New powers for Mayors not as real as they appear

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has announced that mayors will have new powers which will come into effect after the local body elections.

However high profile Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt has slammed supposed new powers for mayors as “pathetic, contradictory and illusionary”.

The new law states that mayors will be able to appoint the deputy mayor, establish committee structures and appoint committee chairs, as well as lead plans, policies and budgets.

However, the legislation also states that councillors could unite to overrule those decisions made by the mayor.

Mr Shadbolt, who was outvoted on his choice of deputy mayor last year, said mayors should have the power to choose their own deputy mayor.

“Absolutely nothing has changed.

“If anything, it’s been made worse … the mayor will get all the blame.

“The public expectation is that the mayor is leading everything – it’s just rubbish.”

A deputy mayor had to have the same views on critical issues as the mayor, because they often stepped in as a spokesperson, he said.

A deputy mayor also needed to be a confident public speaker, articulate, professional and present the council in a positive way.

“I think it’s made us into toothless tigers and undermined mayoralty,” Mr Shadbolt said.

It was not as important that the mayor had the power to elect committee chairs, he said.

LGNZ president Lawrence Yule said the new powers encouraged cross-council collaboration because, in order to use them, a mayor needed the majority support of councillors.

“Not only would that strengthen a mayor’s leadership, it would also help voters to hold the mayor and council accountable for its direction and decisions.

“As long as the mayor has the majority support, he or she will be able to quickly select the team they want,” he said.

Mayor’s previous power:

– Work with council to select teams and structures

– Council and mayor made decisions on plans and budgets

– Mayor could potentially blame unpopular decisions on councillors

– Elected councillors could reunite to overrule any decisions made by the mayor

Mayor’s “new” power:

– Can appoint deputy mayor, committee chairs and structure of committees

– Legally responsible for driving council plans and budgets

– Mayors will be held more accountable

– However, elected councillors can still unite to overrule decisions made by the mayor