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CDC decides to leave seat empty

Rob Stockley resigned last month due to family commitments overseas. PHOTOS/FILE

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Carterton District Council [CDC] voted not to replace outgoing councillor Rob Stockley’s role last Wednesday, despite a warning from former mayor Ron Mark to fill the position.

In a submission at the ordinary council meeting, Mark told the council not to “underestimate the impact this decision will have, and please consider positively voting towards bringing a new councillor onboard”.

However, later in the meeting, the council voted to leave the vacancy unfilled until the October 2022 local government election.

Ahead of the vote, Mark said he thought the council would decide not to replace Stockley.

“I’m asking the question, why would you not?”

Mark said it was clear to him that money was not the basis for the council’s choice to leave Stockley’s seat vacant.

“None of you came to this job for the money; God forbid you’d be stupid if you did.

“You’re not doing it for the money, but there will be people out there in the ether that will say that.”

Former mayor Ron Mark suggested that Carterton District Council fill outgoing councillor Rob Stockley’s seat.

Mark’s advice was that the council should not leave itself open to the interpretation that councillors were voting with a financial interest.

“You can hire more spin doctors, but you will not beat that argument.”

The CDC agenda said the mayor was paid $84,500 a year, the deputy mayor $45,675, and councillors with no additional responsibilities $25,423.

It said the Remuneration Authority set the amount each year as a total pool, and there was no option to decrease the pool if there was an extraordinary vacancy.

“The amount which would have been paid to councillor Stockley will be divided amongst the remaining elected members – excluding the mayor, whose remuneration is set separately by the authority.

“This recognises the additional responsibilities councillors will be required to take on because of the decrease in the number of elected members.”

The memberships and portfolio that Stockley left behind would be re-allocated to various councillors.

The agenda said the council would decide how the remuneration amount would be split in a resolution at the February 2022 council meeting.

Councillor Dale Williams said there were advantages in replacing positions, but there were also advantages in leaving them unfilled.

“I came in eight months ago, and I’ve had a lot of experience, but it’s still a big step up to fit into an already performing council with their portfolios already set and a plan already in place.

“To bring someone in at the 11th hour will place challenges not only on to that person but the team they’re coming into.”

Mayor Greg Lang said he understood that community members had skills they could bring to the table as councillors, but they wouldn’t have the same understanding of how the council operated.

“If it were a longer period of time, I would look at reconsidering, but with the skill base we have, and the care and diversity [of councillors], I think we can cope until the next triennium.”

Mark said his other point was about balancing the power at the table.

“Everyone comes with their own experience, which is another reason to appoint someone.”

He said the council was working through many challenges from central government and elsewhere.

“You’ve got the Resource Management Act, three waters reforms, freshwater policy, all of the issues facing the rural community, you’ve got covid, the vaccine mandate, the wastewater treatment plant, and you’ve got the future of Local Government.”

Mark said things were moving fast, but the core issue for the council now was that it could not afford to run a third of the triennium with one less councillor.

Despite councillor Jill Greathead voting to appoint a new councillor, and councillor Stockley abstaining, the vote passed in favour of leaving Stockley’s seat vacant.

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