Controversy at mayor’s forum
Things turned heated during South Waikato mayor Jenny Shattock’s first Open Public Forum of the year.
Shattock announced last year that before each council meeting the public would have the chance to speak freely for five minutes in order to have their say and for the council to then potentially follow up on matters raised.
While the first 2017 forum started smoothly, by the time fourth speaker Rod Young spoke things quickly changed.
Young, a regular at council meetings, stated a number of his concerns including disapproval of changes made to the Annual Plan consultation process, which were later corrected by Shattock, and his desire to see a community board established in Arapuni.
Young then began to question chief executive officer Craig Hobbs’ value, calling for his suspension in order to improve falling patronage at the South Waikato Indoor Pools and Sport and Events Centre which he claims need new management.
‘‘The only way [management can change] is if we address the chief executive officer and people that can’t be here today have asked me to say could we please pay out the chief executive officer for the rest of the year and put him on gardening leave so we can get someone in who will address those issues,’’ he said.
After warning Young his comments were not appropriate, Shattock intervened by ringing a bell.
‘‘I would rather you parked the personal attacks you are making on our chief executive,’’ she said.
‘‘If there is anything we can do to support our community we would be really willing to hear that but I don’t want personal attacks.’’
‘‘I didn’t want the forums to deteriorate into personal attacks so I am afraid people take from that what you will,’’ she said.
Hobbs described Young as ‘‘a lone voice’’ but said he was happy to hear from councillors if they felt the same.
‘‘I would certainly be more than happy to reflect on that and respect it,’’ he said.
Councillor Gray Baldwin said he was disgusted by Young’s conduct and called for changes to the forum rules.
A resolution is expected to be tabled during the next council meeting which will preclude presenters making personal attacks.