Early electioneering claims at Nelson City Council


Ructions are appearing around the Nelson City Council table with some being accused of using negative comments over council performance to grandstand for political purposes – despite the next election being a year away.

“It would seem, surprisingly at this early stage, that some councillors are entering into the election scene already,” acting Mayor Ian Barker told the Nelson Weekly.

The comments come after the 2017/18 annual report was adopted last Thursday.

Mel Courtney was one councillor who spoke negatively of the annual report, accusing the council of “overpromising and underdelivering” in the area of infrastructure in particular, and saying up to 40 per cent of council’s targets had not been met.

“I thought there had to be realistic point of view. You can’t say it’s a good performance. It was far from satisfactory, it really was. We can do better, we have to do better.”

However, Ian believes such comments are just signs of some early campaigning going on for the October 2019 election.

He says the negativity at the meeting was “counterproductive to teamwork and collaboration”.

“We’re nearly into November, what we are looking at is way back in the past. Rather than griping about what happened they should be working positively – we are four months into the next year.

“Councils can always do better. There are always problems, you can never be perfect. I believe we have achieved a lot.”

Mel, who is very active on social media, told the Weekly that he will “definitely” be running for council next year, but said the mayor’s seat was “something he wouldn’t want to clutter his mind with right now”.

“There’s no ulterior motive with me – I’m all about Nelson.”

Councillor Matt Lawrey also said at the council meeting he was concerned to see so many “red not achieved marks”.

“I’m sure it would concern members of the public who picked up the report.”

Speaking to the Weekly, councillor Mike Rutledge said that if there was electioneering going on, it would be “quite unhelpful to be positioning yourself this far out when your role you’re elected for is to do is do the best for the city”.

“Some people do appear like they are positioning themselves … it makes the environment quite politically charged.

“There was nothing in [the annual report] that was a surprise … we knew all that stuff. There is limited benefit to be gained looking backwards.”

Ian said, despite the negativity, it was pleasing to see that rating income was under-spent by $270,000, and there were also mentions of successful major infrastructure upgrades at the Neale Park pump station, Saxton Creek flood protection and the conversion of street lights to LED.

Ian also noted successful events, such as the Nelson Arts Festival and Opera in the Park, along with the Upper Trafalgar Street pedestrian precinct as highlights over the past year.