City hall’s ins and outs kept firmly out of the lime­light

Manawatu Standard - - COMMENT&OPINION - JA­NINE RANKIN THE RANKIN FILES

With a squeal of tyres and a cou­ple of fast laps of the race track, Palmer­ston North’s in­terim city coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive David Wright ended his stint in the city on September 15.

And what bet­ter way could you draw a line un­der a four-month visit to Manawatu¯ , other than with a spin around Man­feild? Even if it was as a pas­sen­ger.

A busi­ness man and com­pany di­rec­tor, Wright ar­rived in the city in May to cover the in­ter­reg­num be­tween Paddy Clif­ford’s re­tire­ment after a decade in the hot seat, and the ar­rival of his suc­ces­sor Heather Shot­ter.

Wright has been a cheer­ful and af­fa­ble pres­ence at the coun­cil ta­ble, the care­taker na­ture of his ten­ure per­haps light­en­ing his step.

He has as­tutely avoided be­ing any sort of head­line maker, his most pub­lic drama be­ing front­foot­ing ja­nine.rankin@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz

the risk that the clo­sure of the Central En­ergy Trust Arena grand­stand’s top floors for fire safety up­grades could have threat­ened the host­ing of the Tur­bos’ first match of the sea­son against Welling­ton.

For­tu­nately, it was a false alarm.

Wright never thought it was ap­pro­pri­ate to give a media in­ter­view about him­self and what he thought of the place, de­fer­ring to his per­ma­nent re­place­ment, and he also de­clined the in­vi­ta­tion to make a few part­ing com­ments on his way out the door.

But with his ride around Man­feild, he did leave with rather a flour­ish.

Wright’s hes­i­tance to be a be a news-maker is not en­tirely un­usual in Palmer­ston North’s re­cent his­tory. Clif­ford also tended to stick to the side­lines.

Vis­i­ble, ap­proach­able and tak­ing charge where he needed to, he pre­ferred to del­e­gate to staff who had the right in­for­ma­tion at their fin­ger­tips, or to the politi­cians. He was not media-shy, but was happy to de­flect at­ten­tion.

And in a way, if mat­ters of­ten have to be ‘‘es­ca­lated to the chief ex­ec­u­tive’’, it is some­thing of a sig­nal that all is not well in an or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Shot­ter, at least ini­tially, seems likely to con­tinue in that tra­di­tion. So far, she has put off re­quests for an in­ter­view un­til some time when she has her feet un­der the desk and her hand firmly on the tiller.

She slipped qui­etly into the city to spend four days with Wright be­fore his de­par­ture. A powhiri to wel­come her was a media-ex­cluded af­fair, as was an­other meet-and­greet.

Shot­ter comes to Palmer­ston North with a back­ground in the pri­vate sec­tor and in not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions.

She spent 12 years in­volved with Skyc­ity as gen­eral man­ager of New Zealand op­er­a­tions, she was ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Com­mit­tee for Auck­land, a not-for­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion work­ing to make the city a good place for res­i­dents and busi­ness, and be­fore that, she led the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foun­da­tion.

Mon­day is likely to be the first time she takes her seat at the top ta­ble in the coun­cil cham­ber for the fi­nance and per­for­mance com­mit­tee’s monthly meet­ing.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how she puts her ex­pe­ri­ence to work for lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

END NOTE

Take a bunch of acous­tic ex­perts. Mix with a wind farm op­er­a­tor and a neigh­bour, and in­vite them to spend the evening to­gether.

Then watch to see whether they can come up with a so­lu­tion to more than a decade of noise an­noy­ance, com­plaints and le­gal wran­gling about the Te Rere Hau wind farm on the hills above Palmer­ston North.

That’s more or less what hap­pened after the sec­ond day of a re­source man­age­ment hear­ing in the city, set up to con­sider the city coun­cil’s re­view of NZ Wind­farms’ con­sent con­di­tions.

The re­view was prob­a­bly over­due, as right from the start, al­most ev­ery­one agreed that the tur­bines were nois­ier than they were pre­dicted to be, and most people con­sid­ered this to be a prob­lem.

After court ac­tions and rul­ings, the coun­cil and op­er­a­tors are still telling dif­fer­ent sto­ries about whether the wind farm com­plies with its con­di­tions.

But there has been a change of heart, with NZ Wind­farms chief ex­ec­u­tive John Worth promis­ing to be a bet­ter neigh­bour, and to lis­ten to com­plaints that the tur­bines are most an­noy­ing on sum­mer days and evenings when there’s lit­tle more than a puff of a south­east­erly breeze.

That’s the time the com­pany is now of­fer­ing to turn off the tur­bines clos­est to the neigh­bours.

Of course lawyers will have to pore over the de­tails of the pro­posal, but if they agree, the com­mis­sion­ers will surely have an easy job, and there would be a com­mu­nal sigh of re­lief.

It must be frus­trat­ing, though, that it has taken so long and has cost a great deal to get so close to a so­lu­tion.

David Wright with the As­ton Martin van­tage GT4.

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