Friction at council meeting

Knox Church minister Sarah Mitchell opened yesterday's Dunedin City Council meeting, as usual, with a prayer.

She also lit two candles to represent hope, peace, joy and love, and while the candles stayed alight, the human qualities they symbolised flickered as the meeting progressed.

A review of the committee structure and delegations manual, a matter that would usually take up little debating time, became the focus of an evident clash of personalities at the local authority, when Cr John Bezett called for an amendment to the make-up of the working party to consider the matter.

A report from governance manager Sandy Graham described the manual as "a complex document that assigns powers and functions of the council to various committees".

The report suggested the committee be made up of Mayor Dave Cull, deputy mayor Chris Staynes, Crs Syd Brown, Kate Wilson and Lee Vandervis, and two council general managers.

Cr Bezett suggested the councillors involved instead be heads of the council's four committees, Crs Brown, Wilson, Andrew Noone and Bill Acklin.

He realised that meant Cr Vandervis would miss out.

Cr Richard Thompson said Cr Vandervis might be more inclined to ask difficult questions, but Cr Bezett said "constructive" questions might be better.

"I've asked for the chairs because of the experience they may bring to this important committee."

Cr Teresa Stevenson suggested the committee could be the committee chairmen and woman, and Cr Vandervis, but Cr Bezett said he would "leave my amendment as it is".

Asked later if he thought Cr Bezett had a problem with him, Cr Vandervis said "that's always been my impression". Cr Bezett "seems to have a problem" with him being on any committee. .

"He seems to think I have enormous powers of persuasion.

"That's his view and he's entitled to it."

Asked if he did have a problem with Cr Vandervis' role on committees, Cr Bezett said: "I think from what I said that would be a fair conclusion to draw."

Cr Vandervis was not a chairman, and would not bring extra experience.

His "hard" questions were always asked in public, in a way that embarrassed staff and would be reported in the media, and were not constructive.

"That's just a ploy he's got.

"If he wants to do that, that's fine."

Cr Bezett's amendment was lost seven votes to six, with Crs Bezett, Acklin, Brown, Paul Hudson, Noone and Colin Weatherall voting for, Cr Neil Collins abstaining, and Crs Jinty MacTavish, Staynes, Stevenson, Thompson, Vandervis, Wilson and Mayor Cull voting against.

Another motion was carried that included the committee chairmen and woman, and Cr Vandervis, on the working party.

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