Mayor’s rental car issue deemed a distraction

Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt

AN Invercargill city councillor says issues around a rental car for Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt are frustrating and a distraction.

Cr Darren Ludlow made this statement on Tuesday while chairing part of the council meeting where councillors had to decide whether to reimburse some or all of the costs incurred by the mayor while he attended the Local Government New Zealand conference in Palmerston North last week.

Sir Tim — who sent astatement before the meeting to his fellow councillors and the media asking to be reimbursed $363.36 for four days’ rental car hire and $43 for fuel costs — left the room before the discussion.

The issue blew up when Sir Tim told the Southland Express last week that deputy mayor Nobby Clark stymied his travel plans by deciding he should pay for the rental car himself.

Cr Clark said in the meeting on Tuesday he had told Sir Tim if he had any problem with this resolution he should bring the matter to a full council for a decision to be made.

Cr Lindsay Abbott said many of his colleagues across the table had travelled overseas and the council had spent about $20,000 to send seven delegates to this conference

— so the amount requested for Sir Tim was very little.

‘‘I even wonder why we are debating it.

‘‘It is a delicate situation but $523 represents nothing to what we spend on a daily basis. I would like to see some respect with the office of the mayor.’’

Cr Alex Crackett agreed it was a frustrating debate and said the matter should not have been raised in the public arena in the first place.

The council had an expenditure policy which was unanimously ratified by the council in 2018 after some of Sir Tim’s ‘‘random’’ expenditures were questioned, she said.

‘‘For me it comes down to — I am not amayor candidate, Iam not seeking his seat — but I do really hold integrity in the fact that if I travel for council, I am not going to incur any additional costs to the company that is not a business cost,’’ Cr Crackett said.

With 10 votes in favour, the council approved reimbursing Sir Tim up to $500 subject to the provision of appropriate receipts.