Pair call for mayor to take a holiday

By Jonathan Dine, Sophie Price

1 comment
Two recent outbursts have prompted calls from two councillors for CHB Mayor Peter Butler to take a break.
Two recent outbursts have prompted calls from two councillors for CHB Mayor Peter Butler to take a break.

Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Peter Butler has been called on to "have a break" from his council duties by one of his councillors, Andrew Watts.

The call has been supported by another Central Hawke's Bay councillor, Terry Story.

The request comes as news emerges of an outburst from Mr Butler which resulted in him calling the police when a member of the public refused to leave the council building in Waipawa this month.

Hawke's Bay Today was told of the incident last week, after the mayor grabbed the camera of one of the paper's photographers and marched him back out of the council building on Monday, April 18.

Mr Butler did apologise for the latter incident.

Mr Watts said the fact that two similar outbursts from the mayor happened so close together was a sign of pressure.

"I think he needs a break. I actually told him ... that he needs to put the deputy mayor in the chair for a while and go and have a break."

He said by the same token Mr Butler, who is running for the mayoralty again, was going to have to consider his future.

Despite being asked repeatedly by Hawke's Bay Today to comment on the latest incident and the call for him to take a break, Mr Butler declined to do so.

The incident happened on Friday, April 16 when Mr Watts arrived at the council for a pre-arranged appointment with Mr Butler to hand over submissions he had collected for the independent audit of the Building Consent Authority.

Expecting that issues might arise at the meeting, Mr Watts brought a witness along. However, he said the mayor would not allow the witness to be there, so a standoff ensued which ended with Mr Butler calling the police.

A police spokeswoman confirmed officers were called to the CHB council building last Friday for this reason.

Mr Watts said that, while the situation could have been handled a "100 different ways", Mr Butler was "verbally very strong with [the witness]".

"I don't think that an elected representative with a young lawyer, who was there purely as witness, should have had to deal with what we dealt with," he said.

"It is as simple as that."

However, because of the standoff, the meeting did not transpire - Mr Watts said everything changed before there was any discussion.

"It turned to us having to pull out very quickly. Peter called the police and we left before they came," he said.

Mr Watts said the mayor called the police because the witness would not leave.

"He immediately wanted my witness removed, he didn't want her in the room," he said.

As such, Mr Watts did not get to hand in his submissions to the audit that day.

He said, however, he did manage to rectify this situation and they were handed into the auditors last Tuesday.

Looking back, the councillor said he too could have done things a little differently.

"But I [was] quite within my rights to have a witness," he said.

When asked about the incident with Mr Watts, Mr Butler said "no comment".

"To me the story is finished," he said.

Mr Watts, who is not standing for re-election this year, said that at the end of the day all he wanted was an independent audit of the council's Building Consent Authority.

This comes at a time when the Local Government New Zealand Equip team is carrying out a review of the council's governance.

Mr Story said the call for Mr Butler to take a break could do him the world of good.

"With all the happenings recently, I tend to agree with Councillor Watts.

Mr Story said when big issues were at stake, and one's viewpoint was not accepted, times could be challenging.

"If I was in that position, I would definitely take a holiday," he said.

Councillor Terry Kingston said Mr Watts' comments were his opinion.

"[Mr Butler's] behaviour as mayor in my opinion has been consistent with his style throughout his term," Mr Kingston said.

He said, regarding the incident at the council, that the mayor had apologised.

Mr Kingston wondered whether Mr Butler was just "responding to potentially unnecessary photographing of reception staff and invading of their privacy."

Councillors Mark Williams and Maitland Manning declined to comment.

Hastings Mayor and president of Local Government New Zealand Lawrence Yule said LGNZ would help to mediate, if required.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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