Rotorua councillors have been left shocked after one of their own suddenly quit in a fiery exchange with mayor Steve Chadwick.
Peter Bentley resigned, effective immediately, in a public council meeting during a discussion about the council's controversial Māori wards bill, which was put on pause just hours later.
Other councillors have criticised the mayor's handling of the meeting.
Chadwick says she is "disappointed" Bentley quit, and takes exception to what she believes were "disrespectful" accusations he made about her.
In the full Rotorua Lakes Council meeting, Chadwick moved to include a confidential discussion about the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill.
She said it was to "enable us all as council, together, to have a free and frank discussion in response to the attorney general's request for further information needed to develop policy work".
Attorney-General David Parker last week found the bill would breach the Bill of Rights Act, but that more information may be needed for a full assessment.
Chadwick's motion drew a point of order from councillor Reynold Macpherson to ask if her motion could be discussed.
Chadwick said no, it was the chair's ruling.
"I have ruled."
Bentley then raised an urgent item not on the agenda.
Expressing his opinion, Bentley said: "The mayor found out very early that I would not be one to merely follow her and her radical and blatant racist ideas.
"Therefore, she has shunned me and not sought the practical advice I bring to this table."
Chadwick interrupted Bentley with a point of order, but he continued to speak as Chadwick again made a point of order and stood up.
Under standing orders for council meetings, when a chairperson stands during debate, members should sit down and be silent.
Bentley also stood and councillor Mercia Yates called a point of order to which he said: "Who's that?".
Chadwick, still standing, asked Bentley to "withdraw and apologise or leave the meeting".
Bentley sat and said: "Well, my final statement, madam mayor -" before he was interrupted by Chadwick.
"No, there's no final say Councillor Bentley, I take exception to your ... "
Bentley continued to speak, saying: "I have no longer confidence in this council and thereby tender my resignation effective immediately."
Chadwick continued to speak as Bentley did, saying: "Councillor Bentley, I ask you to leave the meeting please, I've so ruled. Councillor Bentley, just leave the meeting."
Bentley: "I have resigned, madam mayor."
Chadwick: "Oh, well, there we are."
Macpherson shook Bentley's hand as he left the table saying, "ka kite, e hoa".
As Bentley left the council chamber, Chadwick said again she "took exception" to Bentley's remarks.
Councillor Raj Kumar said he believed there was "a lot of public discontentment" surrounding the council's bill.
"For us to engage in confidential on this matter excludes them [from] what we have heard all over the media, it's very contentious and it would have been very fair and democratic to discuss this in public."
Chadwick said she had made her ruling and there would be a public statement issued after the council's confidential discussion.
"I'm saddened that Councillor Bentley feels that way and has resigned."
Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson asked if the council would vote on moving the discussion into confidential, and Chadwick said it didn't need to.
"I've made a chair's ruling."
Councillor Reynold Macpherson said "very intense feelings" had been "generated" about the bill.
"For it to be moved into confidential will be regarded by ... "
He was then interrupted with points of order from Chadwick and Yates, with Yates saying it had already been ruled.
Chadwick said "thank you" to Yates.
The council meeting continued, with Chadwick later moving it into a public-excluded section.
Later, after the meeting was finished, the council released a statement from Chadwick saying the council had decided to "pause" the bill.
Outside the meeting, Macpherson said he was "surprised and disgusted" by the events in the meeting surrounding Bentley's resignation.
He said Bentley had given "selfless public service"for a long time and was a "highly respected and thoughtful fellow".
In his opinion, Bentley was "treated with contempt by the mayor" at the meeting.
"I am disgusted by [what I consider to be] the arrogant dismissal of his standing, his service and the absolute denial of the feedback he was trying to give.
Kumar said the meeting had been "really tense".
He said he spoke briefly to Bentley and Macpherson before the meeting, and had no indication this would happen.
"It caught us by surprise."
In his view, Bentley, who he described as a "very highly esteemed member of the community", had not been given proper respect in the proceedings.
"The mayor should have been just a little bit more accommodating in how he was treated.
"There are protocols, but we have to be flexible as well. I think Her Worship should have really exercised her right to let somebody [have their] say."
Kumar said he hoped Bentley would reconsider resigning and that Chadwick would be open to him returning.
"He doesn't deserve to go like this."
Councillor Tania Tapsell said she believed it was "wrong" for the mayor to not allow "open discussion" about the bill in public.
"[In my view] it did not need to be behind closed doors, our community deserves transparency.
"Peter is a hardworking man who has given a lot to our community. It will be hugely disappointing to lose him."
Yates said she was "a little overwhelmed" with the events.
"The mood changed — many of us were left wondering what had just happened."
She said she was saddened by Bentley's resignation.
Chadwick, who was given an opportunity to comment on the meeting and respond to councillors' comments, said she was "disappointed" Bentley resigned.
"It is the role of elected members to provide various views at the council table and he has chosen to give that up. That's his choice but it is disappointing for the community.
"I took exception to [what I view as] disrespectful, personal accusations he was making, asked him to apologise and when he wouldn't I asked him to leave. He then said he was resigning and left."
She said there was normally a formal process when a councillor resigned, so the council would need to "follow up with him".
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