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Regional | Te Tai Tokerau

New Northland Regional Council chair Geoff Crawford elected at explosive meeting

Tears, accusations, recriminations, claims and counter-claims flew as the complete takeover of Northland Regional Council by a right-leaning five-person majority elected farmer Geoff Crawford as chair and former chair Tui Shortland (Ngāti Hine, Ngātiwai, Te Rarawa) as their new deputy chair.

Crawford was elected over a second nomination for now former deputy chair Jack Craw during the explosive roughly two-and-a-half hours it took to totally change council governance. All voting by the nine-member council that made the change happen was dominated throughout by the five.

Hikurangi Swamp farmer Crawford (56) is part of the quintet also made up of Te Rāki Māori Constituency representative and now deputy-chair Shortland, as well as fellow farmers John Blackwell and Joe Carr and Te Rāki Māori Constituency Peter-Lucas Jones (Te Aupōuri, Ngai Takoto).

Crawford said after his election to the top job at the meeting on Tuesday he was excited to move the council forward.

He said the people of Northland would start to see things happen.

Meanwhile, Shortland said after her deputy-chair’s election she was pleased to be in the new role. She resigned as chair in early November after saying her time in that position had become untenable, that resignation effective from just after the start of Tuesday’s NRC council meeting.

Clean sweep

The quintet achieved a clean-sweep removal of Craw and councillors Amy Macdonald, Marty Robinson and Rick Stolwerk from a raft of council and inter-council committees on which they previously had leading roles.

This included removing Craw from the council’s biosecurity and biodiversity working party.

Craw has had a 40-year career in biosecurity including working for the United Nations across the Pacific, the British Government on Pitcairn Island, Australia’s Victoria state government, as NRC staff and as Auckland Council’s biosecurity manager.

He has had a key role in leading the fight against kauri dieback and the pest seaweed caulerpa and been part of introducing 50 key achievement milestones into NRC’s Biosecurity Plan, against which achievement can be measured.

Craw is being replaced by the quintet’s Joe Carr in a now divided council.

Meanwhile, Robinson was removed from Taitokerau Māori and Council Working Party (TTMAC) and his role as co-chair.

This was in spite of an email he tabled at the meeting that had been received from a representative of Te Runanga-Ā-Iwi-Ō-Ngāpuhi that sits with TTMAC and Te Takiwa o Ngāpuhi ki Whangārei trustee Janelle Beazley against this happening.

Ecologist removed

She said this opposition was supported by runanga chair Wane Wharerau and the trustees of Te Runanga-Ā-Iwi-Ō-Ngāpuhi, Te Rōopu Takiwā o Mangakahia, Ngāpuhi ki te Hauāuru, Ngāpuhi Hokianga, Taiamai ki te Marangai, Ngāpuhi ki Waitematā and Te Takiwā-Ō-Ngāphui-Ki-Te-Tonga-Ō-Tamaki Makaurau.

He was replaced by Shortland.

Jones, who nominated Shortland for TTMAC said she was the best person for this committee’s role.

Freshwater ecologist Macdonald was removed from her role as deputy chair and member of Northland’s groundbreaking inter-council governance-level joint climate adaptation committee.

Macdonald, who also formerly chaired the committee, Craw too lost his role on this committee.

Craw said Macdonald was nationally recognised for her work in this area.

Their replacements farmers chair Crawford and Blackwell illustrates the council’s right-leaning leadership shift.

Craw removed

Craw was also removed from the heavyweight inter-council governance-level Northland civil defence and emergency management committee along with Stolwerk who has been part of this group for a number of years. The were replaced by the quintet’s chair Crawford and deputy chair Shortland.

The governance group’s right leaning shift quickly played out when it came to making a decision on an agenda item where putting $750,000 from the council’s land management reserve was to be put towards resourcing the implementation of the council’s divisive and controversial Draft Freshwater Plan.

Crawford pushed to put this resourcing decision on hold until after Christmas, until the new government had provided clear direction on what direction it would be taking on it.

But after discussion, the council decided to put it only somewhat on hold till its next council meeting on 12 December and continue with the groundwork needed to set it up and meet implementation deadlines.

NRC is currently in the middle of public consultation over the controversial draft plan.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting