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Councillor defends his right to address meeting

The South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] mayor was unsuccessful in limiting a councillor’s comments at a meeting last week.

The issue arose when Councillor Alistair Plimmer asked to read a statement during the discussion about a Māori ward, and Mayor Martin Connelly initially objected, citing standing order procedures.

After a discussion, Councillor Martin Bosley proposed a motion to set aside the standing orders, which would pave the way for Plimmer to read his full statement.

That motion was passed unanimously by the council, and Plimmer then read the statement.

After the meeting Connelly explained his objection related to the “standing orders” that council must abide by.

One of those standing orders requires that councillors only speak on the issue being discussed at the meeting.

Councillor Plimmer’s statement was not on the motion to adopt a Māori ward, but about the process the council had used to seek public views.

“I informed Councillor Plimmer that what he was saying was not related to the motion and asked him to confine his comments to the motion we were discussing,” he said.

Connelly had received a copy of the statement the day before the meeting on Wednesday [November 22].

Plimmer said after the meeting he thought the attempt to stop him speaking was “appalling”.

“That right to speak was unanimously voted on by the other councillors.”

Plimmer praised the councillors who supported his right to speak.

“I am absolutely entitled to have a view about the contents of a council report. We have disagreements around the council table, which is healthy for democracy,” he said.

Councillor Colin Olds was one of those who supported Plimmer’s right to read his statement, although he said council processes are important.

“While the mayor was within his rights, I felt what Councillor Plimmer had to say could be important to us in making our decision,” he said.

“The mayor could have stuck by his decision; however, he did allow Councillor Plimmer to speak.”

Olds said while standing orders imposed a level of discipline on council proceedings, exceptions were sometimes needed.

“Allowing Councillor Plimmer to make his statement was healthy for debate on the issue around the council table.”

Councillor Bosley introduced the motion to amend the process, said it was a democratic process. “The council work together as a team, and there’s a lot of respect for each other’s opinions.”

The issue comes after the council unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in the mayor last month, citing a wide range of issues.

A SWDC spokesperson said they did not have a comment to make on this occasion.

– NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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