Resignation on deputy’s mind

    Invercargill Deputy Mayor Nobby Clark at the Invercargill City Council chambers yesterday.

    INVERCARGILL’S deputy mayor says the stress and huge workload of his job have made him think about resigning even as recent as this week.

    Nobby Clark said last year was one of the most stressful in his life and the increased workload and tensions with mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt had a huge effect on his well-being.

    The Invercargill City Council released the Thomson Six Month Review Report, authored by Richard Thomson, on Monday.

    The document says the council is in a better place than it was six months ago, but again raises issues about Sir Tim’s performance, saying Sir Tim is an “unavoidable and inconvenient distraction” and the rest of the council just has to “get on and make things work”.

    Much of the positive turnaround at council is attributed to the better relationship among elected members and to Clark’s performance as deputy mayor, saying Cr Clark has filled the leadership void highlighted in Thomson’s original scathing review of the council’s performance.

    However, Mr Thomson also raises concerns and notes a potential resignation of Mr Clark as a risk “given the increasingly difficult relationship which exists between him and Sir Tim”.

    Mr Clark admitted to the Southland Express yesterday he had thought about resigning more than once during the past year

    He often woke up in the middle of night, anxious and nervous about council issues and this was affecting things at home, he said.

    When asked if the thought of resignation was still on his mind, he confirmed the idea was not completely excluded.

    “Yeah, I am. I don’t want to overplay that because I don’t want to destabilise the good work that has been done and where we are going now.

    “But I’m mindful that there has been not only a stress factor for myself, but also for my partner [Karen Carter] who has to wear all my stress.”

    He said Ms Carter was really worried about him.

    “She is my scaffolding, she keeps me going without that or her, I can be a risky person.”

    Reasons for not resigning included the improvement in relationships around the council table, the cost of holding another by-election and him still knowing he had work to do.

    He was proud Mr Thomson had recognised and acknowledged his efforts since the first report was issued.

    “He [Mr Thomson] was very critical of me on the first report. But I took on board his comments because, otherwise, it would implode everything. The tensions were already huge at the council.

    “I’ve done a lot of work around not to be confrontational, being more open to other people, which is not normally my style.”

    A lot of effort had been put in to building his relationship with council chief executive Clare Hadley.

    “So I’ve made a strong effort to do that and it has been a two sided-coin because Clare has made the effort as well.”

    But while his relationship with Mrs Hadley had improved, the tension with Sir Tim had escalated.

    Cr Clark said he did not want to comment about Sir Tim’s performance any longer, but said their relationship was now a “poor one”.

    “If I see him in the council, I would say hello to him and vice-versa. Occasionally, he asks me something, but it is not a strong relationship at all.”

    The challenge now was to ensure council’s efforts in building relationships could result in tangible outcomes for the city, he said.

    While there had been some improvement, he was still frustrated decisions had not been made about the Southland Museum & Art Gallery and Anderson House, he said.

    “The report is about chemistry and relationships. Chemistry is important to get things done, but it is not, in its own right, an outcome. It is only part of the jigsaw puzzle and now we need to sort the other pieces.”

    Earlier this week, council the exception of Sir Tim accepted the findings of the review.

    Sir Tim called the review “predictably negative” about his performance and said discussion at a public-excluded risk and assurance committee meeting early this week were disturbingly preoccupied with how the media could be controlled and the effects the review would have on elected members’ re-election.

    Sir Tim believed many allegations in the report were presented as fact and he was disappointed it did not place enough emphasis on the serious allegations he made about bullying and his concerns about the misuse of his email.

    Thomson report on Invercargill City Council

    What’s good:
    ■ Significant progress has been made on council work in past six months
    ■ Mood and morale at council (elected and operational) much improved
    ■ Deputy mayor has stepped up to fill leadership void and amended much of behaviour that was of concern
    ■ All new executive leadership team much stronger
    ■ Chief executive has stepped back from governance issues
    ■ Apparent willingness to step back from confrontation around things that might previously have irritated
    ■ Regional relationships are improved

    What’s not so good:
    ■ Role of mayor and and his performance of that role remain a difficulty for the council
    ■ Still work to do around overt tensions between the mayor and deputy mayor
    ■ The potentially disabling impact of use, by the chief executive, of an email sent to the mayor
    ■ Deputy mayor voted against adopting the entire long term plan because he lost a vote on one aspect
    ■ Deputy mayor’s reporting back from his duties viewed as lacking objectivity
    ■ Still need to set media protocols