Tony Marryatt staying in Christchurch

By Shelley Robinson

Tony Marryatt
Tony Marryatt

Former Christchurch Council boss Tony Marryatt says he is not leaving Christchurch despite his turbulent relationship with the city following his pay rise controversy.

Mr Marryatt has spoken publicly for the first time since his controversial departure from the city council in November last year.

He did not dodge any topic - except the confidential $400,000-plus resignation package deal he made with city councillors in September. He would be breaching his agreement if he discussed it.

Mr Marryatt, who spent six years at the helm of the the council, said he may not have a future in local government and early retirement was a possibility.

"I'm having a break - making life a bit simpler at the moment. I'll decide whether I'm going to permanently retire or look for something later."

In spite of the turbulent relationship he has had with the city, he is not leaving Christchurch and contrary to popular opinion he has not been hiding out of town - and his golf handicap has not improved.

The city's tumultuous relationship with the chief executive came to a head in December 2011 when the city council voted for Mr Marryatt to receive a $68,129 pay rise, taking his salary from $470,400 to $538,529 a year.

It caused outrage among residents with thousands protesting outside civic offices in February 2012.

He said he could have handled the pay rise, which he later rejected, a lot better.

"I should have rejected it straight away ... it was a dumb decision by me."

Mr Marryatt said he understood the backlash.

"It was the mood in the city at that time, everyone was frustrated and very tired."

He said the pay rise became a "political football" for the city councillors, forcing him to launch a personal grievance case against councillors who joined the protest.

"Enough was enough. I just had to draw that line about what councillors were saying about me and the staff. That line was about professionalism, about what is acceptable and what was not as an employer."

The grievance was settled, with the city council paying for his legal costs.

Mr Marryatt said he had no option but to resign after the council's ability to issue building consents was revoked last July.

He was put on special leave while an investigation was carried out. He said the investigation report vindicated him, but there was no other option.

"At the end of the day I always said when the majority of the council didn't want me then I would resign."

He has a few regrets but wishes the controversy and media attention was something his children did not have to go through.

"You do expect it in the public sector but it did affect my family. It was tough for them because they saw me as their dad and it was hard for them to go through it all."

Mr Marryatt said he was still proud of the Sir Bob Parker-led city council and what they achieved in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

Although he shies away from calling Sir Bob a friend, he said they shared the same vision for the city.

"We respected each other and shared that same vision. I know like me he is very proud of what we accomplished."

Mr Marryatt said Sir Bob's knighthood was well-deserved.

"The community has a lot to thank him for."

- CHRISTCHURCH STAR

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