New mayor Rachel Reese at Nelson City Council on Monday. Photo: Andrew Board.

Mayoral candidates clash at meeting

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Nelson’s two top mayoralty contenders came head-to-head at a council meeting on Thursday, over the shake up of the community services committee.

Mayor Rachel Reese and chair of the community services committee councillor Pete Rainey, who has recently announced that he will be running for mayor, butted heads over Reese’s decision in early March to split the committee in two.

It would see the creation of a new sports and recreation committee, which will be led by deputy mayor Paul Matheson.

In her mayors report to Thursday’s extraordinary meeting, Reese said she was not pitching arts and culture against sports and recreation, but was recognising “that all play an important part in making Nelson a great place to live and visit”.

The report also said she’d already sent Matheson “on a mission” to meet sport and recreation groups.

peteraineyHowever, Rainey said he was “extremely disappointed” and found it “particularly unsettling”.

“I do find it extremely concerning that the new committee structure hasn’t had the opportunity to be ratified by council, yet in your report, you clearly state you have set out to send the deputy mayor out ‘on a mission,’ to meet with as many sports and recreation organisations as he could,” he said.

“So in essence, you’ve asked the deputy mayor to go out, and some could say, to undermine the current committee structure that we have by seeking feedback on another scenario that hasn’t come to fruition. Now I find that unacceptable and I’ve had much comment from members of the public as to why this is happening so late in the term.”

He asked why was it not brought up earlier, “as there were ample opportunities to bring this up at strategic council planning opportunities.”

Reese told Rainey that Matheson had not been asked to consult groups on the committee, but to see if they wanted greater engagement with councillors.

“The feedback we have had is that they are keen for more engagement,” she said.

She also says that, on advice from chief executive Clare Hadley, any questions would be answered at the next ordinary meeting on May 5.

Councillors Matt Lawrey and Paul Matheson also clashed at the meeting, with Lawrey suggesting that Matheson “sits on a pokie trust that funds sports bodies”.

He was interrupted by Matheson with a point of order.

“I do not sit on a pokie trust.”

Lawrey was asked to withdraw his statement, but asked for clarification as to what Matheson’s involvement was.

Matheson said he did not have a conflict of interest, and he was on an advisory committee of the New Zealand Community Trust. He leaves the room whenever council discussed pokie machines.

“I’m not going to be interviewed by you,” he said to Lawrey.