'Noddy' insult sparks dispute

By Abigail Hartevelt

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Colleagues of Rotorua district councillor Charles Sturt are calling for him to change his "disruptive" ways before deciding whether to stand in next year's elections.

Councillor Mike McVicker said Mr Sturt was disruptive at council meetings and had been for the past two years since the last election. He had missed out on being mayor and was overlooked for a senior position after previously chairing the then finance committee.

"Ever since then he has been like an angry bear in a forest."

Mr Sturt disputed that but admitted he was guilty of being disruptive. "That is my job as an elected councillor ... I don't disagree with everything ... I'm not a rude type of person but when I make my point I make it with voracity. I don't attack the person. I attack what they are saying."

Asked if Mr Sturt should stand for the council next year, Mr McVicker said Mr Sturt was a skilled debater and had a lot to offer but he was not sure he should stand again if he did not change his ways.

"If he is not prepared to change his belligerent manner with everyone and everything, no.

If he does accept what's happened, can be positive and make a contribution, yes - the ball's in his court."

Mr McVicker made the call after a letter was written by Mr Sturt and published in another paper in which he stated "If you want a Noddy on council who just accepts everything put in front of him, I take it you won't support me at the next council elections".

Mr McVicker said Mr Sturt had "taken it too far" and so he sent a letter in reply which was signed by four councillors - Maggie Bentley, Julie Calnan, Dave Donaldson and Karen Hunt.

"Referring to us as Noddys that was enough for me ... I don't see it as sour grapes, it's saying to Charles, enough is enough," Mr McVicker said.

Mr Sturt was antagonistic against Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters and Rotorua District Council chief executive Peter Guerin and he "spoke out about everything", Mr McVicker said.

Mr Sturt never attended any council workshops or confidential meetings nor met with councillors in the green room - a private discussion room reserved for councillors and the mayor. Mr McVicker said he backed New Plymouth Mayor Harry Duynhoven's proposal to the select committee for councils to have the power to cut the pay of those who misbehaved, and to ban them from meetings.

Currently, in exceptional circumstances, councillors who break codes of conduct can be removed from meetings, taken off committees, and be removed from chairmanship roles and have their portfolios stripped.

Mrs Bentley supported Mr McVicker's call for Mr Sturt to change his ways, saying she had never been treated so rudely by any person in her life.

Mr Sturt said if he had said anything offensive to Mrs Bentley he would apologise to her unreservedly.

Mr Sturt said he could take defeat but he could not take "being shafted behind closed doors without my knowledge", referring to when he was not given a senior position in council.

"But I have got over it."

However, he said he did not trust the majority of the council.

Mr Sturt intends to stand at next year's election but has ruled out running for the mayoralty as he said he could be more effective as a councillor.

He challenged the use of workshops, which were confidential, as, by the time the issue reached the committee stage, which was open to the public, a decision had been made.

Mr Sturt said he was not referring to the other councillors as Noddys. Mr Winters said the current code of conduct was like a wet bus ticket but he did not think the Government would take one look at Mr Duynhoven's proposal.

As for Mr Sturt, Mr Winters said he had no power to take him aside to speak to him.

"I cannot censure councillors. They are entitled to their own views. Charles has differing views and that's called democracy and in the end democracy prevails."

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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