December 11, 2023

Gore Mayor stares down council mutineers

Gore Mayor stares down council mutineers

This story first appeared on RNZ and is republished here with permission

An extraordinary meeting of the Gore council aimed at getting the mayor to resign or cutting him from council committees was a fizzer, with none of those actions advanced and much talk of moving forward together in the ‘Gore Way’

A vote of no confidence in Gore District Mayor Ben Bell has failed after not getting any support around the council table at an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

Neither did a motion calling for Bell’s removal from all council committees.

RNZ revealed in March that Bell and Gore District Council chief executive Stephen Parry were no longer speaking, and only last month another councillor was appointed as a go-between for the two men.

Last Wednesday, deputy mayor Keith Hovell and councillor Richard McPhail asked for the 24-year-old to step down.

Bell refused and said he felt supported by the community since the request became public. A crowd reported to be around 120 strong had gathered outside the council offices ahead of the meeting and a petition calling for the ousting of the chief executive, Stephen Parry, rather than Bell had gathered thousands of names.

Bell told today’s extraordinary council meeting the council desperately needed help to move forward.

Gore’s deputy mayor Keith Hovell told the meeting he had witnessed bad behaviour over the past several months.

He did not provide specifics but said he had to call out bad behaviour when he saw it.

Hovell said the mental health of councillors and council staff was at stake. 

A new motion put forward by Hovell called on the council to invite the Department of Internal Affairs, which oversees local government, to provide guidance and advice to improve the way councillors, the mayor and staff interacted.

Councillor Glenys Dickson said the current situation was unsustainable. 

“I did sign the requisition asking Ben to resign – it was more a cry for help,” and then addressed the mayor: “Ben we are your allies. We are not your enemies. Our role now is to support you and the council to be best you can.”

Other councillors spoke of honouring their pledge to work for their communities and their commitment to ‘the Gore Way’. 

Even a councillor allied to Bell, Robert McKenzie, backed the move to bring in the Internal Affairs officials.

Bell told the meeting: “Getting the request to resign was probably two of the darkest days of my life.. following that the support from the community lifted me up.

“I’m not perfect… all of us councillors aren’t perfect and we need some desperate help from the professionals.”

He acknowledged the support he’d received from the community since the move against him, and thanked “all supporters for democracy” from around the country. He believed the council could work positively for its community. 

“What a redemption story it will be.”

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