The vote of no confidence signifies our desire for meaningful change and our expectation of enhanced performance from the mayor, both for ourselves and our community.”

– NZLDR
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

1 COMMENT

  1. If you cannot remove the mayor then send him on paid holiday or sick leave till next election 🤔. What ever happened to working for the community 🤔 and keep politics out? It will never happen we are so mixed up with the environment issues 😕 that the government is pushing so local government are unable to do anything, it’s so mixed up no wonder we are unable to come together as one united wairarapa community.

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