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The reason for Fran Wilde’s resignation: a no confidence letter from 9 councillors

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The protective blackout curtains have been dragged back from the Wellington Regional Council today, with revelations from DomPost reporter Andrea O’Neil about why chair Fran Wilde announced her resignation at the weekend.

Till now, disagreements at the regional council have usually been kept secret. And the council’s bland website this morning fails even to mention the resignation of the chair. (Its ‘latest news’ is about river schemes and carpooling.) But the DomPost tells all:

Wilde quit as chairwoman on Saturday after being presented with a letter of no confidence signed by nine of her councillors. Only Paul Swain, Chris Laidlaw and Judith Aitken did not sign. The group that rolled Wilde, led by councillor Prue Lamason, told Wilde her advocacy for amalgamation had led to a “climate of tension and mistrust” between Greater Wellington and the region’s local councils. The coup was sparked by a new regional reorganisation plan drafted without regional councillors’ knowledge, and revealed by Wilde to a select few last week, Lamason said.

In her new plan …

… Wilde recommended the transfer of major functions from local councils to the regional body, including roading, water, and economic development. “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am gobsmacked, boggled,” Lamason said. “Our first submission made it look like we had boxing gloves on. Plan B makes us look like we’ve still got boxing gloves on, and now we’re kickboxing as well.”

Pru Lamason, who led the anti-Wilde group, emerges as a councillor with a wide vocabulary. And she has more to say about the chair who’s now leaving:

Wilde had verbally steamrolled anybody who opposed her on amalgamation, which amounted to a culture of bullying, Lamason said.

The letter of no-confidence was signed by Lamason, deputy chair Barbara Donaldson, and Nigel Wilson, Sandra Greig, Ken Laban, Jenny Brash, Gary McPhee, Paul Bruce, and Sue Kedgley.

And though she’s stepping down from the position that she’s held since 2007, Fran Wilde seems unrepentant:

Wilde said her opponents were staging a purely political leadership challenge, and correct process was followed in drafting Plan B. She denied any accusations of bullying. “I’m the fall guy, but I don’t mind. Part of being a leader is taking the rap,” she said.

There doesn’t seem to have been any formal announcement of the Wilde resignation. It was first reported on Saturday by NewsTalk ZB, with the news then being picked up by other media.

Fran Wilde will step down at the end of the month. She will remain a regional councillor, and says this will allow her to be in a position to speak out unfettered by being the Chair.

Ian Apperley: The Regional Council is finished