20 Nov 2020

Failed ousting exposes party political influence in local government - chairperson

4:10 pm on 20 November 2020

A Christchurch community board chairperson says a failed attempt to remove her by Labour-aligned members is an eye opener about the influence of political parties at local government.

Linwood-Heathcote-Community Board  Labour member and city councillor Jake McLellanchairperson Alexandra Davids of Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board

Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board's independent chair Alexandra Davids. Photo: Supplied

The controversy arose earlier this month when members of the Labour Party and its ally, The People's Choice, tried to oust the Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board's independent chair Alexandra Davids - citing an allegedly unjust election process.

But after a huge public backlash, including criticism people from people on both sides of the political spectrum, the Labour-aligned members ended their process to remove Davids on Thursday.

Davids said the controversy shed light on how party politics affects local government.

"It's really good that actually as voters we are educated and learning about political affiliations within local government," she said.

"As I have said for seven years, I don't believe political affiliations belong in local government."

Davids said it was a "massive relief" to see the Labour aligned members call off their campaign to remove her as chairperson.

"Whilst it's a relief personally, I know that it's a relief for a lot of people in the community," she said.

Davids became chairperson following an emergency meeting in April, to replace the then chairperson Sally Buck, who resigned due to ill health.

Buck has since died.

A by-election to replace Buck's vacated seat brought in Labour's Sunita Gautam in October.

Gautam was sworn in on 2 November and the following day, Davids received a "courtesy call" to say the Labour-aligned members of the community board would begin a process to remove her as chairperson.

In a joint statement, The People's Choice Linwood-Central-Heathcote members said they signed their letter to the Christchurch City Council chief executive, calling for a new vote because of "significant concerns" about the election of Davids as chairperson.

Labour Party city councillor and board member Jake McLellan, told RNZ last week that when Buck stepped down, there was "an abusive process".

"There was an emergency meeting held during Covid, at a time when not all members could attend but to call an emergency meeting to hand over the leadership is not an emergency, that's why we have a deputy chair," he said at the time.

McLellan declined to be interviewed this week but he provided a statement to clarify that he attributes "no blame to Sally Buck".

He said Buck was "an excellent" chairperson, but was disappointed in council staff advice that led to the board to act in a "less than desirable" election process to replace her.