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SWDC facing potential shake-up at meeting

An extraordinary council meeting has been called to discuss the duties of South Wairarapa Mayor Martin Connelly, who has been on a leave of absence since March 4.

Mayor Martin Connelly was granted a two-month leave of absence to focus on “wellbeing issues”.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] has now called a meeting for today to discuss Connelly’s membership portfolio, including on the Mayoral Forum.

The council would not respond to questions on whether Connelly will return from his leave.

“Following the meeting, we’d be happy to respond to further questions that aren’t covered at the time,” a council spokesperson said.

An extraordinary meeting was called in line with the council’s Standing Orders, they said.

The agenda for the extraordinary meeting says that “council is now halfway through the triennium, and it is an appropriate time to review the automatic assignment of the mayor to a range of committees, forums, and groups”.

“It is recommended that these appointments be spread more widely across the elected members for the remainder of the triennium.”

Under SWDC Standing Orders, “a Mayor is a member of every committee unless specific legislation provides otherwise”.

The decision paper recommends that Connelly be stripped 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, Māori Standing Committee, Wairarapa Trails Action Group, Remutaka Transport Group, Wairarapa Safer Communities, and the Mayoral Forum.

It recommends other elected members “be appointed in place of the mayor with immediate effect”.

The agenda paper said there is no requirement for engagement with the community on this issue.

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.

In February, Connelly was granted a two-month leave of absence to focus on “wellbeing issues”.

Deputy Mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter assumed full delegation and has acted as mayor for the duration of Connelly’s absence.

“It is important to note that, during this time, his relationship to the community as mayor will be suspended, with Mrs Sadler-Futter representing council fully in that regard,” a statement from SWDC said at the time.

“Councillors wish Mr Connelly a restful break as he focuses on his wellbeing.” – 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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