Some councillors have labelled the deferral of a discussion about free parking in the CBD "political gamesmanship" and "procedural trickery".

Mayor Steve Chadwick has hit back on those claims, calling it "silly political posturing", and the business owner who sparked a petition on the topic says the council "acted quite reasonably".

On Tuesday last week, the Rotorua Lakes Council voted to defer discussion on a motion, put by councillor and Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers member Peter Bentley, to consider free parking in the city's CBD.

Bentley's motion was bolstered by a petition launched by local business owner Susan Jory, although he says the petition was not the sole reason for it.

Chadwick, chairing the meeting, moved a procedural motion to allow Jory to formally submit her petition and speak on it at the next Operations and Monitoring Committee meeting, on June 4.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / File
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / File

Chadwick said the council had not received the petition and deferring it to the committee would allow Jory, who was not at Tuesday's meeting, "ample time" to present her petition.

It would also provide time for council staff to prepare a report on parking in the CBD, she said.

In the meeting, Chadwick's motion was agreed to by all councillors except Reynold Macpherson. After the meeting, Bentley said he had voted against it and asked for his vote to be recorded, but it hadn't been.

A council spokeswoman said Bentley had not contacted the council about that but would be happy to discuss it with him and re-check the meeting footage.

Outside the meeting, Bentley said the decision meant a delay of "about six weeks".

"By that time, many more people, obviously, all the small businesses will be going broke.

"Nothing can happen until it's passed by full council.

"All [Chadwick's] managed to do is put everything back. If this is an indication of a mayor who cares about the local community, we are sadly lacking."

Chadwick had previously indicated the committee meeting would occur on June 11, but a council spokeswoman clarified the correct date was June 4.

Bentley made his comments regarding time frame delays with the June 11 date in mind.

He said, in his opinion, the issue would have been addressed at Tuesday's council meeting, if it had not been brought by a Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers member.

"If Merepeka [Raukawa-Tait] or Tania [Tapsell] had done that proposal, it could have been, and it would have been, discussed straight away.

At the meeting, council chief financial officer Thomas Colle indicated parking revenue amounted to about $3 million each year.

Councillor Peter Bentley. Photo / Andrew Warner
Councillor Peter Bentley. Photo / Andrew Warner

"What they'll be trying to make Reynold and I feel guilty about is the fact that we're prepared to throw away between $2 million and $3 million in [parking] revenue," Bentley said.

"I would suggest it hasn't been anywhere near that in the last five years, but that's the figure they're bandying around at the moment. I dispute that figure."

"[Chadwick] is well aware that there is a petition going around, how many signatures it's got on it. Whether it's actually physically going to be presented on a given day is semantics.

"She could have invited [Jory] to speak.

"She was just playing her own little political gamesmanship there, that basically anything that a person with a [Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers] background comes up with, she's going to squash it like a bug.

"The staff report, without discussions with council, is going to be just more of the same. The council staff has got to come to the councillors and let councillors decide what is the best parking system.

"What happens is that the council staff come up and say 'this is the new parking system'.

"We should be, in conjunction with staff, deciding our parking policy, not being told what the parking policy is by a couple of people that are paid far too much to come up with some rather poor recommendations.

"By the time we get to see it, it's [a] fait accompli, it's all done and dusted, you just sign it off. So much of our decision making is, we are told by staff what is happening."

After the meeting last Tuesday, fellow Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers member Macpherson took to Facebook to label Chadwick's motion as "procedural trickery".

He said giving time for staff to prepare a report on parking was, in his opinion, "code for controlling the discussion".

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Rotorua Lakes councillor Reynold Macpherson. Photo / File
Rotorua Lakes councillor Reynold Macpherson. Photo / File

Chadwick said Bentley and Macpherson tried to use the issue as a "political stunt" and were "now angry it didn't work".

"It didn't work because they were attempting to undermine good decision-making."

She said she and the council wanted to do everything it could to support the CBD, as it worked towards the district's recovery.

"We're also very aware that parking is seen as an issue for people and we are willing to have that debate and to give the petitioner the fair treatment she deserves.

"Uninformed debate leads to uninformed, ad hoc decision-making, and that is not good governance.

"There is no 'trickery' in following due process that ensures informed and transparent debate, and ensures we take all relevant matters and implications into consideration, including whether consultation is needed before a decision can be made."

She said "repeated criticism" of staff was "totally inappropriate and unacceptable".

"It appears these councillors don't want facts, legislative and procedural requirements or financial implications to get in the way of their politically driven decision-making.

"Council officers' role is to provide expert information and advice that enables well-informed, well-considered decisions, and political interference or opinion has no place in that.

"I think people are tired of silly political posturing, especially right now. This is a time to focus on moving Rotorua forward in the right way, through good leadership and robust decision-making that has the best interests of all our residents at heart."

Jory, as the petitioner, said she had no problem with the deferral of the discussion.

"I feel they acted quite reasonably, I think there's a due process that any petition needs to go through."

She had not attended the council meeting on Tuesday.

"I have no complaints about the fact the council [is] being helpful to us in getting our petition heard.

"I think the issue is, it should have gone to committee, first of all, there was a mix up in whoever it was who took it to council.

Petitioner and local business owner Susan Jory. Photo / File
Petitioner and local business owner Susan Jory. Photo / File

"I'm not concerned, I'm happy and the longer it goes on, the more signatures there'll be by the time we get to talk about it."

She would submit the petition "four or five days" before the committee meeting to give the council time to table it for the agenda.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Raukawa-Tait also expressed her support for moving the discussion to the Operations & Monitoring Committee.

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