Mayor dismisses councillor from meeting for breaching council rules

7:47 pm on 24 February 2022

A Kaipara District councillor was temporarily ejected from the council's first 2022 meeting for contempt of council.

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Councillor Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock was asked three times to withdraw comments she made to the mayor. Photo: LDR / Susan Botting

Kaipara mayor Dr Jason Smith dismissed Cr Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock from the council's first 2022 meeting.

"This is an unprecedented moment for our council," Smith said.

Councillor del la Varis-Woodcock participated for a week in Wellington's anti-Covid-19 mandate protest for which she was criticised by the mayor.

At the protest, del la Varis-Woodcock addressed thousands of protesters through a megaphone, calling for the government's Covid-19 legislation to be immediately repealed.

The temporary dismissal from the council meeting came after she refused to withdraw comments made to the mayor at the online meeting, during formal discussion on the council's submission to Auckland Council, opposing Pakiri sand mining resource consents.

Smith ruled del la Varis-Woodcock was in contempt of council and would have to leave the online meeting.

He asked governance support staff at the meeting to put her into the online meeting's electronic waiting room for 30 minutes.

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Councillors were at the point of making statements about their responses to the submission. This point in the meeting required comment directed to the mayor, who was also chairing the meeting.

Cr Mark Vincent's statement immediately preceding del la Varis-Woodcock's had begun in this way. However, del la Varis-Woodcock's statement did not, the mayor reminding her of this requirement when she had just begun to speak.

"Apologies Mr mayor. Thank you Mr mayor for allowing me to address the mayor and the other councillors, " she then said.

Smith halted del la Varis-Woodcock asking her to withdraw her comments.

"You're very close to being in contempt of council with those comments. Please withdraw those facetious comments and just get on with the job. Thank you," Smith said.

But del la Varis-Woodcock challenged Smith's request.

He told del la Varis-Woodcock her comments had been "completely disrespectful of the office of the mayor" and again said that she risked being in contempt of council and asking her to withdraw this.

She challenged him again.

"You asked me to address you as the mayor so I said 'Mr mayor, thank you for allowing me to speak'," she said.

Smith replied: "That's not what you said, you said more than that."

He again warned she risked being in contempt of council.

Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith.

Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith says the councillor's removal set a precedent. Photo: LDR / Northern Advocate

Del la Varis-Woodcock said it was confusing to be asked to apologise.

Smith said the way she had spoken was clearly inappropriate behaviour for the council's decision-making processes.

"So, I am asking you again would you please withdraw your statements you just made and start again afresh here," he said for a final time.

Del la Varis-Woodcock declined to withdraw the statements.

Smith then ruled she was in contempt of council and asked that she was removed from the meeting.

He told the meeting the action was being taken under council standing orders around addressing the chair and the style, degree and extent of interaction between elected members in the council meeting.

Del la Varis-Woodcock was allowed back into the council meeting after her 30-minute dismissal.

The council's governance support staff said technical difficulties meant she had been unable to reconnect audio-visually so she had to use her phone for the remaining three hours.

Del la Varis-Woodcock said after the meeting she had been unable to fulfil her democratic duties as a result of being temporarily dismissed. She had not been able to contribute to the Pakiri sandmining submission discussion.

Smith meanwhile in response, said the council had its standing orders. Upholding these was each council member's responsibility.

"Keeping standards so there's fairness, equity and good governance around the council table is a very serious business. We make serious decisions affecting thousands of people and being trustworthy and trusted with those decisions is important," Smith said.

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