Invercargill City Council making things work despite Sir Tim - report

Sir Tim is in his ninth term as mayor of Invercargill. Photo: Stepjhen Jaquiery
Sir Tim is in his ninth term as mayor of Invercargill. Photo: Stepjhen Jaquiery
Invercargill city councillors see Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt as an "unavoidable and inconvenient distraction" but are making things work despite his failings, a new report into the council has found.

In the Thomson Six Month Review Report author Richard Thomson said the council, both governance and management, was in better place than it was six months ago when his original report was published.

"In most respects they have made significant progress in a very short period of time. There remains some work to do to consolidate this, and enable the phasing out of the External Appointees, most specifically around the tension that now overtly exists between the mayor and his deputy [Nobby Clark]."

But Mr Thomson said the situation had been somewhat complicated by the use of an email obtained from Sir Tim by chief executive Clare Hadley at a closed door meeting.

Invercargill City Council has approved $10,000 to undertake an independent review of its electronic policies and procedures following  the incident.

"It is reasonable to also have a concern as to the potentially destabilising impact associated with recent media stories about the use, by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), of an email sent by the Mayor," Mr Thomson said.

During his interviews he said the difference in mood and morale, with the exception of the mayor, was significant.

"There was a strong sense of collegial purpose and an apparent willingness to step back from confrontation around things that might have irritated previously, and may still do, in the interests of the city’s greater good.

"I remain uncertain as to how the media storm since my interviews could affect this and therefore there must remain a risk of future destabilisation despite the very significant progress evident.

He said councillors remained concerned about the mayor's performance.

"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."

He said Sir Tim was now more isolated than ever at the council. 

"He finds himself now very isolated and the subject of media attacks both from within and outside council. It is a lonely and distressing place to be and it is difficult not to feel considerable sadness for the position he is in."

He advised the council to be careful when responding to Sir Tim's public statements other than carefully or risk  appearing like "kicking someone when they are down".

He attributed the turn-around at the council to Cr Clark's performance as deputy.

"This process has been significantly assisted by the approach of the Deputy Mayor who has stepped up significantly to fill the leadership void, and amended most of the modus operandi that led to my significant concerns in my original report as to his suitability for the role."

Clare Hadley. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Clare Hadley. PHOTO: ODT FILES

Mr Thomson proposed the progressive phasing out of the external appointees to council. recommend that the Project Governance Group (PGG) remained in place untill the end of the term but that its membership be reconfigured to reflect the progressive removal of external appointees.

Ms Hadley said in a statement it was good to get independent confirmation of the progress the council had been making over recent months.

“It is clear around the council table and among staff that the commitment we’ve all put in over the past six months has made a real difference to the way we work. We put in place a fairly rigorous programme of improvements and I’m proud of the efforts made to stick to the plan and get results.

“Our hard work has paid off, but we know we need to keep focused on our improvement plan. I believe the council is in a good place now, focused on delivering results for the people of Invercargill.”

Risk and Assurance Committee Independent Chairman Bruce Robertson agreed that clear progress was obvious around the council table.

“Council staff and elected members are to be commended for their work to address the issues raised in the original Thomson Report. It’s not always easy having someone point out where you’re not doing so well, but I’ve seen the Council address the issues head-on and make some very good progress.”

The council was earlier called together this morning to see and discuss the draft version of the report.

A press conference is being held via Zoom at 3.45pm and emergency council meeting will be held tomorrow where the report and recommendations from this morning's Risk and Assurance Committee will be discussed.

Hadley said this morning, the emergency Risk and Assurance Committee meeting was public excluded and was not being livestreamed.

''Due to the late nature of this meeting, the agendas have not been able to go online at this stage.''

An emergency council meeting will take place tomorrow, and the agenda will be online as soon as it is available. This will be public and livestreamed.

''In general, the review offers a largely positive view of progress made over the past six months, while highlighting some ongoing matters,'' she said.

''However, it would not be appropriate for the organisation to comment further on the content before the full council has had the opportunity to read and discuss the report at its meeting on 7 September 2021.''

The original Thomson Report released last year revealed problems within the Invercargill's council including Sir Tim's struggle to fulfil significant aspects of his job, the lack of a working relationship between the mayor and Mrs Hadley and how deputy Nobby Clark was sometimes viewed as rude and aggressive.

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