Teen employee 'left in tears' by comments from Invercargill City Councillor Nigel Skelt

A teenager says she resigned from her job at ILT Stadium Southland because she felt unsafe after comments from a sitting Invercargill City councillor.

Correspondence about the incident, including her resignation letter and details of a hushed-up deal, was released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act this week.

In her resignation letter, the 18-year-old said Nigel Skelt - who was stadium manager at the time - suggested she would enjoy jelly wrestling naked and she was "a bikini and beach type of girl", which unsettled her.

He brought up jelly wrestling again while she was serving customers, telling them she was very good at it, she said in her letter.

On another occasion, she said Skelt made her sit in his chair, kneeling beside her and showing her a confidential presentation about the Southland Museum.

"When on the topic about the tuataras, he began to talk about them reproducing which made me feel very uncomfortable."

She tendered her resignation effective immediately on 17 February.

"These events left me in tears and as a result I don't feel comfortable or safe returning to work alongside Nigel Skelt at ILT Stadium Southland."

Skelt, who has been contacted for comment, resigned from his role as the stadium's general manager in April, citing medical grounds and personal reasons at the time.

The documents show Mayor Nobby Clark helped to arrange a payment of $3000 to cover the employee's lost income, an offer of counselling and work, a warning for Skelt, and a confidentiality agreement.

"This offer and it's [sic] contents is offered on a confidential basis so neither party is at reputational risk or harm," Clark said in an email dated 24 February.

The emails show he was made of aware of the incident on 19 February when the teenager's parent contacted him, saying he wanted him to know about what a sitting councillor put her through.

Nigel Skelt resigned from his role as ILT Stadium Southland manager in April but remains a councillor.
Nigel Skelt resigned from his role as ILT Stadium Southland manager in April but remains a councillor. Photo credit: Office of the Governor General / John Mathews

In response, Clark said it was a stadium management issue, not a council matter, but he took the allegations seriously.

He confirmed Skelt would be monitored and formally warned.

The stadium board is undertaking an external independent review. The council has confirmed Skelt remains a councillor.

In a letter to Clark, a parent of the teenager said he appeared more worried about the councillor and the stadium's reputation than the damage to a young woman and the potential for it to happen again.

"I hope you take this opportunity to not only deal with this particular incident for the sake of everybody's public image, but to learn from it and put measures in place to prevent it ever happening again."

Council chief executive Michael Day said the council had no direct role in the incident and the mayor elected to deal with the complaint in his capacity as the council representative on the Stadium Trust.

The mayor was notified of the complaint two days after the resignation letter was received.

"I became aware of the details of the issue when council received a Local Government Official Information Meeting Act request from media on 29 March 2023," Day said.

"The ombudsman makes it clear that where releasing information could affect someone other than the agency or the requester it is appropriate to consult that third party.

"If necessary, the statutory timeframe may be extended to enable this to occur. On this occasion, council was able to undertake that consultation and release the information to the public in an appropriate timeframe."

He confirmed Skelt remained in his role.

"Councillors and the continuation of their roles are governed by requirements under the Local Government Act 2002. I am not aware of any actions taken or decisions made regarding his role at this time."

Skelt was the highest polling councillor candidate in last year's local body election.