Invercargill council holds project governance group in public

1:43 pm on 2 February 2022

The Invercargill City Council held its first project governance group meeting in public instead of behind closed doors on Wednesday.

Invercargill City Council Building on Esk St, Invercargill.

Invercargill City Council Building. Photo: ODT / Abbey Palmer

The group was set up following concerns raised with the Department of Internal Affairs about significant conflict between councillors and, at times, with staff.

Subsequent reviews have found good progress has been made but acknowledged there continued to be concerns about a leadership void.

Late last year, deputy mayor and the group's chair, Nobby Clark pushed for the group's meeting to be opened up to the public and added to the livestream.

On Wednesday morning, how the support group for Invercargill's mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt should progress, the council's charter, and details on the six month review were top of the agenda items for the group.

The support group for Sir Tim remained in limbo despite hopes more progress would be made.

The group was aimed to provide ongoing support for the wellbeing of Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt.

At Wednesday's meeting, the project governance group was expected to hear further details on the group including its membership and whether any meetings needed to be scheduled.

Deputy mayor and chairperson Nobby Clark says the mayor confirmed he wanted the group earlier this week and said he would call the five potential members to gauge their support for an informal or formal group.

The potential members included councillors Nigel Skelt, Lindsay Abbott, Allan Arnold, Graham Lewis and Darren Ludlow.

At the meeting, Sir Tim Shadbolt said he had not contacted them yet.

"One of the reasons is that I don't have a PA except for the ... 14 hours I think they've allowed me to have staff help.

"But I'm prepared to make a list of all the help that I need in greater detail."

Nobby Clark said they were back to square one despite a positive response from proposed members initially.

"Following discussion with that group of councillors, there was a media release by the mayor which unhinged the support from the group from some members who felt a bit betrayed by it, and so I guess it's whether we keep that group going and what support there will be for it," Clark said.

He raised concerns that it could become a talkfest.

Councillor Nigel Skelt volunteered to follow up with the potential members.

A six month review was planned to see what further progress the council had made towards addressing concerns previously raised about its governance.

The process would include a quantitative survey carried out by an external party, Impact Consulting, that was based on the original survey they conducted last year.

It would also involve an open ended review led by Bruce Robertson, the independent chair of the Risk and Assurance Committee, and would include interviews.

In September 2020, Robertson identified four key issues based on feedback from the mayor, councillors and the chief executive.

They included:

  • An absence of effective leadership among elected members.
  • An low level of trust and respect between members, verging on instances of alleged bullying and threatening behaviour.
  • A low level of trust and respect between members, verging on instances of alleged bullying and threatening behaviour.
  • The standard protocols on meeting and decision making was neither well understood or necessarily observed.
  • The split of governance and management was not understood, reflecting a polarised view of the role and performance of management.

Bruce Robertson said it was important to see whether progress had been made on the original four themes or even if they had been solved.

He acknowledged that issues around media, including work underway on media protocols, needed to be added in.

"There's an important test. Have we solved them to the point that the Department (of Internal Affairs) would now express confidence in us?

He hoped to have a clearer picture by 30 June.

With an election planned for later this year, the project governance group also discussed plans to review the council's Charter.

Chair Nobby Clark suggested it would be beneficial for the Charter to be a greater feature of discussion for the incoming council.

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