12 Aug 2010

Christchurch councillor quits over sandcastle trip

7:27 pm on 12 August 2010

A Christchurch City Councillor is quitting after 15 years in local politics, following criticism over a ratepayer-funded trip to the United States to attend a sandcastle competition.

Councillors are entitled to spend $4000 a year on study trips, provided the travel is signed off by the mayor and chief executive.

Gail Sheriff says the trip to California was invaluable as she is organising a similar event at New Brighton Beach next year.

However, she says she is shocked by the reaction from some quarters, including one person who called her husband at their home to say they hoped the plane she was travelling in crashed.

Ms Sheriff says other "narrow-minded and ignorant" people have rung up to abuse her, then hung up without giving her a chance to speak. "I find that really hard to take."

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker says public figures expect some negative feedback, but the attack on Ms Sheriff has gone too far.

Mr Parker says Ms Sheriff's use of the training fund was legitimate and believes New Brighton's economy and profile will benefit from the visit.

Ms Sheriff says despite her decision to quit she is more determined than ever to ensure that the event in March is a success.