Majority of Gore District Councillors want Mayor Ben Bell to step down

Gore Mayor Ben Bell.
Gore Mayor Ben Bell. Photo credit: RNZ/Facebook (supplied).


New Zealand's youngest ever mayor is being called on to resign by the majority of his council.

Ben Bell won Gore's mayoral chains with a razor-thin margin at October's local elections.

Since then the Gore District Council has been beset by controversies and discord.

RNZ revealed in March that Bell and the Gore District Council chief executive Stephen Parry were no longer speaking.

At a meeting last month, councillor Richard McPhail was appointed as an intermediary for the two men.

Now McPhail, Gore deputy mayor Keith Hovell and five of the other eight councillors are calling for Bell to go.

Hovell and McPhail met with Bell yesterday to ask him to resign.

Bell's actions in recent weeks had led to the difficult decision to request his resignation, Hovell said.

The majority of councillors had lost confidence in the mayor and lost trust in him acting in the best interests of the community and council as a whole, Hovell said.

Bell rejected the request and as a result the council would hold an extraordinary meeting next week to vote on a number of measures, including calling on Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty to intervene.

The council would vote on three motions:

  • That the council writes to the Minister of Local Government requesting a meeting with council representatives. The purpose of the meeting will be to talk about intervention measures available to assist the council to effectively govern and conduct its business as usual
  • That the council passes a vote of no confidence in the mayor
  • The council removes the mayor from all committees, sub-committees and joint committees

At last month's meeting the council attempted to remove Bell from the committee which oversaw the performance of the chief executive.

However, he pushed back, noting the Local Government Act made the mayor a defacto member of all council committees.

Hovell said he hoped the council could preserve democratic representation in the Gore District with some support from central government.

"We are eager to continue to represent the interests of the wider community and the people we serve," he said.