West Coast council executive drops bombshell at meeting

4:26 pm on 25 October 2022
The newly inducted West Coast Regional Council: Cr Andy Campbell (Westland), left, Cr Peter Ewen (Grey), Cr Peter Haddock (Westland), chief executive Heather Mabin, Cr Allan Birchfield (Grey), Cr Frank Dooley (Buller), Cr Mark McIntyre (Buller), Cr Brett Cummings (Grey).

West Coast Regional Council chief executive Heather Mabin, middle, has announced her intention to leave the council. Photo: Brendon McMahon/Greymouth Star

The West Coast Regional Council chief executive dropped a bombshell at the new council's inaugural meeting, giving notice of her intention to leave.

Heather Mabin, who has been in the role for just over a year, gave the news to the newly inducted council at the end of the meeting on Tuesday, which rubber-stamped Allan Birchfield as chairperson.

She said it needed to work on "an exit strategy" for her to ensure recruitment of a replacement, and continuity in managing the workload, with the Westport flood scheme top of the list.


Mabin, originally from Hawke's Bay, said she personally had had "an incredible year" with the death of her father and other close family circumstances, which had posed significant logistical challenges in meeting family responsibilities and performing her role.

"I would like to signal to this council to work on an exit strategy - purely because of the distance and the issues I have faced ... the distance is too great for me."

Mabin has been living at least one week in the month in the central North Island among adult family there, with a regular two-flight commute from Hamilton to reach the West Coast.

She said she had deferred a decision to leave to ensure the Westport business case was shepherded far enough through and had not wanted "to signal any instability" to the Department of Internal Affairs due to that.

However, she needed to acknowledge her personal circumstances, although she had no set departure date.

The newly inducted council faced "a huge time", she said.

Mabin announced her intention after the new councillors had signed their statutory declarations and elected the various committee office holders.

In congratulating the new council, the chief executive noted the council was "unlike any other organisation you deal with".

It had limited means to raise income and the main challenge for the newly elected councillors was to focus on its principal statutory obligations to "enhance" the natural environment and compliance.

Although she did not mention it, the West Coast was also unique in that it now does not have a single female councillor.

"We have big issues coming up," Mabin said.

As well as the Westport flood protection scheme was the $24 million Waiho (Waiau) River flood protection scheme at Franz Josef Glacier.

Newly elected Buller councillor, Frank Dooley would head the Risk and Assurance Committee, and a new Remuneration and Employment Committee.

Birchfield automatically returned to the Te Tai o Poutini Plan Committee, with Brett Cummings the second regional council representative, and Dooley as the alternative TTPP committee member.

Dooley moved setting up the new Remuneration and Employment Committee.

Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae appointment Francois Tumahai confirmed he would continue in the role, while Te Runanga o Makaawhio had yet to confirm Jacqueline Douglas's reappointment.

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