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Timms takes leave after Shadbolt prank call

Wednesday 12 Dec 2012 6:34 p.m.

The chair of Environment Southland is taking six weeks' paid leave after making a prank call to Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt on a local TV show.

Ali Timms pretended to be a hard-up ratepayer, berating Mr Shadbolt about the council's involvement in an Auckland-to-Bluff yacht race.

The new A2B yacht race is to be sailed for the first time in 2014, but the potential costs for Southland ratepayers are raising concerns.

One, named “Ruby", called Cue TV's talkback show to question Mr Shadbolt, saying “Where are the figures? How the hell are you going to get down there in Bluff and put those moorings up?”

But Mr Shadbolt was suspicious. He thought the voice sounded like Ms Timms, chairwomen of Environment Southland.

“I went to Fremantle last year, and I'm afraid, Ali, it didn't look that flash either to me,” responded Mr Shadbolt.

“Sorry? This is Ruby here,” said Ms Timms.

Ms Timms later admitted it was her, brushing it off as "a practical joke".

She maintained the fake identity for nine minutes, claiming to be a struggling mother of two whose husband was laid off from the aluminium smelter.

Mr Shadbolt is disturbed by her behaviour.

“There are 100 families in Invercargill that really are hurting at the moment, and to try and cash in on that suffering to make a political point is just not right,” said Mr Shadbolt.

Film producer Murray Francis is behind the new race, and will be in Southland next week to work on plans.

Ms Timms meanwhile has taken a six week-paid leave of absence, with Environment Southland councillors labelling her prank an "unacceptable lapse of judgement".

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