And you thought local politics was boring...

By Hamish McNeilly of the Otago Daily Times

Tim Shadbolt. Photo / Getty Images
Tim Shadbolt. Photo / Getty Images

Defamation cases, an expletive laden agenda, banishment, a resignation and another foul-mouthed tirade.

Welcome to the Bluff Community Board.

"It has just been an ongoing saga. It is a bit sad and a little home-grown tragedy," Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

In October, the board hit the headlines when an expletive-laden summary from a disgruntled board member was published in the Bluff Community Board agenda.

In the latest incident, the same board member - Brent Procter - this week commented on a blogsite belonging to a fellow board member's partner.

"Get it and get it good - you're a total c***," Mr Proctor wrote.

Mr Procter yesterday said his choice of words was "not done on a whim ... it was very calculated".

"The reason is everything else I was writing about would be ignored unless I was prepared to be provocative."

Since the five members of the board were elected unopposed two years ago, there has been a defamation case and a counter case involving chairwoman Jan Mitchell.

Mrs Mitchell was last month banned from performing official duties at the annual Bluff Oyster and Food Festival.

Mr Shadbolt said he was present at one community board meeting which featured "offensive words", and now was likely to appear in one of the defamation cases as a witness.

"I have tried to keep on-side with both factions, and not get dragged into it ... try and heal the wounds where possible."

The point of community boards was to serve their community, he said, and he was unlikely to step in to resolve the tension.

"You are not meant to be all big brother, and Bluff can be quite sensitive about us telling them what to do.

"But at least there hasn't been a punch-up. It is not an Italian parliament."

Part of the problem was that the board was elected unopposed and "no-one can say they went against their election promises because they did not really make any".

The tension has led to unprecedented interest in this Saturday's by-election, which was prompted by the surprise resignation of board member Scott Allan in April.

"It has crushed political apathy in Bluff, that is the one positive," Mr Shadbolt said.

Board member Charles Te Au said he would support possible intervention by the ICC, especially to remind members of code of conduct and legal requirements.

Jan Mitchell said the board would meet in six week's time, and any recommendation of an intervention would have to come in the next agenda, courtesy of ICC chief executive Richard King.

She declined to comment on Mr Procter's latest outburst.

- Otago Daily Times

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