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Gore council cans review of Ben Bell- Steve Parry feud, hopes to 'move forward'

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Mon, 11 Sep 2023, 4:57PM
A rift between Gore Mayor Ben Bell (left) and council CEO Stephen Parry dominated council discussion earlier in the year. Photo / ODT files
A rift between Gore Mayor Ben Bell (left) and council CEO Stephen Parry dominated council discussion earlier in the year. Photo / ODT files

Gore council cans review of Ben Bell- Steve Parry feud, hopes to 'move forward'

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Mon, 11 Sep 2023, 4:57PM

The Gore District Council has canned its planned review, saying it would just bring up old dramas.

The council had been in the spotlight in the first half of the year after it emerged the newly elected Mayor Ben Bell and council chief executive Steve Parry had fallen out and were not talking.

Seven councillors then called for the resignation of Bell — which was never actually tabled — saying they no longer had confidence in him.

At the time the council looked to undertake a review which it hoped to reset, rebuild, reconcile, and redeem the reputation of the council.

But in a report to Tuesday’s council meeting, it had been recommended the review be abandoned.

Gore mayor Ben Bell. Photo / Facebook

Gore mayor Ben Bell. Photo / Facebook

The review had not started as the council left it sitting on the table while its new legal counsel considered it.

In a letter to the Department of Internal Affairs in Tuesday’s council agenda, the council said it would not be continuing with the review.

It has also been low key in its dealings over the past few months.

 “The Council has deliberately adopted a low public profile in recent months in a conscious effort to reduce the invasive attention of the media and enable us to focus on moving forward, particularly in relation to business-as-usual activities,” the letter said.

The council had appointed an intermediary between Bell and Parry and it had been a success.

“This is proving highly effective in ensuring communication is kept open and a confidential report is provided to councillors on a two-monthly basis to keep them up to date with progress.

“It is important to note that while the intermediary role will continue until such time that the mayor and chief executive both agree it is no longer required, there is minimal need for the role on a day-to-day basis.

“It is important to highlight there is now improved communication between the elected members, such as the mayor providing a weekly update, that will significantly assist in moving forward as a united team.”

Gore District Council chief executive Stephen Parry. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Gore District Council chief executive Stephen Parry. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Five workshops have taken place to upskill elected members and another one is planned on council code of conduct.

“Simple, low-level changes to improve understanding and efficiency at meetings are also being made, such as seating newly elected councillors between those with more experience.

“Elected members believe the forward-looking approach and commitment they have adopted with assistance from industry experts, Local Government NZ and Taitaura is working well, and the continuation of this approach is in the best interests of the council and the wider community.”

The council believed there was no longer any need to undertake the review.

“We have genuine concerns that any further re-examination of the past may reignite the very events and experiences that we seek to move on from.

 “Therefore, we are collectively of the opinion that proceeding to undertake the proposed review may be counterproductive at this time. Despite previous recommendations, given the steps we have taken together to further develop, reflect and reset, we no longer feel the review process is in the best interest of the Gore District Council, nor local government as a whole.”

The council realised the job was not complete but it would continue to work hard and actions spoke louder than words and that was the key in regaining public confidence.

The council would save $130,000 if the review did not go ahead.

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