17 December 2014
The Steve Chadwick mayoralty goes on the line tomorrow (Thursday) when the Rotorua District Council decides on the future powers for Te Arawa.
The full meeting of the council will decide which option is favoured in what is called “Te Arawa Partnerships Proposal”. Before that, however, the council will discuss a staff report on a Ngongotaha community indoor sports training facility proposal.
The order of report may at least give those habitually late-arriving councillors time to settle in before the main event of the meeting. Certainly, a newly formed “pro-democracy” group is promising a dire future at the next election should councillors fall into the line with council leadership on the Te Arawa partnership proposal.
The staff report has been prepared by Jean-Paul Gaston, the council’s group manager strategy and partnerships. It was reviewed by chief operating office Henry Weston along with Craig Tiriana, the manager chief executive office, with final approval coming from the chief executive officer Geoff Williams.
The executive members of the staff have handed councillors an “either/or” option – either support the full text of the Te Arawa proposal or support the proposal but with riders over what tribal representatives can and cannot vote on in key committees.
Mayor Chadwick has pushed through a number of less than popular changes recently, often with the slimmest of margins and on the vote of the meeting chair. Her biggest test will come with the vote on the Te Arawa proposal.
She is committed to what she believes is only fair and in accord with the longheld relationship with Te Arawa in Rotorua. The mayor has, however, already been defeated on a crucial vote of personal interest to her – when the council dumped a planned referendum on whether or not to introduce fluoride into the water supply.
As such, she can ill-afford to lose the vote on the Te Arawa power’s proposal. If she does, the mayor stands to lose mana and her energy will have been dissipated while her growing list of adversaries strengthened.
The group of angry citizens called the Rotorua Pro-Democracy Society says in a statement it has had “dozens of expressions of support since we launched the Society a week ago. The main issue of concern by far is the proposal to allow a minority to appoint unelected members to Council committees. Other issues of concern mentioned were the lack of due process, casting votes to ram through split decisions, poor budget discipline and pet projects adding to our huge debt, and the avoidance of authentic consultations and public accountability. There was no reference made to voting rights.”
They say that the feedback they have received directly contradicts the advice given to the council by officials that “the key issue being focussed on is the distortional impact [that] voting rights could have on Council decision-making.”
The problem for Chadwick, her management team and councillors is that since the fluoride knock-back, they have forced through a number of decisions – think cycle way and council name change.
At the same time, they will look like ninnies if they lose this crucial vote. But even if they win, they will likely lose – this time at the next local body elections.