Controversy kept off council’s agenda

The media storm surrounding Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark’s recent use of the n-word has so far been kept off the council table, though councillors’ opinions are varying in degrees of support.

Mr Clark drew the national spotlight following his choice of language when speaking at an Art Foundation event last week while touching on the issue of freedom of expression in art, and then repeating the word several times in various media interviews.

Mr Clark remained adamant he would not apologise for his use of the word, and while city councillors opinions on the matter varied, they all agreed the council under his mayoralty was running well.

Cr Ian Pottinger said he was happy with the mayor’s position and respected what Mr Clark was trying to achieve in his original speech.

He said the council had far more important things to discuss than the issue of the word, and that the topic seemed to be more important to the media.

Cr Alex Crackett and Cr Ria Bond were most outspoken against the mayor’s speech, with Cr Crackett saying that social and poetic licence were up to the person who had experienced oppression .

"I thought it was a very thought-provoking discussion, but I don’t think that it was the mayor’s responsibility to say it. And the venue and the timeframe in which he decided to have that kind of conversation was highly inappropriate."

Aside from the controversy, she said the council was largely working well together at a fast pace and managing to arrive at a consensus with a clear view and vision of all major projects.

Cr Bond said she understood Mr Clark brought the topic up to generate discussion, but she did not agree with the way he did it.

For that word to be used by a leader was unacceptable, she said, and it would be something that Mr Clark would need to work on and be held accountable for.

"I understand his intention, I support why he bought that issue to the light ... There is a freedom of art, but to say the word that’s censored?

"And no, it shouldn’t be in front of museums or art galleries. I think that’s the point he tried to put out there, but it’s just the way he went about it."

Cr Lesley Soper said in her personal opinion it was unnecessary and unwise, "certainly not my style or a use of words I condone".

Cr Barry Stewart, Cr Nigel Skelt and Deputy Mayor Tom Campbell declined to comment on the Mayor’s use of the word, though Cr Skelt said council from his perspective had been very cohesive under Mr Clark’s leadership since it began in November.

"We’re getting some really great processes in place and some really positive decisions made," he said.

Cr Grant Dermody said the controversy was an unfortunate distraction as there was a lot of good happening within the council, though he was not comfortable speaking on Mr Clark’s use of the word.

Cr Peter Kett said what he had heard was the public were largely in support of the intention behind Mr Clark’s speech despite his word choice, and he personally would not have used that word.

He went on to say that from when the council was sworn in, within four and a-half weeks progress had moved swiftly on a variety of projects.

"Look at the museum, everything’s under way, the storage facility, the foundations are in for that.

"Plans are available next week for the new build.

"Things have happened — it’s been a pleasure to work there, it really has."

Cr Trish Boyle, Cr Darren Ludlow and Cr Allan Arnold could not be reached for comment.