After ongoing conflicts between Tauranga City Council’s mayor and councillors central government is getting involved.
The Department of Internal Affairs has requested the council provide assurance and evidence that it is taking proactive steps to “restore trust and confidence in its ability to meet the Crown’s expectations of a high-performing council”.
The elected members will consider a report on governance issues and a recommended plan to address strained relationships which have been the focus of media and social media commentary.
There have been ongoing issues between the mayor, Tenby Powell and councillors with Powell censured for inappropriate language and comments made about councillors in an internal council meeting in March.
The report will be received at an emergency council meeting on Friday and, if adopted, will see the council initiate action to address elected members’ relationship issues.
Chief Executive Marty Grenfell says the proposed action is a response to the DIA’s request.
“DIA has sought information so that it can advise the Minister of Local Government on action she may need to take pursuant to part 10 of the Local Government Act,” says Marty.
“The Minister has the power to assist or intervene in such situations. We believe that by initiating the appointment of a Review and Observer Team to monitor interactions and performance and report both to Council and DIA, the council can establish a path forward which can promote more constructive working relationships between councillors and between the mayor and councillors.”
He says the elected member relationship issues are mainly manifested in forums outside of the council chambers, and that the council’s formal decision-making processes had not been significantly impacted thus far.
“There continues to be a strong and effective working relationship between the elected members and the executive leadership of council.
“We have strong leadership capability within the organisation and staff are continuing to get on with the job of running the city, planning for its future and dealing with the pressures created by COVID-19 and our rapid growth.”
Marty says the proposed action to be proactively considered by the council would largely replicate the arrangements the Minister of Local Government could make. The proposed Review and Observer Team would be focusing on support, and monitoring and reporting on progress in restoring the strong, unified leadership needed to advance the city’s interests.
If the recommended action is adopted, the chief executive will report back within two weeks with a draft terms of reference for the Review and Observer Team, membership recommendations, in consultation with DIA, cost estimates and a budget approval request. Also a summary of the key decisions council will need to make, for submission to DIA, to deliver on next year’s 2021-31 long-term plan and on the city’s SmartGrowth objectives.