Guest Post: It’s Tim to say goodbye

A guest post by Taxpayers’ Union analyst Neil Miller:

Sir Tim Shadbolt’s cringeworthy inability to chair even the simplest of Invercargill City Council meetings was livestreamed to the world and is confirmation it is past time that he should go.

He is New Zealand’s longest serving Mayor, certainly one of the best known, and definitely one of the most beloved, both in his home of Invercargill and around the country.

Sadly, recent years have not been kind to Sir Tim. The council meeting in question saw Sir Tim call for a vote three times on confirming the minutes, and four times on moving to public exclusion, despite councillors passing both technical motions on the first attempt. It is embarrassing to see councillors repeatedly have to say “Your Worship, we have already voted on that” over the course of just seven minutes.

This is not a one-off bad day as His Worship claims. Six months ago, the Thomson Report, commissioned after the Department of Internal Affairs raised concerns about troubles at the Invercargill City Council, found that the Mayor was unable to chair basic council meetings without copious and obvious help from his colleagues and staff. The report notes “obvious concerns including short term memory deficits, confusion, and the need to be closely managed … They report increasing incidents of embarrassment during meetings which a, generally, compassionate Council has done their best to hide from the general public.”

It has just never been on such public display before this livestream hit the national media.

The Mayor cannot drive the Mayoral car anymore, there is speculation that his partner has been drafting his communications, and he is constantly refusing to engage with media inquiries. He responds to all criticism with unsubstantiated accusations of workplace bullying behind closed doors. Anyone who watches the recent video will see clearly frustrated councillors having to guide the Mayor repeatedly and gently through performing a core role of his job.

As much as we have loved Sir Tim over many years, he has rapidly become the poster boy for local government recall elections. Overseas, ratepayers are able to trigger a binding referendum on a misbehaving or underperforming mayor or councillor. If they fail to gain a majority they must resign, and a by-election is triggered. The recalled politician can run again in that election.

Ratepayers should not have to wait years to have their say on a tragically flawed Mayor. The wonderful City of Invercargill deserves a Mayor who is in charge of the agenda and can drive them forward.

I agree. It is unacceptable that a Council has a Mayor who is so cognitively impaired he can’t even chair a meeting. The Minister of Local Government has sacked other Councils for far less. Time for her to tell the Mayor that if he doesn’t resign, she will sack the Council and then reappoint the other Councillors as Joint Commissioners.

It is painful to watch.

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