The irascible former Napier Councillor, John Harrison, has tossed a grenade into the bunker otherwise known as the Napier Council, which seems to have turned a tense situation into an explosive one.

At issue is a matter of principle … has one of the region’s mayors been — how shall we say it — ‘misleading’?

Back on February 22, when the Napier Council very reluctantly endorsed the terms of reference for a study of the region’s performance, Mayor Lawrence Yule was pilloried by many of the Napier Councillors, with Mark Herbert and Bill Dalton leading the rather personal assault.

In particular, they accused Yule of attempting to ‘predetermine’ the outcome of the study by lining up Dame Margaret Bazley to lead it — before other regional leaders had even signed on to the process. Once again, the dastardly Mayor Yule was pursuing a personal agenda — it was charged — and Napier Councillors were going to have none of it. None put it as politely as that! Throughout this ‘debate’ Mayor Arnott sat quietly by, tacitly approving the claims.

Bad enough that four people in the audience had to suffer through it … the tirade was then continued and reported in the Napier Mail on February 29th. “Dame Margaret wrong” blazoned the front page of the Mail, as “furious councillors vented their spleens”.

Mayor Yule’s response to all of this was, to paraphrase … Wait a minute, I was asked to approach Dame Margaret at a meeting where all the mayors and the regional chairman and our chief executives concurred … Mayor Arnott included. And that’s what I did.

Enter former Councillor Harrison, who learns of the dispute, and queries Yule and some Napier Councillors. He discovers that Napier Councillors were led to believe by their Mayor that Yule had set forth on his own accord. So Harrison wrote a letter to the Napier Mail attempting to set the record straight. Unfortunately, the Mail, after conferring with Mayor Arnott, chose in its latest edition to omit the key portion of Harrison’s letter.

Here’s the omitted portion (pasted below in full):

“At the [Napier Council] meeting reported on, and while her councillors were spraying Dame Margret and Mayor Yule with invective, Mayor Arnott  conveniently ‘’forgot’’ to mention that it was she herself that requested and authorised Lawrence Yule to make the approach to Dame Margret on the 28th of November. This he did the following day. This was reported back to both Mayor Arnott and the NCC  CEO Neil Taylor on December 5th—as requested.”

Only one Mayor can have the correct version of these events.

Is this “much ado about nothin”?

Not when Napier Councillors — wittingly or otherwise — used their official forum (and its consequent media coverage) to undermine a proposal (many in the region believe should be pursued with urgency) using a falsely-based personal attack on Mayor Yule, condoned knowingly by Mayor Arnott. It was an attack calculated to fuel the regrettable  paranoia some in Napier hold in regard to any proposition associated with the name “Yule” or the place “Hastings”.

Surely there must be some integrity left in this debate! [And we wonder why ‘shared services’ hasn’t worked.]

BayBuzz asked Mayor Arnott to comment on the situation. If she responds, we will duly report what she has to say.

Tom Belford

P.S. Local Government Minister Nick Smith, please save us from the small-minded! End this parochial nonsense. And soon. Mandate that each region report back to you within six months on a review of local body consolidation and its pros and cons for their region. Unfortunately, the plain truth is that some elected officials will need to be forced to have this discussion.

Here’s the complete John Harrison letter:

“I refer to your front page article February 29th in which you correctly quote, furious Napier Councillors as venting their spleen at the prospect of Dame Margret Bazley being employed to head up a regional study on our social, economic and governance issues that adversely affect our region.

Not only did the impressionable and ill informed besmirch the reputation of Dame Margret but they also graphically demonstrated the dysfunctional nature within their own council.

Petrified that such a study may concur that the days of having 5 of everything , 64 elected representatives to ‘’govern’’ 150,000 residents while our economic and social statistics plummet, they have, again, demonstrated that they are more concerned with their own lifestyles, courteous of their generous stipends than the ratepayers they were elected to represent.

Six months ago the council ‘’kicked an own goal’’ on the same issue by not having a clue as to what they were discussing or agreeing to. So bad was the embarrassment that they took the minutes off their own web site! A clear case of a secretive sect.

Worse, council sources now confirm that Mayor Arnott is vehemently opposed to any form of public involvement by way of submissions on the most important issue facing our region. A forlorn prospect indeed, when it is the public and not overpaid councillors who will make a decision one way or another by way of referendum.

At the meeting reported on, and while her councillors were spraying Dame Margret and Mayor Yule with invective, Mayor Arnott  conveniently ‘’forgot’’ to mention that it was she herself that requested and authorised Lawrence Yule to make the approach to Dame Margret on the 28th of November. This he did the following day.

This was reported back to both Mayor Arnott and the NCC  CEO Neil Taylor on December 5th—as requested.

New heights of both hypocrisy and ‘’forgetfulness’’ have been reached by the Napier City Council on this important issue—all at the expense of the long suffering ratepayers.

The question has to be asked as to why her own councillors were not made aware of the facts before making absolute fools of themselves –again, in  front of the public and media.

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