Shadbolt slams own board for sending ‘horde’ of people to LGNZ conference

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Robyn Edie / Stuff

“It’s only been in the last three years that it seems to have become free for all,” Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said of the council’s attendance at New York’s local government conferences. -Zealand.

Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt has slammed his own council for the ‘ridiculous and unjustifiable’ number of people it is counting at the New Zealand Local Government Conference this week in Palmerston North.

Invercargill City Council has seven people at the conference from Wednesday to Friday at a cost to ratepayers of over $20,000.

It would have been eight but Councilor Darren Ludlow pulled out with Covid-19.

None of the other Southland councils sent more than four people.

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Shadbolt, who is one of seven conference attendees, said the city council has traditionally sent four people – the chief executive, the mayor and two senior councillors.

“It’s only been in the last three years that it seems to have become free-for-all.”

In attendance are Shadbolt, councilors Lesley Soper, Ian Pottinger, Rebecca Amundsen and Alex Crackett, mana whenua representative Evelyn Cook and council chief executive Clare Hadley.

Hadley, before Shadbolt criticized the number of people in attendance, said the total cost for attendees so far was $19,215, but she expected additional expenses, such as taxi fares, during of the week.

Elected members and senior council officials have often attended the local government conference as an opportunity for training and networking, she said.

A report to a council committee meeting in April recommended that it was useful for councilors to attend the conference in 2022, with the future of local government to be discussed. At this meeting, the elected officials approved the list of participants, she said.

Shadbolt said he did not vote against the decision at that meeting because his attendance was increased at the same meeting.

“I felt that voting against the resolution for the group to be present threatened what has always been taken for granted, the presence of the mayor.”

Ludlow said the April meeting was the time to protest and he asked himself, “Why protest now?”

Councilors’ interest in going there reflected ongoing issues, including the local government review and Three Water Reform, Ludlow said.

“The conference is an opportunity not only to be informed of the latest developments, but also to discuss with colleagues many other tips.”

Crackett said she was at the conference because she was part of the LGNZ Elected Youth Committee which organized training, networking and education for elected youth.

Pottinger said councilors were each allocated a budget to attend conferences during the council’s term.

He had gone to the LGNZ conference last year and therefore asked Cr Nigel Skelt to use his budget to be able to travel to this year’s conference where he would meet with the Department of Environment to discuss the issue of solid waste and with Infrastructure New Zealand to discuss three waters.

“Because it’s taxpayers’ money, you’re going to get the most out of it.”

Deputy Mayor Nobby Clark said he was not at the meeting where it was decided eight people would go and he thought it was two too many.

“We just bumped up tariffs…for people struggling with tariffs, that doesn’t seem fair.”

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said his council was sending two councillors, Rob Scott and Christine Menzies, and chief executive Cameron McIntosh. Tong would have left but would have contracted the Covid-19.

Southland Environment said it was sending chairman Nicol Horrell, councilor Allan Baird and chief executive Wilma Falconer.

Gore District Council announced it was sending Mayor Tracy Hicks, Deputy Mayor Bronwyn Reid and Chief Executive of Community Lifestyle Services Rex Capil. General manager Steve Parry is said to have attended but has another commitment.

Reasons cited by the three Southland councils included the opportunity to discuss the future of local government, to obtain updates on resource management legislation and reform of the three waters, and to develop and maintain networks within local government. They were unable to confirm the costs of their trips at this stage.

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