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Civic facility tensions: Clash of the councillors

PHOTOS/FILE

Heated exchanges as councillors vote on civic centre plan

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson called for a point of order at this week’s council meeting as tensions rose over the $30 million civic facility.

It came as councillors voted to grant the Civic Facility Project Committee powers to approve expenditure variances from the planned budget to a maximum of $250k.

The committee would also have power over design specifications for critical functions of the facility.

The full council would still have the final say on who the main construction contract was awarded to and the naming rights and branding of the facility.

In an explanation of the changes, Masterton District Council senior adviser of compliance and projects Phil Evans said it would ensure efficient and timely decision-making.

The project committee previously only had powers of recommendation.

Evans said a downside of the move was that councillors who are not members of the committee may not feel as up-to-date or in control of the governance of the project as they would wish.

Tina Nixon.

There are only three councillors on the committee: Brent Gare, Tina Nixon, and Frazer Mailman.

Mayor Lyn Patterson is also a member, as well as two iwi reps, and two appointed experts.

Only two elected members are needed to make a quorum, along with three other committee members.

Councillor Bex Johnson, who resigned from the committee at the end of last year, said she did not support the changes.

Previously, the council had voted 6-5 to give the committee powers of recommendation only and that all decisions had to be brought back to the full council for approval.

Johnson said there was a specific reason for this previous vote: “to ensure full council had all the information and facts on what we understand is a controversial project for our community”.

“These decisions need to come back to full council, and I completely reject and object to changing the delegation.”

Councillor Gary Caffell agreed.

“On a project this big and contentious, we need to display a willingness to be fully accountable with every decision we make.

“And by accountable, I mean having all elected representatives able to vote on every dollar spent.”

Tim Nelson.

Councillor Tim Nelson said it was “frightening” that just two elected members were needed for a quorum to make decisions.

Councillor Tina Nixon, who chairs the Civic Facility Project Committee, said committee meetings were open to all elected members and this was “an issue of trust”.

When councillors cast their vote on the decision, Mayor Lyn Patterson called for a division, which meant all votes would be recorded.

Voting for the changes to the committee’s powers were: councillors Frazer Mailman, Tina Nixon, Sandy Ryan, Graham McClymont, Brent Gare, and Mayor Lyn Patterson.

Voting against were: Chris Peterson, David Holmes, Bex Johnson, Gary Caffell, and Tim Nelson.

“I hope people notice the change of vote from a particular councillor,” Nelson said, referring to Gare who had previously voted that all committee decisions come back to council for approval.

“I take issue with that,” Nixon said.

“That’s a really terrible thing to do; to point out someone who has changed their vote.

“I notice that Councillor Nelson was very keen to point out the supposed tone of my korero a few weeks ago [at a previous council meeting]. But I think that is a very nasty …”

At this point, Patterson interjected, calling for a point order.

Nelson is seen on the Zoom meeting to be responding, but the audio feed cuts out.

“Councillor Nelson, no response, we are moving on to the next item,” Patterson instructed.

“Unbelievable,” Nelson said. — NZLDR

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