Archives for posts with tag: Bob Parker

Sterling endorsement of Parker’s mayoralty from his right hand man, Tony Marryatt, who remains at large:

Bob stood tall in the city’s darkest moments and I haven’t spoken to anyone who lives outside of Christchurch who doesn’t say what a great job he did and that they wish he was their Mayor.”

Interesting that his closest ally used the phrase anyone who lives outside of Christchurch: herein lies the problem. Parker’s popularity was greater anywhere but Christchurch, where people didn’t have to live under his dysfunctional governance. Images of him in an orange jacket might have reassured the 6pm news audience in the North Island, but they weren’t much consolation to those in the East who didn’t have power – and thus the TV to see him – for weeks after the quakes.

The red tide is sweeping Christchurch; barricades are going up in Hereford St, the hammer and sickle has been raised above the council chambers. Or has it? Without wanting to down-play the success of the left in the local body elections, I think it’s worth tempering the enthusiasm. Somewhat.

So what happened? Well, Lianne Dalziel won the mayoralty with a commanding majority and a good return. It is a strong mandate (I’m not going to say “awesome” as I think she’s said that enough already). There was a worry that the non-contest for the mayoralty would lead to a low turnout; I think it was important that Dalziel got a good number of votes, and she did. It was just a shame that she didn’t get to go up against Bob Parker – with the backlash against the Marryatt-team, he would have got his ass handed to him on a plate. While some will eulogise his two terms in charge, I would hope that history remembers him for more than just the Orange Parka. He showed media savvy and leadership for about 3 months in September 2010; the mood was already turning against him in early 2011 before the February quake. He led well in the wake of that disaster; there might have been 12-15 months of his two terms in which he performed competently, the remainder was pock-marked with poor decisions – the Henderson deal, the Ellerslie deal, the Marryatt saga and the building consents debacle, to mention but a few.

At the council level, there will be 9 new faces – six of them from the People’s Choice team. I don’t want to detract from the result, but need to put a few caveats on it. Firstly, the Banks Peninsula result is at this point to close to call – with Andrew Turner ahead by just 5 votes. Once special votes have come in, I’d expect it will still be close, and that it will proceed to a recount. So let’s say there are 5 PC councillors. It’s worth remembering that in 2010, we had 4 PC councillors – Yani Johanson, Glenn Livingstone, Jimmy Chen and Chrissie Williams, who resigned mid-term. Johanson, Livingstone and Chen have retained their seats, as well as Phil Clearwater in Spreydon-Heathcote and Pauline Cotter in Shirley-Papanui. Clearwater did well, but was helped by the two long-serving incumbents stepping down. Cotter was assisted by the voters of Shirley-Papanui punishing Ngaire Button and Aaron Keown for their abysmal record at council.

So while I’m not trying to detract from the result – which is fantastic – I think suggestions that Christchurch has “gone left” and is punishing the government are premature. This was an extraordinary election, in which the electorate has punished Parker’s so-called “A Team”; Keown, Button, Claudia Reid and Helen Broughton were thrown out at the ballot box, whilst Sue Wells and Barry Corbett had the political nous to see the writing was on the wall months ago, and chose not to stand. Jamie Gough is the only councillor to survive this ballot, which shows just how bleak the Fendalton-Waimairi ward is.

Possibly the biggest casualty has been the centre-right “independent” groupings. While People’s Choice is openly Labour, in Christchurch the “National-in-drag” grouping was Independent Citizens. That was then rebranded as “iCitz”. Then there was the split, with Ngaire Button leaving to form her own independent non-political political party City First with Aaron Keown. Gough was the only councillor to return on the iCitz tag; Claudia Reid and Helen Broughton both lost their seats, and as mentioned before, but I will gleefully mention it again, City First got precisely zero (0) councillors. I assume that the right will try and rebuild their presence at the local body level; they may want to look at what Labour has done with the People’s Choice.

That said, I’m not convinced that the People’s Choice did that well. In two wards where I thought they could or would pick up a second council seat (Burwood-Pegasus and Hagley-Ferrymead), they didn’t. In each of these wards, People’s Choice had a high-profile councillor seeking re-election (Livingstone and Johanson) along with a council vacancy (Peter Beck and Tim Carter). A strong Labour presence on the ground in these wards sadly didn’t translate to a win for either Robyn Nuthall or Tracey McLellan, who would have been bold, female voices on Council (only 3 of the 13 councillors are women; time to talk about man-ban again?) So while the People’s Choice team should be satisfied with the effort, they should be wary of getting too carried away with the results.

To build on them in 2016, it will be critical that our councillors perform well. Given their 5, maybe 6, seats, People’s Choice should be able to lay claim to the deputy mayoralty. While Johanson and Livingstone are the most senior of the team, I would suggest that maybe Clearwater is the best choice. Though he will be learning on the job about being a councillor, he has a long history of representation at the community board level. On top of this, he has been instrumental in leading the People’s Choice organisation for quite some time, alongside Community Board member Paul McMahon. They have been a superb job to keep the organisation running, rebuilding it from the ashes of the old Christchurch 2021 group – which almost fell apart on a couple of occasions. He knows how to manage people and egos, and would be a calm, sensible voice in what will be a very challenging transitional period.

The only other option I can see for deputy would be Vicki Buck, who won a council seat with the largest return of any candidate. However, there is some animosity between her and the People’s Choice camp, so while I’m sure she would bring a wealth of experience as a former mayor, it might be a bit “back to the future” for a supposedly forward-looking council. The Press’s favourite, Raf Manji took the second Fendalton-Waimairi seat, and will be interesting to see how he performs this term. I will be watching closely to see how Dalziel goes in working with the fresh faces like Manji, Ali Jones and Tim Scandrett. Given that the disunity of the last council was one of the nails in Bob’s coffin, how she pulls this team together will be one of her most important tests.

This was a remarkable election for Christchurch, and while I don’t want to detract from the individual campaigns of the various candidates – successful or otherwise – they need to realise that they are there mostly because of who they are not. Hopefully by 2016, we’ll be re-electing them because of who they are, and what they stand for.

Aside from all the other things in this sorry story, I was interested in Tony and Bob taking their wives out for dinner on the council P card. They went to Saggio di Vino, one of Christchurch’s most expensive restaurants, and managed to clock up $289.70 between the four of them (all on us). This, on the day that they were made aware of the letter from IANZ that set off the consenting crisis and eventually cost both of them their jobs. Shouldn’t they have been, I dunno, working that night, to try and resolve the crisis at the organisation that they nominally run? Or maybe they wanted to take their wives out somewhere nice, so that when they passed on the news that they were both utterly incompetent, they at least had some nice food to soften the blow.

A couple of days ago, the Press reported the story about councillors who voted for Marryatt’s pay rise having their hoardings targeted. Jamie Gough was featured in the story, asking for forgiveness. You would have thought that would have been the end of the story. But remarkably, in yesterday’s paper, he was given pride of place, with the first letter to the editor, which he used to grovel. He’s grown as a person, as a councillor. He’s made mistakes. He deserves a second chance etc. It’s extraordinary that a politician running for re-election would be given such a prominent place to put their views, without any editorial interference. It’s the not the first time in recent months that Gough has been given the run of the letters page to use as a soapbox.

The Press seems to be quite a fan of the Gough family. Jamie’s uncle is Anthony Gough, the flamboyant property developer. Because of his prominence, Gough senior features readily in the paper. That’s fine, he’s a big part of the rebuild and thus very newsworthy. But that doesn’t mean they should be giving Gough junior such a soft run. A couple of months ago, I outlined what I believed were conflicts of interest. Before I blogged it here, I talked to a couple of reporters at the Press. They seemed interested, and thought there was a story. However, it was quashed by the senior news team, who didn’t think it was important. I obviously think there is a story there, and while the Press don’t think it’s an issue, would it hurt to run it, then let Gough respond to it? If there is no issue, he could put our minds at ease. That’s what the new, mature Jamie Gough, who believes in transparency and openness would do, right?

Far be it from me to level claims of bias at Christchurch’s only daily newspaper, but it does somewhat mirror a situation unfolding at the Press’s sister paper, the Dominion Post. High profile mayoral candidate and sexist dinosaur John Morrison has made what could politely be described as a series of gaffes, which seem to have been reported by anyone but the Dom. Interestingly, the WCC Watch blog links to a report in the Herald. The two stories I blogged about yesterday – Bob Parker’s bubbly spend up and Marryatt quietly taking the money he said he’d turned down – also came from the Herald. The story about the bubbly doesn’t it make this morning’s Press. I can understand if the newsroom at the Press is stretched, but it does seem odd that wouldn’t even bother to run a story about the Mayor of the city putting booze on the ratepayer’s tab, then obfuscating for over a year to prevent the information getting out.

As I said before, I understand that newsrooms are under a lot of pressure at the moment; I just hope that that is their reason ignoring certain issues, rather than laziness, or worse, taking an editorial line in favour of certain candidates.

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Tony Marryatt’s exit may mean a golden handshake for him, but it’s a golden shower for the people of this downtrodden city. After his exorbitant pay rise led to the biggest protest I can remember in Christchurch, he said that he would refuse the increase if the council promised to get on better. Well, it turns out that in one final “fuck you” to the people of Christchurch who he served so badly, he decided to take the pay rise after all.

But wait! There’s more!

The Star can reveal today that Mr Parker charged $219.25 on his ratepayer funded city council credit card for five servings of Moet et Chandon Brut champagne and a ham and cheese sandwich at the Hyatt Seoul while he was in Korea on council business last year.

He may have paid it back – or got the Israeli government to pick up the tab, but that’s almost immaterial at this point. It shows the attitude of these people, who aren’t elected to serve the people, but to be served themselves. In Parker’s case, with 5 “servings” of Moët. It’s not the first time he’s been embroiled in this sort of behaviour – remember when Jo Parker claimed that she was entitled to free muffins because she “worked for the city for free”, confusing “being married to someone” with “being employed in a role”. Here’s hoping that the image of Parker that endures is not the orange parka, but the five glasses of Moët and a ham sandwich that he thought he could put on the ratepayer.

Some fascinating details into the paranoid mind of Bob Parker’s mayoral administration in the paper this morning:

The performance review was only made available to councillors under “controlled supervision” last month, five months after its completion. Councillors are able to read the document under supervision in Mayor Bob Parker’s office and are not able to take notes or copy it.

So if you weren’t one of the councillors on the committee, you could only read the report under close supervision in Bob’s office, with the lizard king himself looming over you as you read? At this stage, it’s hard to see whether this is a symptom or a cause of the dysfunction at Council.

Since Bob decided to step down slash chose to leave the building rather than being hung, there has been speculation as to who will run against Lianne Dalziel. The Herald has linked obvious joke candidates, such as a dog, a “superhero” and Aaron Gilmore to the job. The Press is perhaps more realistic, with Ngaire Button, Tim Carter, Sue Wells and Peter Townsend in the mix. This morning’s editorial also calls for a strong candidate to run, but perhaps misses some of the point.

Apparently Parker was made aware of the polling data that showed Dalziel was the overwhelming favourite for the mayoralty before he made the decision to step down. He pulled the plug because he’s an egotist, a showman, and he didn’t want to go out after have being trounced at the polls. Some have said that he decision to quit is brave; I’d say the opposite. It’s cowardly. He could see the writing on the wall, and jumped before he got what would have been a humiliating fall for Christchurch’s “hero”.

This might come across as gloating, and … well – it is. For critics and opponents of the Parker-led council, this is a vindication. We’ve rallied against Marryatt, the culture of secrecy, the lack of accountability – all of which have been instrumental in the downfall of the two men. But these two aren’t the only culpable. Button, Wells, Gough, Keown – the rest of the “A team” who supported this destructive culture are similarly tainted. The idea that anyone of them could hope to pull the mayoralty is laughable – all the ideas and baggage of Parker, without the constant media coverage that won him the last election. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these guys lost their council seats – if they don’t follow Bob in reading the writing on the wall and going first.

Tim Carter and Peter Townsend were both at Dalziel’s campaign launch, which was considered a soft endorsement (which showed just how low Parker’s stock had dropped in the right-wing business community.) They may be rethinking a run now – but their backing of Dalziel suggests that she has the endorsement of the business community, so even if they did declare, it’s not a given that the business community would follow them.

For someone to have a realistic crack at it, they’d have to have a comparable profile to Dalziel, and some big (presumably right-wing) backers. The Nats could try drop an MP into the mix, but they’re a bit thin on the ground here. Brownlee already rules the council. Wagner is a nobody. Wilkinson is a fading star, but from Waimak rather than Christchurch, and hardly charismatic enough to pull large numbers of people. David Carter is technically a Christchurch MP, and while I’d quite like the idea of him being in any other role than speaker of the house, he has lost Port Hills a number of times, and famously called Woolston a shit-hole. That said, he’s well connected, and would have the money for a big campaign. Aaron Gilmore would be hilarious if he ran, but nothing more than a joke.

Beyond the smug satisfaction of vindication, we need to come up with policies to put in place post-election. Much of this will be limited by the CCDU. However, Parker and Marryatt have done a huge amount of damage, and some of it needs to be undone. The article in the Press on the council’s debt track over the next 30 years is truly frightening, and I’d like to see constructive debate on this in the election campaign – thou at this rate, it could just be Dalziel grilling herself.

It’s been a pretty extraordinary week for Christchurch politics, and we’ve seen our fair share of those in the last few years. I think you can trace back the unravelling to the dismantling of ECan, which brought the heavy hand of government into the day-to-day running of the city. Ever since then, it’s been apparent that the government wasn’t going to shy from doing things that were unprecedented. As chair of the Canterbury Mayoral Forum, Bob Parker was responsible for a letter from that body to the government, requesting that they intervene in a “dysfunctional” ECan. Just over three years later, Parker is trying to slide out the door with his political reputation in tatters, after presiding over a council that made ECan look like a textbook example in local governance.

Aside from conducting the autopsy, it’s been instructive to look at the way the situation has been covered. Extraordinary scenes, including an extraordinary council meeting (which was depressingly ordinarily attended by the public). People quitting and going on garden leave. A sense that this is only the beginning of the rush to the emergency slides. Fascinating stuff for anyone who follows politics in Christchurch – who, if you were to look at the coverage, appear to only live outside of the city. It’s as patronising and perceptive as the constant use of the term resilient. The reliably brilliant Cheryl Bernstein* came up with the term “Christchurchsplaining“;

in which commentators from outside the city explain to the rest of us what’s going on here.

It’s bang on the money. Tony Marryatt goes on “gardening leave”, and we get David Farrar and Bryce Edwards to tell us all about it. Who’s going to run in Christchurch East? Why don’t we ask Farrar, John Armstrong, Matthew Hooton, WhaleOil. On it goes. I don’t know what sort of experience those guys (guys, it’s always guys) have with Christchurch, before or after the quakes, but this isn’t politics as usual. Analysis as usual just won’t do. 

A couple of months ago, I asked Bryce Edwards, who compiles the very useful NZ Politics Daily blog for the Herald, why there weren’t more pieces on Christchurch. He replied that there quite simply wasn’t much debate on it. By and large, he’s right. I write this blog because I see a void where analysis on Christchurch should go. I’m left-wing and a member of Labour Party – but then, being associated with National hasn’t stopped Farrar, Slater and Hooton setting the discourse for the mainstream media. I don’t see a huge number of other Christchurch-focussed blogs – though link me to them if I’m missing some out. There is a politics department at the University of Canterbury (at least, there is at the moment) and I’m sure lecturers there could be asked to comment. Bronwyn Hayward is one example, though they only seem to ask her about school closures. Glenn Conway, the chief reporter from the Press, has written some very good opinion pieces, one of which I linked to earlier in the week. He appears in this segment on the Nation, to talk about Parker’s resignation and the media coverage. He’s also written this article that borders on a eulogy.

Probably the best outlet for discussion and analysis of the quakes currently is From the Streets, a 13-part panel/documentary show that’s been put together by Gerard Smyth (disclosure; I’m a panellist in a couple of episodes). The show format has three pre-recorded clips, which speak to the theme of the particular episode (heritage, consultation, the bcd etc) which are interspersed with short segments where three panelists discus the issues raised in the clip. It screens on CTV, which is on free view if you’re in Christchurch, but you can also find all of the clips online. I can’t recommend it highly enough – and not just for Cantabrians, but the whole country. You’re all paying for this rebuild – you might as well see what’s going on, and what we have to say about it.

So much of the rebuild seems to have been taken out of our hands already. The media could at least let us have our own opinions and analysis of it. 

* I am always impressed by the resilience of Cheryl’s wit

This is pretty much me right now. Feels like with the cordon down and the mayor gone, we can take our city back

The Press this morning was dominated by coverage of the end of the Marryatt error, as might be expected. This is the front page article, which describes Marryatt’s fall as him losing an ally.

Controversial Christchurch City Council boss Tony Marryatt has lost his closest ally as his career hangs in the balance, with Mayor Bob Parker no longer willing to defend his chief executive.

What bothers me about this is that Marryatt ever had an ally. He’s a public servant! He runs the council. His position – for which he was paid an astronomical amount of money to do, badly – should be judged on performance, not on political backers. 

Parker’s attempts to try and distance himself from Marryatt are laughable – they were so tied together that someone from out of Christchurch recently told me that when they first saw them on the TV, they thought they were an actual couple! The situation should never have got to this point, and it wouldn’t have, if Parker hadn’t backed Marryatt to the degree that he did. The Press article above contains some of the things that Parker has said about the CEO that you can bet will be trotted out ad nauseum throughout the election campaign. It’s also worth reminding people of the other councillors that renewed his contract and decided he was worth a $68,000 a year pay increase – Button, Wells, Gough, Corbett, Reid, Keown. They – like Bob – should be able to see that the writing is on the wall for them. They backed this donkey, and they’ll pay for doing so at the October local body elections.

Glenn Conway – senior report who has covered the council for years – has a very good opinion piece here, and the editorial is also worth a read.

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