Council CEO resigns to take on new role

In a surprise move, West Coast Regional Council chief executive Mike Meehan has resigned to take on a new role, heading the New Zealand Institute for Minerals to Materials Research.

Mr Meehan told stunned councillors of his decision on Thursday at their first face-to-face meeting since the lockdown.

It was the right time to move on and the opportunity came up, he said.

"It was not something I was expecting, going into lockdown — I'm four years into a five-year contract. But the new council has come in and gelled nicely; it's in a good place and this is a good time for me to move on and let fresh ideas come in."

Mr Meehan moved to the West Coast from Christchurch in 2004 to work for the regional council, and was appointed chief executive in 2016 following 11 years in various other roles.

"It's been a complex job, balancing the tension between what the community wants with the legal framework the council has to work within, whether it's the Environment Court or whatever. But it's been enjoyable — especially when you can get people and interest groups round a table and find solutions that work for them all: economic activity goes on — and the water quality is great."

The Lake Brunner improvements and sphagnum moss industry decisions were good examples of that approach, Mr Meehan said.

The Greymouth-based minerals institute — set up by the previous National government with an $11 million budget, announced.

Mr Meehan's appointment as its new chief executive this morning. The institute was established to find ways of adding value to the country's mineral resources. It currently employs eight people.

"Under Mike's leadership we will accelerate our projects, including the construction of two laboratories," board chairwoman Raelyn Lourie said.

Mr Meehan said he was looking forward to raising the profile of the institute.

"They are very smart people and they are working on some exciting projects, but they've just been head-down, working, and I want to promote the good stuff they're doing for the community."

He has given the regional council three months' notice and will take up his new role in late July.

Council chairman Allan Birchfield said the resignation came as a bit of a shock.

The chief executive's strengths had been in his public relations and ability to pull people together, Cr Birchfield said.

"He's done a great job for the council, got on well with everyone — but good luck to him in his new role."

- Lois Williams

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