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Anger over mayor’s ‘vacation’

By Hayley Gastmeier

[email protected]

A South Wairarapa District councillor has blasted Mayor Viv Napier’s decision to extend a ratepayer-funded trip to Belgium to include a month-long European holiday.

Dayle Harwood says that information regarding the vacation, which Mrs Napier will pay for herself, was not given to councillors before they voted on Wednesday, approving the budget “of up to $4000” to fund the mayor’s visit to commemorate 100 years since the Battle of Messines.

Ratepayers will cover Mr’s Napier’s economy airfares, Airbnb accommodation, and travel while in Belgium, while the mayor will fully fund her trip once the commemorations end on June 7.

She will return to New Zealand on July 7.

Mrs Napier says she will take the opportunity to visit family while in Europe, and has the support of some councillors, who say she deserves the break.

Dayle Harwood told the Times-Age to say he was “very angry” about Mrs Napier’s “extended vacation”.

He said the mayor’s travel plans should have been disclosed to the council before they approved the finances.

“I knew nothing of this up until [yesterday] and my decision was made purely on sending the mayor to commemorate 100 years of the Battle of Messines.”

He said the council, which was elected last year, had worked hard to create transparency and a “different type of ethos” from the previous council.

“And just like that it’s been undone,” Mr Harwood said.

Councillor Lee Carter said that when the mayor’s trip was first proposed in February, she was “uncomfortable” at the prospect of it being funded by ratepayers.

This week she abstained from the vote to approve the budget, but acknowledged the importance of the South Wairarapa district being represented at the commemorations.

She said former mayor Adrienne Staples had paid her own way to the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Messines, setting the precedent for future mayors.

“If you set a precedence like that then why does the next mayor get ratepayer money to pay for them?

“It is very important that whenever we are talking about trips based on ratepayers’ money, that full transparency is at hand prior to any decisions being made.”

Mrs Napier said her decision to attend the centenary celebrations “was in no way influenced” by her wish to catch up with family.

She said she would be taking poppies over to Belgium to lay at the memorial and graves of fallen soldiers.

She would also be taking letters from Featherston school children to pass on to school children in Messines “to further grow the strong connection” between the two towns.

“It is so important that the South Wairarapa is represented for the 100th anniversary in Messines. . .

“After the official ceremony I will be taking the opportunity to spend personal time in Europe with my daughter and sister, as one of the things I forfeited when I became mayor was to regularly catch up with my family over there.”

Mrs Napier said she would be writing “a full report for the SWDC and ratepayers” and take many photographs to “share this very important ceremony with everyone”.

Colin Wright said the personal element to the mayor’s trip would not affect ratepayers.

“I think Viv has been working very hard for the council and has been doing it for many years and I don’t have any great problem with her taking some time out.

“And it’s a quiet time in terms of council’s normal business because the annual plan is largely sorted.”

Deputy Mayor Brian Jephson said he supported Mrs Napier’s vacation.

“She’s got a hell of a workload. Why not go away? Everyone deserves a break.”

Mr Jephson, who will stand in as mayor during Mrs Napier’s trip, said being a mayor was not an easy task.

“I totally support it, it’s not costing the ratepayer any money for her personal holiday.”

The mayor will miss a full council meeting set for June 28.

4 COMMENTS

  1. It means the holiday part of the trip is effectively subsidised by the ratepayers by tacking the holiday onto the end of the business trip. This creates the ability to avoid paying airfares for a holiday – so it is costing the ratepayers after all.

  2. I have one objection and that is that if we set a precidence of paying for trips as a representative of th SWDC then that in turn excludes people from standing for council or mayor who know they cannot afford such payments. Go Viv, enjoy your trip and holiday. You do a great job as our Mayor. $4000 out of our rates is peanuts, so council members listen to the ratepayers, and wish Viv bon voyage.

  3. We need quality news. Was there an attempt to get the side of the mayor? Having a holiday away from home and hearing this news will ruin it if it was me.

Comments are closed.

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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