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Manukau Mayor Out of Line on Tonga Decision

Cr Jami-Lee Ross Manukau City Councillor For Howick

18 January 2007

Manukau Mayor Out of Line on Tonga Decision

The decision by Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis to send council staff to Tonga is out line and not in the best interests of Manukau residents or ratepayers.

Mayor Curtis today defended the decision in a media release from the Manukau City Council after significant concerns were raised by Howick Councillor Jami-Lee Ross and a number of his colleagues.

The media release did not explain why normal council decision making procedures were not followed when commitments were made to the Tongan Government.

Mr Ross says he is concerned that council staff are being removed from their day to day responsibilities in departments where staff are carrying huge workloads, and at a time when the Council is still recovering from Christmas backlogs.

"The staff of the Manukau City Council are employed to provide services to the residents and ratepayers of Manukau City, not Nuku'alofa in Tonga. By committing council staff to do work in a foreign country the Mayor and chief executive are taking staff away from their normal council responsibilities.

"It is not the role of the Manukau City Council to be providing town planning services to overseas governments, especially when the Council's own performance is not up to scratch.

"Like many other local authorities, we are struggling to employ enough town planners to process resource consent applications on time and we simply can not afford to lose staff in this area."

Mr Ross says he is also concerned that the decision to send staff to Tonga did not follow normal council decision making, and was never discussed by the council before the decision was made.

"At no time was this decision discussed at a meeting of the Manukau City Council and the Mayor has made a commitment to the Tonga government without any mandate to do so.

"It is normal in a democracy for decisions to be made through the appropriate decision making body. In this case the Mayor was out of line and Manukau City Council is apparently being governed by mayoral decree."

Mr Ross says since raising this issue in local media earlier this week he has received many phone calls from concerned Manukau ratepayers. He and other councillors intend to pursue the issue when meetings of the Manukau City Council resume in February.


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