The dysfunctional Christchurch City Council went behind closed doors yesterday for a secret meeting with a new Government minder appointed to try to get it back on track.

Crown observer Kerry Marshall joined the council for the first time in an extraordinary meeting that followed crisis talks last week with Local Government Minister Nick Smith.

The council has been plagued with infighting and leaks as Christchurch tries to recover from the city's devastating earthquakes, and the minister has asked it to accept the observer until at least the end of March to try to "uncouple the destructive process in council".

Last week, council chief executive Tony Marryatt decided to turn down a $68,000 pay rise that had prompted severe criticism from some councillors and members of the public.


"The negative publicity and public opinion has been tough for staff at the organisation and has the potential to distract this council from the important task at hand of rebuilding our city," Mr Marryatt said.

In a meeting yesterday, the council resolved to accept an invitation to appoint a Crown observer to assist it to "address its governance/management issues and help ensure it is functioning well so as to support Christchurch's earthquake recovery".

Long-serving city councillor Sue Wells recently suggested the Government needed to look at whether councillors should be replaced by commissioners for the good of the city.

Councillor Tim Carter called for Mr Marryatt to be sacked and replaced with a Government-appointed commissioner.

Dr Smith was reluctant for the Government to intervene beyond appointing an observer but warned that the council had weeks, not months, to get back on track and the earthquake recovery effort could not be allowed to stall.