Easier to oppose than govern
By Roger Childs
Three years ago KIN published an article called A Fiery Church Baptism. It was on the early days of the mayoralty of Ross Church.
Like K Gurunathan (Guru), Ross Church had been a councillor in the Jenny Rowan regime, but had not always seen eye to eye with her, notably over the issue of water metres.
However, as mayor himself, he accepted the democratic decision to install the metres, but was taken to task by some councillors, notably Jackie Elliott.
Both Church and Gurunathan found that once in charge at the top of the Council table, life was very different from being a councillor on the side.
Bringing the good news from Otaki to Paraparaumu
Just bring me the good news. Attributed to Mussolini
During his years “in opposition” Guru had a weekly column in the Kapiti News: “Notes from a Corner Dairy.” He examined many local issues in detail, and as a journalistic sniper often criticised the decisions made by the elected Council, and the actions of Pat Dougherty and the KCDC management.
The column continues, however, like previous mayors, the weekly report from the top has a distinctly positive approach. There is no problem with this, however Guru does need to be realistic in his reporting and address issues that are raised by the people who elected him and help pay his salary.
A case in point was the shambles over the tsunami warning which followed the disastrous North Canterbury earthquake. The Kapiti Coast was not alone in being confused, however no sirens sounded here and people, who did drive inland in search of higher ground, found that the lights in Kapiti Road did not facilitate rapid movement towards the hills.
Guru, in his post-earthquake column, focused on the excellent organisation and work done by Council staff, but did not comment on getting KCDC policy on tsunami warnings sorted out.
Putting feet wrong
The new mayor faced reality when at the first official meeting of the newly elected Council after the inauguration, local activist Dale Evans, questioned the appointment of Michael Scott to the chairmanship of the key Business and Finance Committee. Guru had been very critical of Cr M Scott’s role in the last Code of Conduct case of the previous triennium.
However, Guru justified the appointment on the basis that the councillor had been re-elected to the Waikanae Ward and had the skills for the job. Not everyone agreed, and some councillors will also be wondering about the overall fairness of the allocation of committee and community liaison portfolios.
Later, over the issue of pay increases for the new elected council and committee chair-people, the new mayor used his casting vote to push the extra expenditure through. Not quite what voters expected from the man who preached financial responsibility on the campaign trail.
Then at the first council meeting with a 30 minute Public Forum, the mayor got into a heated verbal exchange with Salima Padamsey over coastal erosion policy. Furthermore, he did not provide a convincing response to the question of why the forum submissions from ratepayers were not livestreamed and put on the public record.
This last issue will no doubt surface again at the next meeting on Thursday November 24.
The early part of the first hundred days has been a mixed bag for the new occupant of the mayor’s office. People are wondering if he will carry out his commitment on the hustings, to running a local authority which would conduct its business in an open, transparent and democratically accountable manner.
Getting back on track
It is early days, however Mayor Gurunathan needs to start fulfilling the trust that Kapiti citizens have placed in him.
He can begin by reversing the current restriction on the Public Forum, which, in the words of the KCDC website, will:
- not be subject to Standing Orders
- not be minuted or livestreamed.