13 May 2023

Act's David Seymour shows support for embattled Gore mayor Ben Bell

2:30 pm on 13 May 2023
Ben Bell, Gore

Gore mayor Ben Bell. Photo: Supplied / Facebook

Act Party leader David Seymour has described the opposition to embattled Gore mayor Ben Bell as disrespectful to the young leader, the voters who elected him, and to democracy itself.

Seymour is the latest to add his voice in support of the 24-year-old.

Bell became New Zealand's youngest ever mayor when he unseated long-time incumbent Tracy Hicks at October's local elections.

But he now faces calls to resign from his deputy and the majority of councillors.

RNZ revealed in March that Bell and Gore District Council chief executive Stephen Parry were no longer speaking, and only last month another councillor was appointed as a go-between for the two men.

On Tuesday, the Gore District Council will hold an extraordinary meeting, called by deputy mayor Keith Hovell and seven other councillors, where they will vote on a motion of no confidence in Bell, and call for a meeting with the local government minister to discuss intervention, and remove the mayor from all committees.

Act Party leader David Seymour has thrown his support behing Gore mayor Ben Bell as his council tries to get him out of the top job.

Photo: Screenshot

Social media posts were circulating calling for Bell's supporters to gather outside the meeting.

In a social media post, Seymour described Bell as a "thoroughly decent and intelligent person committed to serving his community".

"The important part there is he was elected - he represents the people," Seymour posted.

"If you have followed the last six months of Gore politics (I know everyone's busy) then you'll have seen a disgraceful display of an elected representative being run down by the unelected people paid to support him.

"It's disrespectful to him, but that's not the point. It's disrespectful to the voters who elected him and the concept of democracy. If you are in Gore, I hope you'll support the guy who was elected to do his job. Democracy dies when the people can't elect a person to do their job."

Meanwhile, Gore residents said they were sick of childish behaviour from their elected representatives.

Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty previously told RNZ he would intervene if the dispute meant the council could not fulfil its role - but he has no responsibility under the Local Government Act for relations between councillors.

"Councils are responsible for resolving their own problems. This is the expectation for all councils in New Zealand," McAnulty said.

"When particular problems arise in councils, the Department of Internal Affairs works with the council to understand the nature and extent of the problem.

"The department are in contact with Gore District Council and supporting where able. I am being updated as appropriate. At the moment, statutory obligations are being met. If that changes, then intervention will be considered."

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