Bruce Hucker has launched a three-week battle to preserve his job as deputy mayor after most of his City Vision-Labour colleagues yesterday said they no longer had confidence in him, and Mayor Dick Hubbard told him to resign.
The day of high drama started with colleagues giving Dr Hucker an ultimatum to step down and ended with the veteran politician declaring a fight to the death.
Instead of bowing to the wishes of seven of the eight City Vision-Labour councillors calling on him to relinquish the deputy mayoralty, Dr Hucker announced he would use a 21-day process to fight for his job.
In a brief statement to the Herald, Dr Hucker said: "Twenty-one days is a long time in politics."
The issue follows a long internal spat within City Vision over Dr Hucker's hard line on higher water bills. The centre-left ticket released a new water policy seven days ago. Less than 24 hours later, Dr Hucker reiterated his support for the existing council policy of higher water bills.
Dr Hucker was dumped as City Vision leader on June 13 over water but his colleagues agreed he could stay on as deputy mayor until the October local body elections.
Mr Hubbard predicted a messy and disruptive future if Dr Hucker did not resign.
"I call on Bruce Hucker to consider the wider interests of the council and the city rather than his own personal interests," Mr Hubbard said.
If Dr Hucker does not go voluntarily, a majority of the 20-member council must sign a resolution calling for a extraordinary council meeting in 21 days to elect a new deputy mayor.
Last night, it appeared Dr Hucker had a fighting chance of keeping his job after the two Action Hobson councillors, Christine Caughey and Richard Simpson, indicated they would not put their crucial signatures to the letter.
At this stage, Dr Hucker has the backing of the six Citizens & Ratepayers Now councillors, independent Bill Christian and Labour councillor Dr John Hinchcliff, who said he would not sign the resolution because of a long personal friendship with Dr Hucker.
The anti-Hucker camp comprises six of the eight City Vision-Labour councillors - City Vision councillor Penny Sefuiva is on leave from the council and will miss the antics - Mr Hubbard and independent Faye Storer.
City Vision co-leader Richard Northey said a lot of soul-searching occurred before colleagues approached Dr Hucker about standing down as deputy mayor for City Vision councillor Vern Walsh.
Mr Northey said the decision arose from concerns about Dr Hucker's effectiveness as deputy mayor rather than the specific issue of water.
He was not aware of any plans to dump Dr Hucker as a City Vision candidate in the Western Bays ward he has represented since 1986. Dr Hucker was selected as a candidate on June 10.
Christine Caughey said Dr Hucker should seriously consider his future in light of not having the confidence of his team but said Action Hobson did not want to get involved in the internal debate of another party.
She said Action Hobson had not been asked to sign the resolution and would not speculate on what she and Mr Simpson would do without all the information first.
Citizens & Ratepayers Now leader Scott Milne said the six-strong ticket would not support a motion of no confidence in Dr Hucker.
"This is the work of the Labour-City Vision-Action Hobson alliance on council. It is up to them to sort out their dysfunctional family," he said.
Mr Milne said it was a reaction to the spotlight that C&R Now had put on the tax-and-spend attitude by the ruling group leading to a 30 per cent rise in household rates and 19 per cent rise in water bills.
"They are looking for a scapegoat but replacing Bruce will not change these facts."
Mr Milne and Christine Caughey said there was no benefit changing the deputy mayor less than four months from October's local body elections.
It is understood C&R Now had earlier urged Dr Hucker to resign to retain some dignity and Mr Hubbard expressed a similar view when he visited Dr Hucker at his home in Freemans Bay on Sunday.
This is the second attempt to dump Dr Hucker as deputy mayor. Only weeks after being elected mayor in October 2004, Mr Hubbard mounted a coup against Dr Hucker for going behind his back and announcing a social blueprint for the city. The coup failed after Christine Caughey and Mr Simpson abandoned their support for Mr Hubbard.
For dumping Dr Hucker
Mayor Dick Hubbard
Neil Abel (City Vision)
Leila Boyle (Labour)
Cathy Casey (City Vision)
Glenda Fryer (City Vision)
Richard Northey (Labour)
Faye Storer (Independent)
Vern Walsh (City Vision)
Bruce Hucker (City Vision)
Doug Armstrong (C&R Now)
Bill Christian (Independent)
John Hinchcliff (Labour)
Linda Leighton (C&R Now)
Toni Millar (C&R Now)
Scott Milne (C&R Now)
Graeme Mulholland (C&R Now)
Noelene Raffills (C&R Now)
Christine Caughey (Action Hobson)
Richard Simpson (Action Hobson)
* City Vision councillor Penny Sefuiva is on leave.