The Otago Regional Council (ORC) voted in an extraordinary council meeting Wednesday morning to remove Marian Hobbs as chair. The vote passed by nine votes to two, with one abstention.
Following the vote, councillors elected Andrew Noone as chair. Noone was the only candidate to replace Hobbs and was elected by ten votes with two abstentions.
Andrew Noone retired from the Dunedin City Council in 2016 after 18 years as a councillor, gaining a wealth of experience, particularly in the areas of resource management and infrastructure. He is currently serving his second term on the ORC.
A sheep and beef farmer for over 30 years, he is also Deputy Chairman of the Dunedin District Licensing Commitee, a certified RMA commissioner, and Chairman of Iona Church Restoration Trust.
The change in chairmanship took place amid some acrimony.
Protesters gathered outside the Dunedin building that houses the council chambers, Philip Laing House, in Rattray St from 8.30am.
They then filled the public gallery.
The demonstration was organised by the Central Otago Environmental Society, and several people there carried signs.
In promoting the event on Facebook, the society argued Hobbs faced the vote because she was "a battler for the environment in Otago, and particularly our rivers".
Councillors have said the vote was about leadership, not water policy.
The society had earlier argued some councillors ought not to be allowed to vote because of conflicts of interest, but that was rejected by the Office of the Auditor-General.
The extraordinary meeting, called specifically to consider the removal of Hobbs as chairwoman, started at 9 am.
Outbursts from the public followed the vote.
Hobbs, a former minister for the environment in national politics, is in her first term as an Otago regional councillor.
Read edition 982 of the Wānaka Sun here.