Māori ward fallout: Councillor Peter Bentley resigns during stormy meeting

1:29 pm on 28 April 2022

Rotorua district councillor Peter Bentley has resigned from the council effective immediately in a fiery exchange with mayor Steve Chadwick.

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Councillor Peter Bentley accused the mayor of ignoring his "practical advice". Photo: Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post

At a full council meeting today, Chadwick moved to include a discussion about the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill into a confidential section of the meeting.

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She said it was to "enable us all as council, together, to have a free and frank discussion in response to the attorney general's request for further information needed to develop policy work".

Last week the Attorney General's report about the bill found it would breach the Bill of Rights Act but caveated it, saying more information may be needed for a full assessment.

Chadwick's motion drew a point of order from councillor Reynold Macpherson to ask if the motion could be discussed.

Chadwick said no, it was the chair's ruling. "I have ruled."

Bentley then raised an urgent item not on the agenda.

"The mayor found out very early that I would not be one to merely follow her," he said during the meeting.

"Therefore, she has shunned me and not sought the practical advice I bring to this table."

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick Photo: LDR / Rotorua Daily Post /Andrew Warner

Chadwick interrupted Bentley with a point of order, but he continued to speak as Chadwick again raised a point of order, raising her voice and standing up.

Bentley also arose from his seat and councillor Mercia Yates also called a point of order to which he said: "Who's that?".

Chadwick, still standing, asked Bentley to "withdraw and apologise or leave the meeting".

Bentley sat and said: "Well, my final statement, madam mayor -" before he was interrupted by Chadwick.

"No, there's no final say Councillor Bentley, I take exception to your ..."

Bentley continued to speak, saying: "I have no longer confidence in this council and thereby tender my resignation effective immediately."

Chadwick continued to speak as Bentley did, saying: "Councillor Bentley, I ask you to leave the meeting please, I've so ruled. Councillor Bentley, just leave the meeting."

Bentley said: "I have resigned, madam mayor."

Chadwick said: "Oh, well, there we are."

Macpherson shook Bentley's hand as he left the table saying, "ka kite, e hoa".

As Bentley left the council chamber Chadwick said again she "took exception" to Bentley's remarks.

Councillor Raj Kumar said there was "a lot of public discontentment" surrounding the council's bill.

"For us to engage in confidential [discussion] on this matter excludes them [from] what we have heard all over the media. It's very contentious and it would have been very fair and democratic to discuss this in public."

Chadwick said she had made her ruling and there would be a public statement issued after the council's confidential discussion.

"I'm saddened that Councillor Bentley feels that way and has resigned."

Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson asked if the council would vote on moving the discussion into confidential, and Chadwick said it didn't need to.

"I've made a chair's ruling."

Councillor Reynold Macpherson said "very, very intense feelings" had been "generated" about the bill.

"For it to be moved into confidential will be regarded by ..."

He was then interrupted with points of order from Chadwick and Yates, with Yates saying it had already been ruled.

Chadwick said "thank you" to Yates.

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