Otago Daily Times

Sir Tim too tired: Bid­dle

- LUISA GIRAO Invercargill · Google · Department of Internal Affairs

INVERCARGI­LL’S de­part­ing deputy mayor says Sir Tim Shad­bolt had tears in his eyes as he told her he en­vied her de­ci­sion to quit.

Two months be­fore Toni Bid­dle told Sir Tim she was quit­ting, throw­ing a be­lea­guered Invercargi­ll City Coun­cil into more dis­ar­ray, she was in hos­pi­tal af­ter suf­fer­ing a panic at­tack.

She says the at­tack was brought on by the ‘‘toxic and un­healthy’’ en­vi­ron­ment at the coun­cil and the strain of do­ing the mayor’s job for him.

Now, af­ter quit­ting, she says there is a lead­er­ship vac­uum at the coun­cil and the Depart­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs (DIA) needs to in­ter­vene and in­stall a com­mis­sioner.

Sir Tim said he did not cry when Ms Bid­dle told him about her de­par­ture, but did not deny mak­ing com­ments about en­vy­ing her.

‘‘It has been a con­certed ef­fort to make out that I’m a cry­ing baby and it’s not true. It takes a whole a lot for me to cry.’’

He admitted it would be nice to have a long hol­i­day, but that did not mean he would con­sider stand­ing down.

Ms Bid­dle did not want to go into specifics about her panic at­tack, but said be­ing deputy mayor had af­fected her health, and re­sign­ing was a re­lief.

The death of her fa­ther last month had also high­lighted the im­por­tance of tak­ing care of her­self and her fam­ily.

‘‘I’m not ashamed to ad­mit that I was in­cred­i­bly stressed at that time. I knew then that I shouldn’t be there.

‘‘My health was be­ing af­fected more than I re­alised so that was the turn­ing point for me.’’

She said she still re­spected Sir Tim, but be­lieved he was tired.

Ms Bid­dle was clear about what this meant: ‘‘I was do­ing his job.’’

She be­lieved that de­spite Sir Tim be­ing ex­hausted, he would still stand in the next elec­tion due to his fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties.

‘‘He is in a po­si­tion where he has been sued by an­other coun­cil­lor, which has meant he has le­gal fees . . . I think he is in a po­si­tion he can’t [stand down].

‘‘I com­pletely un­der­stand that but what hap­pens is that the com­mu­nity now doesn’t ben­e­fit from that be­cause we need a strong leader.’’

The lack of one was the cause of many coun­cil prob­lems, she said.

‘‘What hap­pens is when you have a lead­er­ship void, there’s a vac­uum and ev­ery­body tries to fill that void and that’s where the trou­ble starts be­cause you have no clear leader.’’

It was time for a com­mis­sioner to brought in be­cause the dys­func­tion meant im­por­tant de­ci­sions were not be­ing made, she said.

‘‘We are not fo­cus­ing on the is­sues. We fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties and then there’s noth­ing be­ing de­cided.

‘‘A com­mis­sioner needs to be put in and all of us need to step down or step away [from the coun­cil].’’

Sir Tim said lead­er­ship was ‘‘a funny thing’’.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple say ‘Oh, you are a hope­less leader’ — but it is not quite that sim­ple.

‘‘I looked up on Google, what is lead­er­ship? It was 67 mil­lion hits on what was lead­er­ship.

❛ I was do­ing his job . . . we need a strong leader

Toni Bid­dle

❛ I know I’m do­ing a good job but you have some down times

Sir Tim Shad­bolt

‘‘No­one re­ally knows — that is the con­clu­sion I’ve come to,’’ Sir Tim said.

‘‘They said you are a leader be­cause you are the mayor. And I say: no. It is not like that.

‘‘The mayor is just a fig­ure­head. The leader in the coun­cil is the chief ex­ec­u­tive and se­nior staff.

‘‘We are elected mem­bers [and] do not have a lot of power. Ev­ery­one thinks you run the city . . . but it is far dif­fer­ent to what is por­trayed in the me­dia.’’

Sir Tim de­nied his fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion was the rea­son for stand­ing again as mayor.

He said for­mer coun­cil­lor Karen Arnold, who sued him un­suc­cess­fully, left the coun­cil, de­clared bank­ruptcy and was ‘‘ lead­ing a nor­mal life’’.

‘‘That could have been an op­tion . . . but I still love the job.

‘‘When you are the sub­ject of pres­sure and con­stant crit­i­cism and peo­ple try­ing to re­move you, my re­ac­tion is to dig my toes in and make it even more dif­fi­cult for them.

‘‘I’ve been through a lot of bat­tles, been ar­rested 33 times and jailed twice. It would take a hell of a lot of pres­sure to make me leave my job.’’

Sir Tim be­lieved he was a good leader and he was ‘‘fit as a fid­dle’’.

His com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and his sta­tus as a ‘‘house­hold name’’ made him a great leader, he said.

‘‘I know it is a cliche but peo­ple said I put the city on the map and some el­e­ments of that are true be­cause it was a dy­ing city when I came down here,’’ he said.

‘‘I know I’m do­ing a good job but you have some down times.

‘‘You just need to en­joy the ups and hang in there when things are not quite go­ing your way.’’

He said the re­cent weeks had been ‘‘quite trau­matic, dif­fi­cult and chal­leng­ing and not a very nice place to be’’.

‘‘But I’m not feel­ing too bad be­cause I know that it is a roller­coaster ride.’’

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