Mayor, CEO deny any rift

Gary Kircher.
Gary Kircher.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher and Waitaki District Council chief executive Fergus Power have quashed rumours there is bad blood between them.

Over the past several weeks the Otago Daily Times has been approached by several members of the public who said there had been a ''real breakdown in communication'' between the mayor and the chief executive.

One source said they approached the ODT because after two conversations with people with close ties to the council they were concerned.

''The relationship between the chief executive and the mayor was very tense and a mediator had been brought in to actually work between them to try and get a professional working relationship established.''

Mr Kircher, speaking from Wellington, where he and Mr Power - who took over as CEO just under a year ago - were meeting organisations to further the district's Unesco Global Geopark bid, said his relationship with the CEO was ''good''.

''We make a good team,'' Mr Kircher said. ''There's definitely been a learning curve just as far as learning how each of us work, but you're going to get that with anyone, I think. We've got some pretty good strengths; most of them are complementary.''

If members of the community believed a ''mediator'' had been called in, it could have been because he ''at one stage erroneously used that term'' to describe a Local Government New Zealand adviser brought in to address ''how we're all working - and not just he and I - how we're all working together as effectively as possible''.

''It was basically a situation where for too long ... the line between governance and management has been too blurred, and as part of good governance we're spending too much time on some of the more operational matters and we felt that at times staff were going into governance side of things, so it's been a good opportunity to be able to take some steps towards clarifying the roles, telling us how we can be more effective as governors ... and focus more on the strategic stuff. And making sure that staff have the tools [needed to] get on with the operational stuff.''

Mr Power also said there was ''nothing along [the] lines'' of a communication breakdown at the top at the council and the use of the facilitator was ''good practice''.

''We have recently, as all organisations should do in a healthy organisation, [arranged] for ongoing training and coaching in relation to the governance and operations interface if you like.

''That's something that should occur on an ongoing basis as kind of a 'health check'.''

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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