Mediator called to sort ORC

Andrew Noone. Photo: ODT files
Andrew Noone. Photo: ODT files
A mediator will be called in to sort out the trouble at the top of the Otago Regional Council.

Chairman Andrew Noone and chief executive Sarah Gardner issued a joint statement to announce councillors had decided to bring in outside help amid ongoing turmoil at the council.

Yesterday, Mr Noone said it was "absolutely" a positive step for the organisation, but declined to say anything further.

"There’s really nothing else that needs to be shared at this point," he said.

The joint statement said councillors and the council’s executive leadership were unanimous about the need to restore their relationship.

The move comes as tension becomes increasingly apparent at the council.

Late last month, a general manager lost his cool in a meeting, calling a councillor’s resolution a "load of rubbish", and saying he would ask his "boss", Mrs Gardner, about doing the work the councillor’s resolution entailed.

At the start of this month, when details emerged about a councillor-initiated, independent investigation of staff, Mrs Gardner said tension between senior managers and councillors was getting in the way of work.

Most recently, as councillors and the chief executive disputed the scope of a code of conduct review at the council, the debate in the meeting was cut short when Mr Noone suggested they check the video replay from a previous meeting to get clarity on what councillors actually asked the chief executive to do.

The joint statement last week from Mr Noone and Mrs Gardner said councillors agreed in a public-excluded meeting on Thursday to begin a process with "expert external assistance to review and restore a positive and constructive relationship between ORC governance and staff".

The step was "vital and welcome", the joint statement said.

It would allow the council to focus on its commitment to the Otago community and its "extensive programme of environmental work".

"The CE (chief executive Sarah Gardner) and I are both optimistic because it’s a positive step forward for ORC, taken in good faith and with clear, shared goals around the table," Mr Noone said.

"It’s important that we are able to conduct this process in a free and frank manner, without prejudice, and that we do our best to ensure a good outcome.

"I think we are unified in wanting an improved, constructive working environment for ORC and its communities."

At the closed-door meeting, councillors also agreed that further public commentary on the process would be supplied jointly by Mr Noone and Mrs Gardner, the statement said.

Last week, a Department of Internal Affairs spokeswoman said the department had not been in contact with the council recently about ministerial powers to intervene.

In 2020, the department was in contact with the council when Marian Hobbs resigned as chairwoman.

The department wanted to understand how the council was addressing the governance issues reported in the media at the time, the spokeswoman said.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

Comments

The Faulty Towers of Otago continues to embarrass themselves. The policy department and hazards department are incapable of carrying out their statutory functions and cost us millions in wasted vanity projects, and the top levels of management have failed the ratepayer - delivering only stardust and ineptitude. Otago deserves better than this.

There's another million down the drain...

When will this nonsense stop? These people are all supposed to be professionals. Ratepayers having to pay for yet another round of silly games is an utter disgrace. There is no one at ORC who appears to have any control of the behaviour of the Council and their Chief Executive??

These clowns just have to be joking???? Over the last four years ORC has been gone from hero to zero wasting tens of millions of dollars in the process. Ratepayers footing the bill for more feel good soul bearing meetings is a laugh. Do they really seriously think a mediator will bring these highly paid public servants together and a magic wand will be waved turning an army of frogs into princes/princesses??

What a pathetic bunch of so called leaders. If they can't manage ORC without mediators then they are not fit to work in Council. Councillors need to be removed and replaced with Commissioners and the entire executive should be sacked. We have people who cant afford to feed themselves while these parasites waste millions of our ratepayers money.

 

Advertisement

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter