Op-ed: Sir Tim – What would you say you actually do here?
The following is an op-ed written by New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Analyst Neil Miller. It is free for publication.
Sir Timothy Richard Shadbolt has had a very long, often illustrious, always colourful career in local government. He famously ‘did not care where as long as he was Mayor’, which took him from losing in Waitemata to winning in Invercargill where he has held the Mayoral chains since 1998. Shadbolt is the longest serving Mayor in New Zealand, but it is time for him to go.
He is known for his roguish grin, the famous concrete mixer (“Karl Marx”) he towed behind the Mayoral car, and being arrested for uttering the word “bullshit”, one of his 33 arrests for political protests and later inspiration for the title of his autobiography “Bullshit and Jellybeans” (1971).
In the last year, Mayor Tim is suddenly not so funny anymore.
An independent review of Invercargill City Council concluded he is not fit for the role. Shadbolt needs help chairing meetings and “is struggling to fulfil significant aspects of his role”.
The Mayor can no longer drive the Mayoral car after his license was revoked. He has refused to explain why to ratepayers.
This begs the question – if you have to be driven to council meetings where councillors and staff have to help you chair the meeting, “Sir Tim, what would you say you actually do here?”
Faced with the review which all but calls for his resignation, Shadbolt belligerently doubled down. He promised to run for another three to four terms (by which time he would be 86 years old), or to, in his words, “semi-retire” to the Southland Regional Council (Environment Southland).
The first course of action shows a stunning lack of self-awareness about his growing limitations and arrogance about his popularity, the second shows complete disdain for an important layer of local government. Being a regional councillor is a job, not a retirement junket for lifetime politicians.
Sir Tim should test his mandate with ratepayers right now without stretching this embarrassing decline to the next election. He should resign and stand for re-election. When he loses, and he would, he should retire gracefully.
He has got his gong, and rightly so. Shadbolt is a remarkable New Zealander to whom we will always owe a debt. Like all political careers, there needs to be a final curtain call. We’re sorry Sir Tim, but that time for you is now.