City hall’s ins and outs kept firmly out of the limelight
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.