Councillor calls mayor‘s leadership authoritarian

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says it is her role to lead a

An outspoken Rotorua Lakes councillor has labelled the mayor's leadership as "authoritarian".

Reynold Macpherson says he believes the mayor is freezing out elected members belonging to his lobby group, Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers (RDRR), by denying them leadership appointments — and the pay rises that go with them.

But Mayor Steve Chadwick has defended her appointment choices, saying it's her role to build a positive team to take the district forward, while her deputy called the "authoritarian" claim "laughable".

Reynold made his claims in a 2234-word press release.

He took aim at what he describes as "extraordinary salary rises" approved at a council meeting on December 12.

In divvying up the salary pool for councillors - set by the Remuneration Authority - the council voted to give higher salaries to councillors assigned additional leadership roles.

The base salary was $55,000, with an extra $15,750 - $27,042 for a "lead" role - portfolios - as well as chair or deputy chair roles.

None of the three RDRR-affiliated councillors - Reynold, Peter Bentley and Raj Kumar - had been given a lead, so would only receive the base salary.

Raj, a business owner, was first elected in 2016 and in last year's election had the second-highest vote tally of any councillor, Peter has served on council since 2013 and Reynold, a PhD, is a former Waiariki Institute of Technology chief executive.

"[It's] bizarre, given our expertise," says Reynold.

Reynold claims the lack of portfolios for RDRR-affiliated councillors was a "revealing anomaly" and the Rotorua Lakes Council was trending toward a government akin to China's.

"They've not yet eliminated the opposition, we're being gradually marginalised.

"We have been trending to a one-party government. It's already well-advanced in Rotorua."

Reynold refers to authoritarianism 18 times in the release, including describing the lead roles as a "reward system bolstering the trend towards authoritarian one-party local government".

He also described the council leadership style as "tyrannical collectivism".

In a statement via the council's communications team, Steve didn't specifically respond to Reynold's comments and criticisms of her leadership.

"It is my role as mayor to build a positive team to take our district forward, based on the direction that has been set and that is what I am doing with regard to elected member appointments," she says.

Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson says the idea that RDRR members had been deliberately shut out of lead roles was "probably fair".

"The RDRR ... has a political agenda which is at odds with the vision and direction of council on a number of key issues."

At the core of those was opposition to the Te Arawa partnership, as well as partnerships with some other groups, he said.

Non-RDRR members of council had a "range of personal aspirations".

"We are not a 'party' but we share a collective vision arrived at in workshops with our partner elected board members, iwi and community."

He says assertions Steve or her leadership style is authoritarian is "typical rhetoric and laughable".

"Mayor Chadwick's leadership style won her a comprehensive mandate in the 2019 mayoral election, so the community's verdict on preferred leadership style is well and truly returned."

Local Government NZ principal advisor Mike Reid says the idea of portfolios - or leads - is a relatively new one, and not all councils had them.

The organisation had released guidelines three months ago with the aim of assisting the process.

Generally speaking, the mayor would usually decide on portfolio allocations, sometimes with varying degrees of input from the full council.

"Councils are political organisations. It all comes down to how each council decides to do things."

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Newspaper Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.


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