Some or all must go

January 24th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

It is becoming obvious that some or all of the Christchurch City Councillors must go. Two Councillors have called for the CEO to be sacked, and another has called for the Council to be sacked and replaced with a Commissioner.

First let’s look at those calling for the CEO to be sacked. Tim Carter said:

Outspoken Christchurch City councillor Tim Carter wants council boss Tony Marryatt sacked, prompting Mayor Bob Parker to accuse Carter of playing “a destructive game”.

Carter slammed Marryatt yesterday for acting “as the 14th councillor” at the council table and asked the Government to replace him with a commissioner.

In a statement to The Press, Carter said it was time for the Government to appoint a commissioner willing to engage with the full council and residents in an open and transparent manner.

And today:

Cr Glenn Livingstone agreed there had been a “loss of confidence” in the council by the public, but he disagreed with Wells’ views that the council should be disbanded.

He said he would support moves to sack chief executive Tony Marryatt if it was necessary for the council’s survival.

The thing which is clear to me is that Cr Carter and arguably Cr Livingstone should resign immediately. It is untenable to have a Councillor campaigning for the CEO to be sacked. It is impossible for the CEO to do his job, under such an environment.

The reality is that the majority of the Council voted to re-appoint Tony Marryatt as CEO. The Councillors against that had every right to vote against, and try and persuade their colleagues. But once they lost that argument, and the majority voted to re-appoint him, they have a duty to either accept the majority’s decision, or if they are unable to, resign from the Council in protest.

I am not an advocate of the view that on every issue, the minority on a Council must accept the view of the majority if it goes against them. It is quite legitimate to (for example) continue to fight against say an alcohol ban policy, if you as a Councillor thought it was a bad policy and a bad decision.

But when it comes to employment matters, you just can not have Councillors calling for the CEO, who is employed by the Council, to be sacked.

So at a minimum, those Councillors who are publicly advocating for the CEO to be sacked should resign off Council. Their position is untenable, and they are making the Council ungovernable and unmanageable.

One Councillor, Sue Wells, has called for the entire Council to be sacked and replaced with a Commissioner – whom the CEO would report to. This is an extreme step and I don’t think things have got that bad. But there would be one significant advantage of it, if this did happen.

Around 80% of the Council’s powers and functions are reputed to now lie with CERA. Also we have the Regional Council of ECan. And a huge amount of time and energy goes into sorting out disagreements between the three organisations. If the Council was replaced with a Commissioner, then you could (as Cr Wells suggested) combine ECan, CCC and CERA into one organisation for the next couple of years.

As I said, I don’t think a Commissioner is yet warranted, but the status quo is not sustainable either. At a minimum Cr Carter should go.

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40 Responses to “Some or all must go”

  1. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Its not the concillors who need to go – its the Town Clerk. There is no way that the Town Clerks (aka CEO) salary can be justified – he needs to go and a complete review of such salaries done.
    The payments for these jobs – which are pretty much process jobs (as all they do is follow the rules) – is simply out of control and I hope more of the councillors start to kick up about it.

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  2. plebe (271 comments) says:

    I would say hes a town clerk and very well paid at that, not a ceo, plus hes an employee of the council not the other way around.(just my thoughts)

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  3. fatnuts (164 comments) says:

    Marryatt has become a PR disaster for the CCC. The elected officials are just responding to the perceived opinions of their constituents.

    Seems like democracy in action to me.

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  4. metcalph (1,293 comments) says:

    Town Clerk Snarks are simply grandstanding and have nothing to do with the issues at hand. Every other council has a CEO but nobody calls them an overpaid town clerk and some are paid more than Marryatt.

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  5. Lipo (226 comments) says:

    Does anyone else find Mayor Bob a pain to listen to, or is it just me.
    He gets asked a simple question and he responds with a 5 minute diatribe on everything under the sun.
    Likes sound of own voice

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  6. backster (2,000 comments) says:

    I agree the position is that of Town Clerk as it has traditionally been. I don’t think he should be above critique from either those who didn’t support his re-appointment or those that did. The criticism should be specific not general unless it is a demonstrated inability to keep expenditure within income. His salary and salary rise is disgraceful and shows a weak and wasteful mindset by those who agreed to it. It will also be the yardstick by which other Town Clerks negotiate their wage increases with other weak and wasteful elected officials.

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  7. voice of reason (491 comments) says:

    “Around 80% of the Council’s powers and functions are reputed to now lie with CERA”

    Exactly !! and the reason why L’Oreal Marryatt needs to go.

    From memory the vote to re-contract Marryatt was only a 1 vote majority, hardly a ringing endorsement.

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  8. XChequer (350 comments) says:

    What we need down here is certainty and clarity of vision – none of which we are getting at the moment. Especially given todays headlines in the Press: http://thenzhomeoffice.blogspot.com/2012/01/awwww-crap-here-we-go-again.html

    While Bob certainly did a great job in the immediate aftermath of the quakes, his legacy as a leader is being seriously undermined by the clouds that hang around the Tony Maryatt issue etc. It would be good if he stepped down gracefully now and let others take the helm.

    I know a few down here certainly wouldn’t mind Dame Margaret finishing up with Ecan and starting in on Christchurch as a commissioner.

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  9. Pauleastbay (5,030 comments) says:

    Christchurch again, ho hum.

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  10. Elaycee (4,089 comments) says:

    Whilst it should be acknowledged that the entire Council is operating in a unique and stressful environment, it seems that the Mayor should get all of them in a room / show some strong leadership and simply knock some heads together. This is simply crap.

    It appears that some councillors have their own agendas and calls for the CEO to be sacked are examples of them taking their eye off the ball or / or simply grandstanding. Like it or not, Marryatt is being paid a salary as per his contract. Any councillor now calling for change to his terms and conditions or his remuneration package are simply out of touch with Employment Law.

    I would have thought that the Christchurch Council had more pressing issues to consider and airing this crap in public does not reflect kindly on any of them.

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  11. Dave A (61 comments) says:

    Ah, so Tony Marryatt is a good Nat man and his council critics are Labour?

    [DPF: I have no idea what Marryatt is. I suspect he is entirely without politics. And I have in fact critical of Marryatt on some issues. I have no problems if the Council decides to sack him quietly. My problem is that Councillors should not publicly call for the CEO who reports to them to be sacked. Either get the numbers to do it, or accept the reality]

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  12. xy (130 comments) says:

    It doesn’t help that the whole Marriot appointment process was equally under a cloud – http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/editorials/5367100/Keown-must-quit

    If councillors are resigning, the ones who involved themselves publicly *for* Marryatt should start the process.

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  13. metcalph (1,293 comments) says:

    Carter is a Nat, related to David Carter. He’s newand obviously needs a good shitkicking if he doesn’t resign.

    The Keown must quit editorial is bullshit based on a stupid legal opinion by Mai Chen. Somebody tried to get an injunction on Keown on court and ended up losing bigtime. To compound that, the opinion was leaked which meant that if Marryatt wasn’t reappointed, he would have good claims for damages.

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  14. fatnuts (164 comments) says:

    “Like it or not, Marryatt is being paid a salary as per his contract.”

    I don’t like it. It’s my (and others) rates paying this contract.

    The justification of the value assigned to this employee is that ‘he works hard’ doesn’t cut it. Someone paid that much should have a pretty good answer to those paying him why he’s worth it.

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  15. metcalph (1,293 comments) says:

    Voice of Reason

    From memory the vote to re-contract Marryatt was only a 1 vote majority, hardly a ringing endorsement

    Your memory is false. Parker took no part in the reappointment proceedings despite wanting Marryat back as he was persuaded to step aside on the basis of a bullshit legal opinion. When the votes were taken, the decision was made to give Marryat a reduced term (2.5 year contract) upon whichone or two councillors who were aginst Marryatt changed sides.

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  16. iMP (2,154 comments) says:

    I think Sue Wells got it right (one of the more experienced councillors, and with the highest majority) that much of this anti-Marryat stuff is being fed by a young buck Councillor (in the job just two years) who does not rightly understand the separation between Council and Management.

    But Dean Peter Beck ex Cathedral joins CCC in a month, so his pastoral wisdom and gravitas might refocus some hot heads.

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  17. unaha-closp (1,035 comments) says:

    Is this Marryatt the one who cost Hamilton a few $10 million by misunderestimating the costs of a V8 race?

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  18. Auberon (820 comments) says:

    The “about 80% of the council’s functions are now with CERA” comment, which came from a comment from Councillor Sue Wells in the media yesterday that CERA was doing about “four fifths” of the council’s work, is absolute rubbish. The demarkation between CERA and the council is very, very clear. CERA is doing recovery functions, the council is doing council functions (outside of producing the CBD plan, and as a partner in the horizontal infrastructure alliance). There is actually very little crossover. Sadly this only highlights how little Sue Wells knows about what is going on. And even more sadly it becomes received wisdom which misinforms the debate.

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  19. Tautaioleua (266 comments) says:

    I disagree with you DPF,

    The CEO is bringing the entire council into disrepute by accepting the pay rise from his holiday home in the Gold Coast a week before Christmas, and refusing to back down when the shit hit the fan at the end of the day.

    What happened to the LOCAL in local government?

    And then I hear from NewsTalkZB last night that a further $80,000 dollars is being spent to improve council performance via independent review.

    This council is a joke altogether. Sack them all. The residents of Christchurch do not need the added stress of an incompetent local government, not after everything that they have had to face in recent years.

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  20. hmmokrightitis (1,458 comments) says:

    What iMP said: the vast majority of people dont understand the Council / Management separation aspect. Nor what a Council CEO does in terms of managing perhaps the broadest of organisations on the planet in terms of their responsibility / delivery requirements. From dogs to ditches, roads and water and waste, the span is enormous. I think I read somewhere that the CHC CEO has a $1 billion invested / investment portfolio under his control.

    You quite simply cannot compare that to the Prime Minister in terms of stewardship, as has been attempted by some in recent days. No, a council doesnt have customers with choice – it effectively has hostages aka rate payers – but that notwithstanding, rate payers are stakeholders and customers, and expect their councils to be run professionally. They would be happy with someone doing this being paid $90K a year? No, I thought not.

    And barry, for you to label the role as a process based one displays a level of complete misunderstanding of quite laughable proportions. Let me guess, you could do it in your sleep for $80K?

    And no, I dont live in CHC :)

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  21. oddity fan (239 comments) says:

    When I first heard the reports, I thought ‘how bizarre’. The councillor who asked for a commissioner to replace the CEO (as was being reported) made no sense – the government can replace the councillors with a commission but not the CEO.
    I think Marryatt has contributed to the problem with his comments re his salary. If the council was divided over his performance, his salary or his reappointment, then he has no future there. He is very expereinced and should know keeping the professional confidence of all the councillors is vital.
    That said, the public comments by the councillors, including the one I heard on National Radio yesterday about the appalling leaks and general mistrust amongst councillors is very bad. The comments about a commisioner being appointed sounded a bit like an agenda for fast tracking the establishment of an Auckland Supercity model in Canterbury.
    The opportunity for the Govt to step in could be if the council fails to produce its LTP.

    I’m not sure the collective responsibility principle is working amongst the elected members in Christchurch.

    One thing I would say is I’ve seen this type of breakdown occur when an inumbent Mayor announces they aren’t seeking another term, as Bob did around the time of the last council elections.

    Wouldnt it be interesting if the government did sack the council – would it appoint Bob as a commissioner?

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  22. flipper (3,274 comments) says:

    I wonder if anyone can tell us of a case where a private sector company CEO, who simply sits back AND COLLECTS MONEY and then works within decisions (guidelines) made by his or her Board (aka Council), and who loses (let us be generous) and say only 60 % of their functions, gets a salary increase of $60,000+ ?

    Absolute rubbish. But it is no different in the State sector. Only Air New Zealand operates in the real world. Every other department or organisation collects money or operates in a monopoly ( or near) situation.
    Marryatt is a Clerk Top salary $120,000 – not A PENNY MORE! ….. or off with his head!

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  23. Elaycee (4,089 comments) says:

    fatnuts says: “I don’t like it. It’s my (and others) rates paying this contract”.

    Agree, but his contract can’t be tossed aside because come councillors don’t like him.

    FWIW: I think Marriott is an overpaid prat and, given his appalling history with Hamilton, I’d question why CHC would even want him. But he was fairly appointed. He has a contract. And is it says that he is entitled to an increase (without being measured against KPIs), then he gets one. His comments about his increase (‘working hard’ etc) were ill considered and plain dumb. Indeed, they reinforce my poor opinion of the man. But that doesn’t change the facts.

    Councillors cannot vote to sack him unless he breaches terms within his contract. They can’t vote to dump him because they have finally found out he is a moron. They may vote to negotiate an exit package but they cannot dump him without reason.

    As I mentioned before, this scenario screams for strong leadership and some members of council need to concentrate on the more pressing issues of the day – housing / essential services / etc. This is a sideshow that needs to end.

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  24. Paulus (2,299 comments) says:

    Has anybody asked Lianne Dalziel. As Mayor in Waiting she surely should be consulted.
    Between her, Jim Anderton and failed MP Brendon Burns, who wants Lianne’s seat, they can sort it all out over a chardonnay or two.

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  25. unaha-closp (1,035 comments) says:

    If the councillors want to get rid of the CEO they could to do some oversight of council operations (otherwise known as do their f*#king job) to see if there are any variations between operations and regulations. Check to see if the contracts and capital expenditures fully comply with council regulations. They can then publish a report detailing the faillings (or otherwise).

    Or they could continue to slag his golf game off to the press.

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  26. Mike Readman (353 comments) says:

    So DPF are you saying if a councillor disagrees with every decision a council CEO makes, they should just keep quiet. What if the media asks them if they think the CEO should resign? What do they say then?

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  27. fatnuts (164 comments) says:

    “Agree, but his contract can’t be tossed aside because come councillors don’t like him.”

    Once it becomes politically untenable to continue to employ Marryatt I’m sure a ‘solution’ will present itself. And therein lies a problem with such high value, ‘political’ appointment, it won’t come cheap.

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  28. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Very out of touch here David. Most people in CHCH want the Ceo to go. Cr Carter is from a well known and well liked CHCH family. He has the support of many people.

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  29. lastmanstanding (1,154 comments) says:

    Good call re Town Clerks Thats all they are. They run monopoly organisations that are not that complicated or difficult. The pay is out of all proportion to the complexity of the task. Compare to a similar sized multi faceted commercial organisation in a very competitive market with import/export complexities these borough councils are a doddle.

    Marryatt should be on no more than $200K tops Even that is generous. The problem is just like in the commercial sector we have seen a ramping up of salaries with rem consultants employed to write reports and paid to justify the continual ramping.
    Its out of control and needs a total over haul. And dont lets hear the old but we wont be able to get the right people and we have to pay international rates BULLSHIT

    There are plenty of very good people who would do the jobs just as well for a fraction of the current pay. Just got to go looking for them

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  30. Vinick (213 comments) says:

    “Cr Carter is from a well known and well liked CHCH family”

    What the fuck difference does that make?

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  31. lastmanstanding (1,154 comments) says:

    Oh Yes and what about the Mayor and CEO appointing a PR hack at $80000 to do a spin spin number to show alls well with the Council communications. And the Council communications people found out from the news media.

    How about that for good communication.

    Trouble is the shambles that passes for CCH Council is repeated up and down the country. Local government in NZ is a governance disaster on a grand scale.

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  32. V (660 comments) says:

    And people wonder why the Chinese laugh at us?
    Right now Chch needs 9 guys with engineering backgrounds to run the show.

    Not people like Tim Carter et al., who are basically focussing on getting their photos in the paper and making a name for themselves.

    Take the prostitutes wanting the council to provide amenities article in the paper on the weekend, featuring Tim Carter,
    Yani Johanson and the deputy mayor.

    Is this really the priority at the moment?

    Why didn’t the councillers in the article say, “sorry funding is tight at the moment, you’ll have to pay for your own amenities. Oh and by the way if you disturb residents again you will be arrested for the night”.

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  33. voice of reason (491 comments) says:

    “metcalph (744) Says:
    January 24th, 2012 at 11:23 am
    Voice of Reason

    From memory the vote to re-contract Marryatt was only a 1 vote majority, hardly a ringing endorsement

    Your memory is false. Parker took no part in the reappointment proceedings despite wanting Marryat back as he was persuaded to step aside on the basis of a bullshit legal opinion. When the votes were taken, the decision was made to give Marryat a reduced term (2.5 year contract) upon whichone or two councillors who were aginst Marryatt changed sides.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/5597835/Political-compromise-gave-Marryatt-margin-he-needed

    The councillors were tied six-all in the first vote.
    Ngaire Button, Aaron Keown, Barry Corbett, Sue Wells, Claudia Reid and Jamie Gough voted to reappoint Marryatt.
    Tim Carter, Yani Johanson, Jimmy Chen, Chrissie Williams, Glenn Livingstone and Sally Buck voted not to. Helen Broughton abstained.
    It is understood the councillors were concerned about the council’s poor relationship with the business community and other sectors, and poor communication between the staff and elected members.

    After the first vote, a motion was put to readvertise the job, but it failed to gather enough support. After further discussions, a second vote was held, with the reduced appointment period as a compromise. Williams and Buck changed sides, giving Marryatt an eight-four majority, with Broughton again abstaining”

    Metcalph – the original vote was pretty close to what I thought – 6 all with 1 abstaining.
    The compromise changed to an 8 – 4 vote .. hardly a ringing endorsement as I wrote.

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  34. Joseph Carpenter (210 comments) says:

    Well said V. Also CERA DOES NOT do 80% of the CCC functions. Sounds like the council is dysfunctional but so is the CEO. As part of his contract (surely) he will be obliged to make sure the CCC carries out it’s statutory regulation functions, and I know for an absolute fact the CCC has failed to carry out it obligations under both the BCA (official complaints lodged with the DBH) and the RMA (official complaints lodged with the MoE).

    I would also bet the financial requirements of the LGA aren’t being met. For immediate starters Gerry should overturn the ban on private competing Consentors and the DBH should remove BCA consent power from CCC and the Minister of the Environment should set up an independent commission with full TLA consent powers under the RMA to compete inside the CERA area.

    Actually probably best of all to start over – get rid of all the TLA’s inside the CERA area and CERA itself, phoenix a new City incorporation (outside the LGA but with TLA regulatory power), issue pro-rata shares to all ratepayers with area wards for the directors, the new incorporation contracts out nearly everything with multiple staggered contracts and just let it run.

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  35. wreck1080 (3,533 comments) says:

    Any sense of moral duty has been swept away by the vast cash packages that councillors and senior employees receive. Has been like that for some time.

    I reckon if you halved council CEO salaries nationwide (to a measly 200k a year or so) that not a single one would quit.

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  36. plebe (271 comments) says:

    Wow this trougher is a town clerk, ChCh think what his salary would be if this trougher could do his job and was a REAL ceo

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  37. Red Sam (120 comments) says:

    It is clear where Marryatt’s politics lie. In an article on 5 January he said:

    “I am not refusing the pay offer and I am not giving it to charity. That is on the principle that I feel I should be paid the market remuneration for the job and what is appropriate for my level of performance. That is how I treat people in this organisation and that has been my philosophy in 30 years,” he said.

    He has far too much power (like many council CEOs and senior staff these days) and is paid far too much money, especially for a position in the public sector.

    All CEO/Secretary/Director General positions in the public sector need to be significantly reduced, as with those of their senior managers.

    How does his job warrant over $500,000? What he takes home per week is criminal, and successive governments should never have allowed this to take place.

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  38. Tautaioleua (266 comments) says:

    How much does the Auckland and Wellington Council CEO’s take home by comparison?

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  39. Pongo (356 comments) says:

    Dare I say you might be a bit out of touch DPF on Christchurch, there has been a disastrous set of decisions. The Hendo deal split into five to avoid scrutiny on a 17 mill deal with no independent valuation, the CEO taking a board seat on the insurance company and then canceling the NZI contract to push business his way which has left us with no cover.
    Maryatt needs to go and quickly or this will blow up in JKs face.

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  40. kiwi in america (2,336 comments) says:

    I was surprised at the depth of anti Marryatt sentiment – until I watched how he dealt with the pay rise issue. Yes Marryatt is not a politician but when you are the CEO of the 3rd largest city in NZ, you better learn politics fast. I have no doubt that he has performed his contractural job tasks in the wake of the devastating earthquakes in such a way as to earn him excellent performance reviews. Absent the earthquakes and the sensitive emotional state of all Christchurch residents as a consequence, it is likely that his pay increase may have died down as an issue. But things are not normal in Chch – almost all residents have suffered as a consequence of the earthquakes. Even those on excellent incomes where profitability and/or job security are unaffected by the quakes and whose home is unscathed will/have suffer from a big rates rise, a diminuation in services, having to use degraded infrastruture (that the CCC has done an incredible job trying to patch up), a huge jump in insurance premiums and an overall decline in quality of life …and thats the BEST case scenario. Almost all residents have a much tougher time. The politically sound decision would’ve been for Marryatt to either decline the pay rise citing the current climate or donated the increased portion to charity as John Key does with his salary.

    Miscalculation number 2 was to stay in Australia after the Dec 23 earthquakes. Whilst doing little damage other than liquifaction (which is a huge hassle for those affected) the psychological impact was huge. I was in a restaurant when the first 5.8 hit and the sentiment amongst all there was that life had over Oct and Nov looked like finally getting back to some normality and now THIS! It’s true that there was virtualy nothing that Marryatt could’ve done that his staff couldn’t have taken care of (the point he made) but even Bob Parker had the sense to cut his holiday in the North Island short and get back to Chch. Marryatt could’ve at least attempted that and even if he’d arrived back on Boxing Day, stayed for a few days and went back to Queensland, his effort woud’ve been noticed. Those two simple acts would’ve utterly defused the pay rise issue.

    I am with David on the process however. The Council has made their bed and they need to lie in it. If Marryatt is forced to resign they’ll end up with a huge constructive dismissal claim AND possible Employment Court ordered reinstatement. Times are tough in Christchurch. Marryatt may well be worth $500k+ but try telling that to the weary and battered residents of a city firing on only 2 cylinders.

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