New Zealand's recent local government drama

1News Reporters 1News Reporters | 06-21 16:20

Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark refused to resign at an extraordinary council meeting today following a series of complaints about his use of racial slurs and behaviour at an event.

The mayor's behaviour has made headlines in the past year or so and is at the centre of several controversies.

The drama around Clark kicked off after he used the n-word while speaking at an Art Foundation event in March 2023 and said he used it to "make people think".

He doubled down on using the word while being interviewed by Guy Williams for the satirical news show New Zealand Today. In the interview, Clark claimed to dislike the word but repeated it multiple times.

Councillor Ian Pottinger described the interview as a "train wreck" and filed a code of conduct complaint against Clark.


More recently, another complaint was lodged about comments he was alleged to have made at a United Fire Brigades' Association (UFBA) event.

Included in the allegations were claims he called volunteer firefighters second class citizens, verbally attacked the MC, and disparaged young people in authority.

Clark apologised for his behaviour and blamed it on "brain fade" following open-heart surgery.

At today's meeting, he refused to resign, and a motion to formally ask him to resign was narrowly defeated. Councillors did vote to censure him and he will be asked to step back from public appearances.

It's not the first time an Invercargill mayor has been in the spotlight.

Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt. (Source: 1News)

In 2020, an independent report found Clark's predecessor – longtime mayor Tim Shadbolt – had "difficulty in discharging many of the normal duties of a mayor".


Nobby Clark with former mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt. (Source: Supplied)

The report said that by the end of his term, Shadbolt — who spent over two decades as mayor — was "struggling to follow Council agendas and papers without assistance".

"Many interviewees reported a range of obvious concerns including short-term memory deficits, confusion, and the need to be closely managed by both Council staff and senior Councillors in order to chair a Council meeting."

Shadbolt said the report was called "flawed" after its release.

Shadbolt failed to secure the mayoralty in the 2022 local elections after choosing not to campaign. Clark replaced him in the role.

Just 50 minutes north of Invercargill, Gore dealt with its own council drama when young Mayor Ben Bell and long-serving chief executive Stephen Parry fell out.

One expert believes it's the wrong call, saying it's not about finding fault but rather preventing a repeat of the past. (Source: 1News)


Bell's tenure as mayor became turbulent just weeks into the job due to a "working relationship breakdown" with the Council's chief executive of 22 years, Parry.

A public protest called for Parry to resign, alongside calls for Bell to also step aside.

In the end, Parry resigned from the top job.

At the other end of the country, Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson faced a hikoi and calls from the public to resign after he refused to allow karakia in council meetings.

Kaipara District Mayor Craig Jepson acknowledges the protesters. (Source: 1News)

He claimed it was to run a "secular" council, eventually reaching a compromise in which councillors could open meetings by reciting karakia and making statements of self-reflection on a rotating basis.

Not only the towns and regions but also the big cities have seen their share of local drama as well.


In 2019, the Tauranga City Council fell apart due to internal conflicts and was unable to get anything done. Just a year later, the whole council was dismissed, and Mayor Tenby Powell resigned.

A four-person commission, led by former National minister Anne Tolley, was then appointed to step in for the Tauranga City Council from February 2021.

On July 20 voting will close as Tauranga's residents vote for a new council.

Last year Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau admitted she had a drinking problem after her social life hit headlines, including skipping out on a bill at a popular restaurant in the capital.

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau. (Source: 1News)

She said she has since sought professional help and counsel from friends, family and colleagues.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown had a rocky start to his term, with what he admitted was a lacklustre response to the Auckland Anniversary floods.


(Source: 1News)

Critics said his declaration of an emergency was slow, while others attacked him for a perceived lack of leadership.

More on this topic

'Fall on your sword and resign': Pressure mounts on Nobby Clark

Thursday 9:00pm

Invercargill mayor blames 'brain fade' for alleged verbal attacks

Thursday 9:16am

Nobby Clark: Invercargill councillors vote to censure mayor



He also came under fire over messages he sent, despondently being forced to cancel tennis "to deal with media drongos over the flooding".

He later said there were a number of lessons to learn from the council's flood response.

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