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Marian Hobbs
Marian Hobbs. Photo: ODT files
The Otago Regional Council’s former chairwoman has signed a petition aiming to disband the elected councillors and appoint commissioners to govern the council.

Cr Marian Hobbs was also among several councillors who called for help in a letter to Environment Minister David Parker last week.

They alleged conflicts of interest, predetermination and unnecessary delays in noting minimum flows for the Manuherikia River.

Signed by Crs Bryan Scott, Alexa Forbes, Gretchen Robertson and Cr Hobbs, the letter refers to councillors’ "dysfunctional behaviour" and questions the integrity of their work.

This is not the first time councillors have clashed over water issues recently, and it is not the first time Mr Parker has been called for help.

A majority ousted Cr Hobbs as chairwoman last year after it was revealed she wrote to Mr Parker asking if he might bring in a commissioner if she lost a key vote on water issues.

Now, Cr Hobbs said she had signed a petition launched at the weekend asking Mr Parker to dismiss the councillors and appoint commissioners to govern the council.

She said she was "utterly disheartened" after last week’s meeting, when a majority of councillors voted to fill gaps in council staff’s scientific work rather than note minimum flows for the Manuherikia.

"I would rather go and be taken out by a commissioner than just go and leave them to it," she said.

"I was utterly disheartened. Because I have lost trust; I’ve absolutely lost trust."

Cr Scott said the Manuherikia decision did not follow national environmental rules and processes, which included using the best information available at the time of a decision.

Councillors did not prioritise the health and wellbeing of the waterway, and they failed to operate with an open mind, Cr Scott said.

Chairman Andrew Noone said the council was reviewing key planning documents and developing a land and water regional plan within an agreed timeframe, set by Mr Parker.

The Manuherikia catchment was complicated, complex and highly modified, he said.

Solutions would not be straightforward and would need time to resolve.

The council two months ago notified the proposed regional policy statement, which has a vision and objectives for managing the Manuherikia.

"It seems like when we have all the appropriate information we make decisions," Cr Noone said.

"Sure we will from time to time have differences of opinion - that’s democracy.

"It’s an exaggeration to describe ORC [council] governance as dysfunctional. I strongly refute those claims."

Deputy chairman Cr Michael Laws said elected representatives sometimes did not perceive issues the same way, nor did they always enjoy the outcome of democratic procedures.

"Often this can make them irritable and at such times, tempers can rise. That’s human nature," Cr Laws said.

In this case, the majority of councillors had considered the science was too incomplete to make a decision that had such far-reaching consequences.

Sadly, the council had a history of hasty decisions made with incomplete information, Cr Laws said.

"We rejected the view that a hasty decision is a good one, in favour of making the right decision, with the right information, at the right time.

"That’s called good decision-making."

Mr Parker said he wanted to understand more about some of the points raised in the letter before commenting on them.

The underlying water issue had been a responsibility of the council to resolve since the Resource Management Act was passed 30 years ago, he said.

"I do not have a view on what the minimum flow should be, but I do expect the regional council to meet its responsibilities without further delay."

Central Otago Environmental Society chairman Phil Murray said he launched the petition to oust Otago regional councillors at the weekend because he had "lost faith" in the will of the council to implement change.


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Some councillors have been ORC councillors for five plus terms, like Bryan Scott or Robinson. They have gifted the ratepayers failed plans like the 2nd RPS, PC6A, PC7, PC8 and the third RPS. All failed plans and each costing the ratepayer millions. Incompence flourished with the past policy management and now the current policy managers are equally as hopeless. Time to fire the policy and hazards dept managers and councillors and start again.

What a joke this council is.

Where do I sign? I have no confidence in this council to carry out its duties.

Councillor Laws : "In this case, the majority of councillors had considered the science was too incomplete to make a decision that had such far-reaching consequences."

Kinda Ironic that these majority of Councillors think there isnt ENOUGH Science here?...when there there are known Climate Change deniers involved. The Science is Proven. Enough Already. No more delaying. Get on to it !

Oh also...

Tim, the science isn't "proven" for the last 50 years or more we've been told we only have a few year to act or face runaway global warming , guess what, there's still just as much ice on the poles and temperature remain warmer in the thirties, but don't let facts get into the way ay. What is it with these left wing types who when they don't get what they want they try to subvert democracy?

Fake News Alert!

72 percent rates increase...........Council needs to be replaced.

ORC has been happy to gift out water permits on an even lesser amount of scientific evidence up to now, why is it different now that the river itself is given a viability focus? and only now the ORC finds it does not have enough information and cannot make decisions without more scientific evidence but they have had no problems working within it's insufficiency of knowledge, up to now. What has changed? - I thought their mandatory role always was to protect the waters of Otago rivers and catchments.

So the majority of councillors are following a proper process and the aspiring totalitarians don't like it and have revealed their true colours. Sounds like a good outcome to me.

Otago voters should remember the names of Scott, Forbes, Robertson and Hobbs come the next election and make it clear they don't want anti-democrats anywhere near their elected bodies.

Or, better, remember those names and be grateful for them...

Anyone wanting to sign the petition, you can find it here

Marion Hobbs needs to get of her particular pony and join the team. Or retire. She is a distraction from democratic process. She should talk to her friends about taking a similar path.

Councillor Hobbs is a woman of great integrity and experience, a former Minister of the Crown. Perhaps you meant Cr. Michael Laws when you said "a distraction from the democratic process"?

No I didn't, I meant Marian Hobbs. Her past political office is no recommendation.

Would Ms Hobbs push for this when she was Chair, also the whole lot of them should go, an utter embarrassment

Can the forced upon us authority please explain why I have to pay a high percentage increase in rates when almost every day there are stories of dysfunction, failures and so called elected representatives behaving like toddlers, and that is being unkind to toddlers. Get rid of the lot of them including this council completely. People of Dunedin need to stand up

Over the last five years this council has failed to meet its obligations to Otago ratepayers. The Council has appointed administrators who have failed to properly guide the politicians. Through poor advice the Council has wasted tens of millions of dollars exploring absurd new offices and harebrained projects while ignoring investment in competent staff and good science. Otago’s air and water quality is a public and environmental health disgrace. Many of the incumbent Councillors have held positions during previous terms and have no excuse for the mess that has been created. If these people, along with the staff they have employed, had any integrity they would resign. Otherwise they should be sacked. With the joke 72% increase in rates we need saving from these people. Bring on Commissioners.

I wonder what they'll consider to be a fair rate increase next year?

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