Thu, May 9, 2024 11:12 AM

Marlborough by-election still possible when MP Jamie Arbuckle resigns


Maia Hart

When he joined Parliament as an NZ First List MP, Jamie said he intended to stay on as a councillor until October 2024, so that Marlborough ratepayers weren’t lumped with a “costly $130k+ local by-election."

Councillor seats vacated less than 12 months before the next local body election did not have to be filled.

However, Marlborough mayor Nadine Taylor said on Wednesday that the council would still need to vote on whether to hold a by-election after receiving Jamie’s resignation.

“A paper will be framed up, and I'll bring that to council, and then councillors will decide whether we continue to run with a vacancy or whether we go to a by-election,” Nadine said.

“So it actually comes down to a vote of councillors to which way we go.

“I understand what councillor Arbuckle was trying to achieve in saving the cost of a by-election, and I'm sure other councillors will understand that, but there is a matter of democracy here, and the councillors will have to debate that.”

Jamie Arbuckle entered Parliament as a list MP for NZ First in October. Photo: Robert Kitchin/The Post/Supplied

Jamie had been working two jobs since he was elected as an NZ First MP last year.

At the time, he said he felt juggling the two roles would be easy enough until Christmas 2023, and said he would hand his council remuneration back after that, should he feel he could not give the job his all.

In an interview this month, he said he was keeping up and had decided to keep both roles and both salaries.

But Labour leader Chris Hipkins claimed Jamie was “double-dipping”, and Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said he would not allow a National MP to continue working a second job.

On Tuesday, Jamie said “in light of feedback and upon reflection” he would stand down as a councillor in October.

In a statement, he said he would start donating his council salary to charity in the meantime, and would wait to stand down so he did not cause a by-election.

Nadine said she was glad to hear some certainty around Arbuckle’s intention to resign in October.

“This decision had to be Jamie's,” she said.

“There is no mayoral power to order a councillor to resign, so I'm really pleased that he's taken this decision and given some clarity to it.”

Should Jamie’s position become vacant for a year, she said the other Blenheim ward councillors would be able to fill any gaps.

“I don't think the dynamic of council will change. We're a very unified council and there are already some really hardworking Blenheim councillors on the team.

“So I’m sure that Blenheim would continue to have good, strong representation.

“Certainly councillor Arbuckle is one of my most experienced councillors, that's why he'd previously been given the chairmanship, but remembering that councillor Arbuckle has already stepped back from the chairmanship and the leadership of his subcommittees and his portfolios.

“So we've been operating without him in those particular roles already ... and other councillors have stepped up and are fulfilling all of those roles and doing an excellent job."

The council will have to decide whether to hold a by-election or continue with one less councillor for a year. Photo: Marlborough Express/Supplied.

Jamie was the chairman of the Marlborough District Council’s economic, finance and community committee until he was elected as an MP.

In November, Nadine reshuffled the council’s committees amid Jamie's entry to Parliament.

Nadine said she and Jamie had a conversation about his workload following the election, and the pair agreed he would step back from chairing any committees.

He had stayed on as a member of the economic, finance and community committee but stepped down from a number of other council committees including chairing a long-term plan working group.

He had also been scratched from seven subcommittees: audit and risk, CBD and parking, commercial events fund, housing for seniors, MDC Holdings and Marlborough Airport Ltd, climate change and the hearings committee.

His two reassigned portfolios included resource consents and financial reporting.

LRD is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ on Air.

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