Tauranga's Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout is pushing for a referendum to be added to the upcoming council by-election as a way of encouraging broader community feedback on the museum issue.
He says the matter ‘has been a contentious one in Tauranga for at least two decades but there has never been a city-wide plebiscite'.
“It's something that fall under the category of discretionary spending. We have to spend money on water and roads, but not museums. The size of the investment and ongoing operational expenditure means it is worth getting people's thoughts on the matter.”
He says a referendum on its own could cost ‘up to $150,000', but he thinks the upcoming by-election is a great opportunity to ‘piggyback' the referendum on.
Electoral officer Warwick Lampp has advised the council that a referendum could he held in conjunction with the by-election, if councillors resolve to proceed at today's council meeting.
He says the estimated cost to combine a referendum with the by-election is up to $45,000, depending on the final number of candidates.
“We're still waiting for clarification on the actual costs,” says Kelvin. “That in itself is not an insignificant amount to spend. But when you put in the context of the overall investment in the museum, it's not a relatively large cost.”
He says the plan is to have one concise question, preferably ‘Do you support the museum proposed by the Tauranga City Council in its 2018/28 Draft Long Term Plan? Yes/No'.
“If you have more than one question, the costs can blow out. It's about getting the wording of the question very clear, and making sure it isn't a leading question to try and get a particular answer.”
Councillors will vote on whether to combine the upcoming by-election with a referendum on the museum at a meeting in chambers this afternoon.