Hundreds of Gore residents take up call against former council CEO Stephen Parry's new role

4:04 pm on 17 November 2023
Ben Bell supporters outside of the Gore district council building on 16 May, 2023.

Ben Bell supporters opposed to Stephen Parry outside of the Gore district council building on 16 May, 2023. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Almost 300 Gore residents have signed a petition calling for the district council to revoke its appointment of former chief executive Stephen Parry to an interim role.

Parry had butted heads with Gore mayor Ben Bell since the then-23-year-old ousted long-time incumbent Tracy Hicks in October last year.

Only a month after Bell put on the mayoral chains, the pair were in mediation and no longer speaking.

The fallout from their fractured relationship led to a group of rogue councillors calling on Bell to quit, an aborted vote of no confidence in the young mayor and a petition from the public calling for Parry to resign in response, as well as a protest outside a council meeting.

A mediation process took place in June which resulted in a surprise apology from Bell and his councillors to Parry.

Parry then announced his intention to resign in September after more than two decades in the role.

RNZ understands that was as a result of the mediation agreement.

But last month, a majority of councillors appointed Parry to take on an interim chief executive's role until a replacement was found.

Bell was not among those in favour.

It had resulted in another petition against Parry and that would now be presented to the council at next week's meeting.

The petition called on the council to decline to appoint Parry as interim chief executive and rescind, revoke or replace the decisions which led to the appointment on 10 October.

"The motion doesn't reflect community feeling," the petition said.

"Confidence of ratepayers is lacking.

"The chief executive, Stephen Parry, has made clear via public media statements, his unwillingness to work with elected members, particularly mayor Ben Bell."

A report to the council accompanying the petition was prepared by Parry.

It said the petition contained a total of 313 signatories, with 18 being invalid due to having an address outside of the Gore District.

"Mayor Ben Bell provided to the interim chief executive, a hard copy version of a petition on Monday 6 November 2023 and requested it be presented to the 21 November 2023 Council meeting," Parry's report said.

"It is understood, and has been advised to staff, that the petition organiser, Mr Hayden McIntyre, is to present this petition."

The council would also consider a report outlining the terms of reference for the appointment of Parry's long-term replacement.

A sub-committee - consisting of Bell, deputy mayor Keith Hovell and councillors Neville Phillips and Andy Fraser - would oversee and make a recommendation on a preferred appointee for the vacant chief executive role.

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