Southlanders were keen to make their voices heard this week, as the political dramas in Gore reached something of a showdown.
More than 200 members of the Gore community turned up outside the District Council chambers on Tuesday afternoon, keen to voice their support for first-term mayor Ben Bell.
Growing tensions around the council table came to a head last week, with a majority of councillors requesting an extraordinary meeting be held.
Their original letter had called for a vote of no confidence in the young mayor, along with a motion to have Mayor Bell removed from 9 council committees.
But protesters believe he deserves a fair shot.
“We voted for him, we want him to stay, and we want the other councillors to listen”, said one woman.
“Ben is a good young mayor that needs to be supported”, insisted another local resident.
Southland Mayor Rob Scott and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan both turned up to the meeting, in solidarity with their neighbouring political leader.
“What’s happening inside here is Gore’s business”, said Mayor Scott. “But I’m just here to support Ben as a fellow Mayoral colleague.”
Gore District Council CEO Stephen Parry was absent from Tuesday’s meetings, due to family issues.
However many in the community would prefer to see a vote of no confidence in the CEO’s position. A petition calling for Parry to resign has received almost 5,000 signatures.
The Mayor and councillors released a combined statement after Tuesday’s meeting, apologising to the community for the recent turmoil.
And in a bid to restore public confidence, the council plans to work with Local Government NZ and Taituarā to establish an independent review on the situation.
Supporters of Mayor Bell satisfied with how the meeting went.
“I’m so grateful for everyone showing up. I’m so grateful the council came to their senses”, said one supporter.
Another woman who turned up with a painted placard, calling it “great news”
“Really happy that the council’s listened to the community. And we can move forward hopefully from here.”
However the joint council statement noted that the strained relationship between Mayor Bell and CEO Stephen Parry is a separate issue, that is still to be addressed.