A plan to oust Featherston Community Board chairwoman Lee Carter has backfired for the three people who drove a no confidence vote against her.
At a meeting in Kiwi Hall on Monday, Mrs Carter kept her job when the vote to dump her was tied and Peter Jackson, who had been appointed chairman for the meeting, used his casting vote in favour of retaining Mrs Carter.
Three of six board members had called for Mrs Carter to be replaced.
They were South Wairarapa District councillors Solitaire Robertson and Dean Davies, along with former chairman of the board Garry Thomas.
The hall was packed to the rafters with more than 150 people attending, many wearing "Vote Lee Carter" ribbons.
Among the audience were Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott and former Carterton mayor Ron Mark, now deputy leader of NZ First.
Two of the town's residents -- Peter Love and Liz Mellish -- were granted permission by South Wairarapa District Council to speak.
Both spoke in support of Mrs Carter.
Mr Love said ratepayers deserved to know why her position was in question prior to the meeting being held.
"Did the chairperson rob a bank?" he said, to which someone in the crowd yelled out that Mrs Carter "has a voice and they are trying to keep her quiet".
Ms Robertson moved "a vote of no confidence in the current chairperson and request she stands down", which was seconded by Garry Thomas.
Ms Robertson's reasoning for framing the motion was met with heckles from the audience. She said the problem was neither Mrs Carter's personality or passion for Featherston, but rather about her role as chairwoman.
"At present 50 per cent of the board has a lack of confidence in her ability to lead us between now and the next election."
Ms Robertson said Mrs Carter, as chairwoman, had made "derogatory comments" in relation to "board members, community groups, council and board matters" on numerous occasions that did not reflect the views of the board.
Mr Thomas said he lacked confidence in Mrs Carter as chairwoman because "she changes her mind" about decisions made at meetings.
Mr Davies, a former chairman of the board, made mention of the board's financial state, saying "there's no money left in the bank and it's only February".
Board member Katie Beattie said the motion was "a distraction from the real issues that Featherston is facing". She said over the past few years the wastewater project's total costs had ballooned from $17 million to $29 million, and urban rates had increased by 3.85 per cent.
"I think those are much more important issues."
Ms Beattie said Mrs Carter had "taken a bit of flak recently" for commenting on Facebook, however according to the code of conduct for SWDC, "elected members are free to make public statements and express their opinions".
Ms Beattie said it was clear that Mrs Carter's Facebook account was a personal one on which she was free to make personal statements. She said Mrs Carter had contributed to an increase in the town's understanding of, and participation in, council matters.
"Lee Carter is not the enemy within. She is a hard working local government politician and a friend of Featherston."
Mr Jackson said the timing of the motion was "absolutely appalling" in regards to the two recent teenage deaths.
He had approached Ms Robertson to reconsider the timing, saying "the community had become fractured as a result and this would only exacerbate the situation".
He said the board had been more involved in the community than previous boards had been.
"Of the elected members on the board, three-quarters of them actually support Lee Carter."
Before the vote, Ms Robertson was given a right of reply. She read a critical comment about Ms Beattie and Mr Jackson sent to her by Mrs Carter.
This did not stop either Ms Beattie or Mr Jackson voting to retain Mrs Carter as chairwoman.
Mrs Carter said in the aftermath of the meeting, regardless of the outcome, she would have remained on the board.
"My integrity and passion for Featherston weren't compromised," she said.
"Even though I have been successful in keeping the chair position, I have taken the message from the meeting that there is work to do with rebuilding the trust and respect within our board.
"Winning does not mean that we relax and carry on, it means that we look at the bigger picture and as I highlighted [on Monday] night there is room for continuous improvement, I acknowledge that."
SWDC chief executive Paul Crimp said the meeting was held in terms of standing orders and the Local Government Act.
"Everyone had a chance to have their say, and a vote was taken. Democracy worked."
South Wairarapa mayor Adrienne Staples said the "rift" within the community board would need time to heal.
"Lee Carter has retained her position as chair, but the frustrations and concerns that came to a head and caused the meeting to be called remain, and she will have to work hard with her board members to take the board through to the next election."
For more articles from this region, go to Wairarapa Times-Age