Independent review of Invercargill council costs ratepayers up to $100k

Invercargill City Council. PHOTO: ODT FILES
An independent review of Invercargill City Council is expected to cost ratepayers close to six figures once all the bills are settled.

Last year, concerns raised by the Department of Internal Affairs prompted an evaluation of conflict at the council, and Dunedin-based Richard Thomson was selected for the job.

The council today revealed how much it spent addressing its dysfunction through the initial review and the expected cost of its follow-up report.

Last October, it spent $58,000 on the Thomson Review, including legal fees, a survey, consulting and disbursements, a spokesperson said.

A six month follow-up report — which was not released until Monday, or ten months after the review — is expected to come in at about $38,500.

Thomson’s latest review painted a much brighter picture of the council’s functionality, but conceded many councillors saw Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt as an “unavoidable and inconvenient distraction”.

A “leadership void” with Sir Tim at the helm was a key finding of last October’s report which also highlighted a frayed relationship between the mayor and chief executive Clare Hadley, and concerns over the appointment of Nobby Clark as deputy.

Thomson is now singing the praises of the council, saying it is in a “vastly better space” than it was at the time of the original report.

But councillors remain concerned about the mayor's performance, he said.

"There remain significant difficulties in managing a political process in which the mayor is seen by his colleagues as not just unable to perform his expected functions, but actively continuing to stoke discontent through his public media statements."

In the weeks leading up to the release of Thomson’s follow-up report, Sir Tim dominated headlines, labelling the council a “regime” and claiming he was a victim of workplace bullying.

He also claimed a vote of no confidence had been launched against him, and featured in a TVNZ current affairs programme about his tenuous ninth term in the south.

The Thomson follow-up report is part of a growing list of bills the council is set to face for independent reviews.

Late last month, the council approved $10,000 to undertake an independent review of its electronic policies and procedures following an incident with Sir Tim’s email.

An email sent from the mayor’s work email on August 10 to Local Democracy Reporting was intercepted by a still-unknown source, and raised as a late item by chief executive Clare Hadley at a closed meeting an hour later.

- by Matthew Rosenberg, local democracy reporter

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