Shortcomings pinned on ‘struggling’ Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt

Sir Tim Shadbolt’s struggle to carry out significant aspects of his mayoral role created a leadership void within the Invercargill City Council, leading to major shortcomings, an independent review has found.

The governance review was carried out by Richard Thomson after the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) launched an investigation in August in response to concerns raised about the performance of the mayor and councillors.

The report was released publicly at 3pm today.

Several other key issues were also highlighted, including the election of deputy mayor Nobby Clark, a breakdown between the chief executive and Shadbolt, relationships between councillors and the general state of the city.

During his investigation, Thomson found there was a clear consensus the mayor struggled to fulfil significant mayoral roles, such as providing an appropriate link between the governance (councillors) and management (senior staff), which would normally be a key role of a mayor.

It was apparent through interviews with councillors, senior staff and the mayor himself, as well as footage of council meetings, that Shadbolt still had difficulties with some aspects of the role, he said.

Three southern mayors, not named in the report, also contacted Thomson to discuss the mayor.

He also found there was no working relationship between the mayor and chief executive Clare Hadley, and the appointment of councillor Clark risked destabilising the relationship further.

Because Shadbolt was not a ”standard” mayor, Hadley had to take on a greater governance role than was standard for a local body chief executive, the report said.

It was doubtful there had ever been a meaningful relationship between the pair, with the mayor publicly stating he felt abandoned and unsupported by management.

While she was generally seen as very competent, a small number of councillors viewed her negatively because of her management style.

Clark was cited by a majority of his council colleagues as being a factor in the difficult council dynamics.

Thomson said in his view Clark’s elevation to deputy mayor risked destabilising the governance and management relationship even further, unless he changed to a more collegial approach.

At a meeting on November 12 the council voted unanimously to adopt the findings of the review and agree to an action plan to address the issues highlighted.

The plan includes the appointment of two external appointees to the council, developing a clear set of delegations for the deputy mayor, mentoring support and training for councillors and a review of strategic projects.

Annual evaluations would also be carried out to make sure the council stayed on track.

Thomson said despite the issues, Invercargill had been generally well run in terms of common measures such as debt and quality of infrastructure.

In a statement, Shadbolt acknowledged the process had been a challenging one for both him and the other councillors.

“Now we’re looking ahead and we’ve agreed to work together to make the changes needed. This includes some additional support mechanisms which will help with the smooth running of the council as well as seeking the guidance of our new external appointees.”

Hadley said the review raised some challenging issues for both elected members and staff.

It was important the council now focused on what needed to be done to make improvements for the good of the city, she said.

“We are focused on working together as a team to provide assurances to our community and the DIA that we have taken stock of the issues and are committed to addressing the challenges facing us.”

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