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Northland Regional Council Chair Survives Coup

Northland Regional Council has been told to sort its 'dysfunctionality' as chair Geoff Crawford survives the organisation's second leadership coup in six months.

New Zealand First List MP Shane Jones said Northland Regional Council (NRC)'s nine politicians needed to set aside egos and personal agendas and work for the good of Te Tai Tokerau

But the quintet's efforts to pull this off failed after two of its members kickstarted a change of tack at the meeting.

NRC was on the doorstep of becoming New Zealand's first regional council to have a sequence of three new chairs across a single three-year governance term - after a quintet of councillors moved to formally overthrow Crawford at its May meeting in Whangārei on Tuesday (SUBS: May 28).

The quintet of NRC deputy-chair Tui Shortland and Jack Craw, Amy Macdonald, Marty Robinson and Rick Stolwerk lodged formal documentation on May 6 to depose Crawford at Tuesday's meeting and appoint a new chair.

However, the meeting saw firstly Robinson, seconded by Craw change tack.

Within minutes of the meeting formally beginning, they successfully pushed for the requisition to remove Crawford to not proceed at all, and that this call was voted on without further debate.

Crawford who was chairing the meeting put their move to councillors- with seven voting in its favour and two abstaining.

Then May quintet members Amy Macdonald and Rick Stolwerk then also shifted. They joined John Blackwell, Joe Carr and Chair Crawford voted for the duo's move.

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Deputy-chair Shortland and Peter-Lucas Jones abstained from voting.

Shane Jones took the unusual step of phoning around NRC councillors ahead of Tuesday's meeting, expressing his concern about what was unfolding and the implications of further instability it potentially created.

He said this was a first in his political career, indicating the degree of seriousness with which he took the NRC situation.

The NZ First member said NRC's ongoing political drama was not good for the region.

"The ructions blight the good name of Northland," he said.

He said politics locally and nationally was always made up of passionate politicians with a variety of political perspectives.

"When you step up to the plate to be a politician you do have the burden of making decisions for people who might not have voted for you."

"Park your ego at the door," MP Jones added.

Crawford would not speculate after the meeting on what might have made quintet councillors change their mind ahead of Tuesday's meeting.

He accepted the democratic manouvering of recent months had been a distraction for the council that needed to be doing its job.

Crawford said a positive outcome of Tuesday's meeting was that it had brought more cohesion.

He wanted to move the council forward in unity.

"I'm excited about us working together. There are lots of projects underway we need to keep moving on," Crawford said.

Shortland, who went up to Crawford after the meeting and shook his hand, would not comment on Tuesday's failed bid to remove Crawford and put in a new chair.

Meanwhile Robinson would not say why he had become part of the May 6 quintet move. He said he had changed tack at Tuesday's meeting for the good of the region and to get things moving forward as one.

Craw would not comment on his part in the May quintet or why he changed tack on Tuesday.

Tuesday's failed coup came six months after a previous successful equivalent in November, led by an earlier slightly different quintet, that saw Crawford sweep into power and created ongoing acrimony.

The November quintet was made up of Crawford, Shortland, John Blackwell, Joe Carr and Peter-Lucas Jones.

It successfully deposed then deputy-chair Craw, Amy Macdonald, Robinson and Rick Stolwerk from a raft of powerful council and inter-council governance committees.

Shortland had resigned as NRC chair just ahead of the November meeting.

Tuesday's May quintet was on May 6 made up of Shortland, Craw, Macdonald, Robinson and Stolwerk.

Local Government Minister Simeon Brown said he was being kept informed about NRC's ongoing leadership changes.

"I encourage all members of the Northland Regional Council to work together on the challenges and opportunities facing Northland," Brown said.

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