Battle puts spotlight on Gore

Councillors decided to shelve a vote of no-confidence in Gore District Mayor Ben Bell in May....
Councillors decided to shelve a vote of no-confidence in Gore District Mayor Ben Bell in May. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
For good, or bad, these "newsmakers" were the people making headlines in 2023.

Gore is not frequently under the glare of national media attention, other than for the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards.

It was an altogether different show that brought the spotlight to Gore through parts of 2023 and the district’s young mayor, Ben Bell, was at the centre of it.

The other key character was experienced Gore District Council chief executive Stephen Parry, and it was clear the pair did not see eye to eye.

Mr Bell was elected to office in 2022, aged 23.

By the end of 2023, the council had decided a review was required to restore confidence, it abandoned the review, abandoned a planned vote of no-confidence in the mayor, apologised to Mr Parry for a privacy breach, accepted his resignation and reappointed him on an interim basis.

On March 28, both men offered candid recollections of their struggles, telling the council behind closed doors there had been a breakdown in their relationship.

Mr Bell told the council he had suffered sleepless nights about it.

Mr Parry said behaviour had been shambolic.

In May, it appeared the stage was set for a showdown between the council and Mr Bell.

Councillors had asked the mayor to resign, and they were poised to press ahead with a vote of no-confidence and to remove him from committees.

However, there was a surge of public support for Mr Bell and councillors were warned their plans could backfire.

In the end, they decided not to follow through.

The mayor’s backers, who showed up in force at the meeting, erupted in support as it became clear a no-confidence vote would not be pursued.