In a shock move and without explanation, Kaipara Mayor Greg Gent has handed in his resignation, effective on November 15th, just over a year since his landslide election in the October 2016 local body poll.
Mr Gent told the Kaipara Lifestyler on Monday morning: “I am advising councillor's this morning that Iam resigning as mayor, effective from the November 15, which is our next ordinary council meeting. I will make no further comment."
Pressed for more information in a later telephone call, Mr Gent simply said “It will be business as usual until Nivember 15, and I have a busy week of engagements ahead.”
The Electoral Act states that a by-election will have to take place if a mayor or councillor leave office during the term unless there are less than 12 months to the next full council election.
Deputy Mayor Peter Wethey said the decision “came as a very big surprise."
“It was met with a little disbelief by councillors. I expect to be in an acting role following November 15 until by-election details are worked through with the electoral commission.”
Mr Gent’s announcement comes hard on the heels of news that KDC has recorded a financial year surplus of $2.8 million which is earmarked to retire inherited debt.
The debt stood at $62.1 million as at the end of June this year, resulting from the previous council’s ill-starred Mangawhai wastewater project cost blowout.
Mr Gent and councillors are currently holding a series of consultative meetings around Kaipara in order to outline council policy and canvas public expectations. Next on the list is a meeting at Pahi next Friday, in the form of a social gathering at the Pahi Hall from 4pm.
“On October 25 I will be holding an ‘annual general meeting’ at the Lounge, Maungaturoto Centennial Hall starting at 1pm, for the financial year just completed.,” Mr Gent said last week.
“The meeting will be an opportunity to ‘hold us to account’ for that year. We finished the year with a surplus of $2.8 million which will be used to retire debt.
That was against a budgeted surplus set by the Commissioners of $200,000.
“All of the surplus will be used to retire debt. The year also ended very positively from a working capital perspective but weather meant we got less infrastructure projects completed.
“We will spend some time having a look at that carry over and see how much can be rolled forward or whether further debt reduction is an option.”
Mr Gent said roading working capital would not be allocated to other council projects, and would be used for that purpose.
“We are working our way through that at present after the prolonged wet weather, everything is slush and we are behind where we want to be. NZTA is involved in our discussions and we are working our way through this.”
He said council was looking to reduce debt as it could afford to do so.
“We don’t want this debt to be carried forward into another generation, and part of that effort may involve communities doing more things to support local progress.”