2 Dec 2022

Gore's deputy mayor Stewart MacDonell resigns from role following calls to step down

9:39 am on 2 December 2022

By Cas Saunders of Otago Daily Times

Gore District mayor Ben Bell and councillor Stewart MacDonell

Gore District mayor Ben Bell and councillor Stewart MacDonell Photo: Otago Daily Times / Sandy Eggleston

Gore District deputy mayor Stewart MacDonell has stood down following a request signed by seven other councillors.

MacDonell stood down from the role in a private discussion ahead of the council governance workshop yesterday.

He said he respected the recent requisition calling for him to step down.

"We needed to get unity back into council and me staying there seemed to be the force that was dividing us.

"I decided for the sake of unity going forward to the next three years that it was better I stepped down."

Councillors Richard McPhail, Bronwyn Reid, Paul McPhail, Bret Highsted, Joe Stringer, Neville Phillips and Glenys Dickson, who all signed the requisition to have MacDonell removed as deputy mayor, released a joint statement last week.

"We believe our new mayor deserves strong support and guidance. Unfortunately, we have had to take this course of action to achieve that."

The decision came "after much deliberation and attempts to work collaboratively to provide the best governance structure for our community".

Chief executive Stephen Parry said the resignation had not been on the meeting agenda, and had occurred ahead of it during private discussions.

He had not signed off on the resignation but was aware it had been presented to council staff.

"I've seen the piece of paper that apparently contains it, but I actually didn't cite it myself," he said.

The resignation meant the extraordinary council meeting, scheduled for 15 December, would not occur.

In a statement, Gore District Mayor Ben Bell said he would recommend a new deputy mayor for consideration of council at the next meeting on 13 December.

The purpose of the workshop was to speak about the governance structure, which gave staff a better understanding of what the elected members wanted, he said.

"We had an open and honest discussion, touching on matters such as the frequency of meetings, the purpose of committees and potential structures."

He said the staff would prepare a report for consideration at a future meeting.

Bell did not respond to a request for comment before deadline on Thursday night.

Bell, the country's youngest mayor, had expressed disappointment at the challenge to the deputy, saying he considered MacDonell a "respected and capable member of our team, who is committed to getting good things done in our community".

Ben Bell, 23, has already faced controversy over expenses, holding a retreat for elected members in Cromwell that some councillors boycotted, and his desire to have an executive assistant.

This story first appeared in the Otago Daily Times

- additional reporting by RNZ