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Thick As Thieves! 

The New Year has rolled around, and I am inclined to raise the ante a bit by drawing attention to the cosy relationship that has existed for a very long time between our esteemed erstwhile Mayor, and the behind the scenes factotum at the local Mediaworks (Coro FM) station – formerly its head sherang – Warren Male.

I intend to dig a little deeper into the implications of this relationship – recently enhanced by Male moving alongside Leach in the latters new apartments in the old Salutation hotel – conveniently opposite the Council chambers, and renovated, reportedly at a cost well in excess of budget – a familiar situation at Council. How apt, how cosy!

The consummation of the old buddy relationship in this manner is not surprising – Male has been at Leach’s back for ever and a day, and tightly controlled anything that went to air at Coro FM that may have been construed as criticism. In fact, reports indicate that it went well beyond just old buddy stuff, and that favours may have been extracted in return for continued support.

It is reliably and widely reported that Leach's electioneering material was broadcast at particularly favourable rates and times, and it did not take long for a commercial arrangement to be entered into once he was elected, providing TCDC funded weekly slots to be broadcast containing bulletins on his progress and that of his Council.

These have included interviews with Leach that are conducted in an apparently spontaneous manner, but no questions permitted that are not pre-vetted by Leach, or written by the Council PR unit, and woe betide any cheeky 'interviewer' who crossed the line with any searching question – particularly on anything derived from my posts, or my 'Peninsula Post' column while it lasted.

Male apparently provided oversight of this process, and thus the willing dissemination of favourable propaganda over Leach’s entire term. What possible advantage could Male have derived from this arrangement? Surely not the poisoned chalice that constituted his appointment as a Trustee on the Hauraki Rail Trail Trust - that must have come as a shock when he read the reports, and realised the implications - his rapid departure certainly bears that out!

I have never listened to Coro FM, so I have to rely on second hand reports of this fantastic arrangement that may or may not be continued by Mediaworks under its new management. Male’s role as ‘consultant’ probably gives him a continuing influence over the manner in which the local arrangements are managed, but with Leach on the way out, its importance has probably diminished. Certainly his casual appearance before Council to plead for a paltry handout for some music festival must have been an embarrassment, even though he appeared anything but! Cocky would more aptly have described his demeanour. 

I think we should all be watching closely to see just how the arrangement continues leading up to the election – will French be provided with the same privileges for instance? Leach has made no secret of his support for his deputy, and French has certainly made little or no effort to put space between himself and Leach – he has been the ideal deputy, but he has not shown any particular political nous that would indicate that he knows when to make the break, and the Male connection must be very tempting!

He should, because one councillor in particular is sitting pretty with some fairly heavy weapons at hand  as the result of several recent mis-steps by Leach, all with the ever loyal French at his side. Expect to see some fireworks as we enter the New Year starting with the meeting set down for 24 February. There should certainly be some pointed questions surrounding the awarding of the Thames Dry-Court contract to Stanley Construction Ltd. of Matamata despite having only recently exited a most disadvantageous scheme of arrangement with its creditors, and a joke 'due diligence' exercise having been undertaken.

But that is just the start – the three major economic development platforms – Hauraki Rail Trail, Coromandel Harbour Development and the Hahei Walkway about which we have heard so much, let alone the faintly ridiculous and ill-conceived WW 1 Memorial Forests are all issues that will not escape the attention of those who have a deep dislike of Leach, and who have no intention of letting him or his allies off the hook before the election. By way of example - the future of the Economic Development Committee is moot to say the least.

Maintaining harmony around the Council table may have been a priority in the past, but there are some who I suspect will depart the fold shortly as they begin to realise just what explosive issues lie ahead. One in particular lies dormant with the appointment of Hammond's successor - anyone who thinks that this could not possibly have been engineered by Leach lives in 'cloud-cukoo' land.

Lame duck Mayors after all have no post-election chairmanships to offer – a major factor when incumbents begin to feel isolated and vulnerable. Our team has had it easy for five  years, and they are about to find out what elections are all about. There are not many who appear to have the balls to stand up to a concerted attack from the right flank.

'Leach's Legacy' may be lagging!




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