Far North Mayor Moko Tepania during the pōwhiri for the new Far North District Council at Waitangi Treaty Grounds in October. Photo / Tania Whyte
A breakdown in the relationship with Far North Mayor Moko Tepania is believed to be behind the departure of the district council’s chief executive only 13 months after he started the job, the Northland Age has learned.
The Age has learned frustrations began shortly after Tepania topped the polls for mayor of the Far North in the October local government elections.
Issues that emerged as sticking points between the pair lay unresolved from then through to April, when Blair King handed in his resignation.
King started as Far North District Council chief executive in April last year and finished on May 10.
Tepania wouldn’t answer questions about the reason for King’s resignation. He said he could not do so as a “responsible employer”.
“He put his resignation in, so he has finished up his time with us. I’m not even going to comment at all on any of this,” he said.
Tepania said he was “sad” to see King go. When asked about their relationship, he said: “I don’t want to be drawn into any speculation or factors in this space.”
He said the council had shortlisted recruitment companies that would be hired to find a new chief executive. The council would decide which to go with and the search for a new chief executive would begin, he said.
Others on the council were effusive in their praise of the civil engineer, who had been hired by former mayor John Carter and the previous council.
Kaikohe-Hokianga general ward councillor John Vujcich said he was “a little bit surprised” at the departure.
By way of context, Vujcich said it was a “completely new council” with Māori wards, for which he had voted in the previous term, that included people who had never been in council before “and a young mayor who is doing a good job”.
“There’s not much I can say and I haven’t been fully involved with the reasons,” he said, adding that he had been briefed enough to enable decision-making.
“It makes life a little bit harder because the chief executive is a crucial part of a well-functioning council.”
Vujcich said: “It does look bad. Both were very professional in the way they operated.” He said King appeared “quite capable”.
Another councillor from the past administration, Felicity Foy, said, “I’m really disappointed to see Blair go.”
She said she could not comment on the reasons because they covered “employment matters”.
“I really wanted Blair to stay and I thought he was doing a great job. I would have loved for Blair to stay.
“He had already made a lot of progress on historic asset management. I don’t want to see that fall by the wayside. Having an engineer like Blair there was a key opportunity.”
Foy said it was important people realised councillors had only one vote on the council – as did the mayor – and decisions were made by majority.
Former deputy mayor and councillor for Bay of Islands-Whangaroa general ward Ann Court said: “I think he was hands-down the best chief executive we have ever had. I feel his departure is a heavy loss to the Far North.”
King was approached for comment but declined to do so. He came to the job after 12 years as chief executive for Tararua District Council. King replaced former Far North District Council chief executive Shaun Clarke, who left in March 2022 after five years in the role.