Wake up call for all says Tauranga‘s acting mayor

Acting Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Tauranga City Tina Salisbury. Photos: Rosalie Liddle Crawford/SunLive

Acting Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Tauranga City Tina Salisbury says the decision by the Local Government Minister to appoint a commission to run the council is a wake-up call for all councils around NZ.

“Obviously I am disappointed, but I respect that it is the Minister’s decision to make,” says Salisbury.

“It is a difficult situation. There is so much complexity within the relationships.

“This is a real wake up call for all councils around the country. We’ve been elected as professional representatives for our communities. They’ve put their trust and confidence in us to not only be able to set the strategic direction of council and make well informed and wise governance decisions but it’s also important how we do that.

“I think we need to be held to account as elected members. It’s a privilege and a huge responsibility, it’s not only about the decisions we make but how we make them. How we act as professionals is also really important for the trust and confidence of our city.”

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta wrote to the elected representatives on Friday to advise them she intends to replace them with commissioners.

Salisbury has considered the level of support that councillors receive from council staff.

“My view is when the Local Government Act first came in, when Tauranga was set up in its current structure in the 1980s, it was probably fit-for-purpose at the time, we were a small town and councillors were part-time and there wasn’t a whole lot of responsibility. But over the last few decades, the increase in responsibility and workload for councils without an increase necessarily in support given to the governance team, or the revenue to do what is required, has had a huge impact, and we as a city are not alone in that,” says Salisbury.

“I think it’s time for a good look at the way local government is functioning, but also how we support governance and democracy better. And ways we educate and empower our city on the roles of council? What could healthy democracy look like?”

Salisbury is the acting mayor as well as the deputy mayor of Tauranga City until either a mayor is elected or removed.

“We will continue business as usual. Our city is in desperate need of investment and it needs a steady hand at the wheel,” says Salisbury. “We’ll continue to make the decisions that we need to make towards the Long Term Plan as we transition to commissioners coming in at the beginning of February.

“Our city needs a team that can consider the needs of the community, and keep their eye on the substantive work of setting strategy and governing good decisions, that will set us up well now and into the future, through the next Long Term Plan.

“We are decades behind investing in this work and it is critical we do it,” says Salisbury. “My focus is steadfastly on providing a progressive and positive transition for our city and in ensuring our city’s best interests are served.

“There is much work we need to do to get our city on track and prepared for the return of healthy democracy and Governance in 2022. I will stay involved and engaged in whatever capacity I can, to facilitate this for Tauranga. It has been and remains a privilege to have been able to serve our city, first as an Elected Member, then as your Deputy Mayor and for the next few weeks as your Acting Mayor.”

Salisbury says the nine remaining councillors haven’t had an opportunity to meet yet since the Minister’s announcement on Friday.

“We will be meeting on Monday morning and we’ll have the opportunity to talk together as a team and then respond to the Minister. We have two weeks to respond to her.”

Tina says there won’t be an election until at least 2022.

“The commissioners will come in and take us through to the election of October 2022.

“The Minister hasn’t made a final decision until the New Year. She has put a shot across the bow that says ‘this is what I’m thinking, you’ve reached the threshold for intervention’, and has given us an opportunity to respond,” says Salisbury.

The appointment of the commissioner means the elected officials lose their jobs.

Last month Tauranga's mayor Tenby Powell resigned abruptly, while calling for commissioners to be appointed, and Mahuta said she had grown increasingly concerned.

Mount Maunganui and Papamoa ward councillor Steve Morris said other councils where commissioners have been imposed had operational and governance issues.

 

He conceded the Tauranga body has had significant governance problems, but doesn't think the Department of Internal Affairs would have recommended a commissioner.

 

Mount Maunganui and Papamoa ward councillor Steve Morris

 

"The Tauranga City Council hasn't had an organisational failure,” says Morris.

 

"It has had significant governance issues, but frankly with the resignation of the mayor, a lot of those issues left the building with him.

 

“We have work to do until 15 December to produce a draft long term plan. I don’t think that the councillors will have any difficulty in doing that. Concerns about factions and disorderly behaviour have largely been resolved.”

 

Morris says the public may not realise and need to understand how the appointment of a commission will diminish their opportunity to have elected representatives interceding with council staff on their behalf.

 

“People already say council don’t listen to them, that they’re not heard,” says Morris, giving rubbish and roading decisions as examples. “That is going to become worse, where people’s frustrations will build.

“The idea of someone coming in to sort things out sounds appealing but in reality what that means is that the same council staff will continue to run council and there will be somebody appointed from Wellington to rubber stamp those designs.

“So it doesn’t mean any wholesale change for the way for council to operate, and the accountability for council decisions will be gone," says Morris.

“You will essentially have a situation where the bureaucracy is monitoring the bureaucracy in that regard. So people may be surprised to learn that.”

He cites a public meeting he attended on Friday just as the Minister’s announcement was being made. At the meeting a number of residents came to speak to him about their frustrations with council.

“They said they felt like they’re not being heard by council staff who are going to make something happen anyway.

“I had to tell them that very soon we might not be here to listen or intercede or intervene on their behalf for much longer. If they’re frustrated there will be nowhere really for them to go. It means that ratepayers associations will become incredibly important and people will need to join them as they will have no way of venting their frustration about council or wanting their alternative view to be expressed.”

“By 15 December we will have a draft long term plan drafted by representatives of the community who are accountable to the community so there shouldn’t be any need for the minister to intervene but we’ll see," says Morris.

“People think someone is going to come in and sort things out and things will run smoothly. No, council staff will be running the show with no one appointed by the community to hold them to account.”

 

Acting Mayor Tina Salisbury says the Council will respond to the Minister's notification by December 18.




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15 Comments

Lets get Real

Posted on 07-12-2020 22:16 | By The Caveman

Having travelled extensively, overseas to many countries over 30 years, where I have seen MANY towns where the “local” councils have decided that CARS were bad and BANNED and that everybody should WALK. Result – yes you guessed it, DEAD town centres and shopping malls elsewhere just down the road going gangbusters !!

October 2022.

Posted on 07-12-2020 21:20 | By morepork

Seems a long way off but perhaps it is an opportunity. There is time to look at what has gone wrong and think about ways to fix it. I don’t believe that, in and of itself, the 38 Elizabeth development will revitalize the city, but I do believe the city can be revitalized. It will take more than a few rich elitists in penthouses, and if the CBD is not revitalized, they could find themselves in an oasis of luxury amidst a sea of squalor. I can’t see many of them staying if it comes to that. I see the community AND the council engaged to determine priorities... Housing, CBD revitalization, Assistance, infrastructure, and the many issues that are decided behind closed doors, presented as fait accompli, and then collapsed in a screaming heap a few years later. We need honest, fair, transparent, representation; the city deserves it.

Answers for Bruja.

Posted on 07-12-2020 20:56 | By morepork

1. Rents ARE high in the CBD. Like all market places, it becomes non-viable when there is no trading going on. 2. There is nothing special or different about the shops that are closed; same wares are available elsewhere with free parking. 3. Shops need foot traffic to survive. 75% are closed on Sunday because there is no foot traffic. (there are 2 other factors in play here also: 1. The God Squad, who don’t like Sunday trading, and 2. Most Kiwi shopkeepers don’t run their stores as a service to us; it is for a living for them, so they close when it suits them.) Vendors renting space in the CBD are supposed to get a "prestige location" with large foot traffic. It’s a myth, and when they find out, they simply take their business elsewhere. It CAN be fixed, but not with current TCC.

Council

Posted on 07-12-2020 08:27 | By surfsup

The council is and has been a mess for many years. There are councilors who have been part of this fiasco for many years contributed nothing and still think they are not responsible for the mess Tauranga is in. The Farmers development while nice to look at will do nothing to energise the CBD unless the parking issues are resolved. The CBD is tired and boring, it will require some serious thinking and hard questions asked as to it’s role in the ongoing development of Tauranga.

Where is the report

Posted on 06-12-2020 19:29 | By waiknot

I’d like to read the report the observers made. Before we vote again it would be good to see a report card on each councillor. Tenby proved to be a disappointment from what I have seen and heard. Kelvin Clout not decisive, Larry Baldock is Machiavellian Steve Morris appears very well meaning, the rest I don’t know.

Tina

Posted on 06-12-2020 17:56 | By Slim Shady

And who were the last people to wake up? Judging by the comments from you and Clout you are still in dreamland. The people of Tauranga woke up a while ago. Pack your bags and get a real job. You’re not professionals, you’re amateurs.

To disfunctional.

Posted on 06-12-2020 15:55 | By Cynical Me

when you attack (as in army attack), people then no one is going to respond to that other than the bullies. Tenby mouthed on about things and much of what he said was simply not correct. He failed to find out the reality. Plenty wrong with the way council operates and its long standing. Goes back toppoor selection of the CEO’s, starting with that nasty little man Town. Councillors are to blame for poor recruitment, that and poor legislation that governs councils. Councillors are pitted against laws, rules, paid staff and are separated from the ratepayers who pay the bills. till that gets fixed nothing will stop the rot that exists in many councils. Its always the system.

No Bye Elections

Posted on 06-12-2020 15:40 | By Taffy

Should the Minister go ahead with appointi ng a commissioner after the Elected Members respond why bother with these elections they will be a waste of ratepayer funds as the acting Mayor seems to think it will be Oct 2022 before we vote again.Talk about the Blind leading the Blind!

Had to

Posted on 06-12-2020 15:16 | By Merlin

Had to happen Council carrying on like spoilt kids.brought it on yuor selves.

It's a Wake Up Call for Sure!!!!

Posted on 06-12-2020 15:03 | By Bruja

Look, all I know is that I’ve just been in the CBD today. Yes, it’s Sunday. Yes there’s a certain amount of fallout from Covid BUT for goodness sake, it’s 3 weeks out from Christmas and 3/4 of the businesses aren’t even OPEN!!! What the hell is wrong? Are landlords to blame for rent charges??? Are the businesses not the sort of businesses that customers want??? Can we get to the basics of WHY a stunningly lovely CBD, fabulous geographically, fabulous climate. WHY are 3/4 of the shops not even OPEN on a beautiful Sunday 3 weeks out from Christmas??? I’ll join a ’citizen’s group to help ’get some s...t sorted!!’ Too much bureaucracy not even bottom-line commonsense??? What’s the guts of it??? Someone got an answer for me? Several answers to my several questions???

Poor Legislation

Posted on 06-12-2020 15:03 | By Cynical Me

Tina is correct in saying that the legislation that governs councils is very poor. That’s the essence of the problems. Councillors are separated from the voters and are arranged by the paid staff on all and any issue. The staff decide what they will allow, e.g. the rubbish debacle where the council has set out to steak (as in thieve ) our rubbish (it belongs to us) and thrive the business from the rubbish collectors. Business the council sold off over 25 years ago. They are out of their tiny minds. there is little input from the communities on a place by place basis as no councillor has a designated office in an area (with a suitable support person) so they interact very sparingly with the community. MP’s at least have that. Greerton hasn’t been represented for years. Tga south is in the to hard basket.

She’s having a laugh

Posted on 06-12-2020 14:53 | By Slim Shady

The reality is that most people don’t vote and those that do have very little to go on other than BS slogans so they attempt to pick the best of a bad bunch. It’s hardly people putting their confidence in professionals. Deluded lady. Kancho - your last comment seems a little cynical and negative. Do you have a crystal ball to predict the future? Whilst I love a good dose of cynicism I also detest hypocrisy.

Dysfunctional

Posted on 06-12-2020 14:48 | By gincat

Congrats to Tina in realizing all councils have problems. However Steve needs to re read Winder’s report until it sinks in. Particularly about councilors unaware about their behaviour. Tenby was abrasive but was it necessary to form a cabal of elected members? The fact that Winder’s report was voted to "lie on the table" illustrates how indecisive council has become. The appropriate time to deal with the report was when it was presented. Winder repeatedly stated, " Where it says "Elected Members", this was inclusive of the Mayor and Elected Members. Steve, do you not get that?

To the Acting mayor.....

Posted on 06-12-2020 13:58 | By groutby

....thank you for your rational explanation and facts as to the current circumstances and (hopefully) probable upcoming appointment of a commission. As for the other writer in the colunm, Cr Morris believing ’the Tauranga City Council hasn’t had an organisational failure’..well, call it what you want Sir but it is and has been dysfuntional as an organisation for some time now, so I have to conclude that if this is the belief of the other councillors also, I hope the commission is appointed sooner rather than later....and I can only assume a commission can bring at least some stability to the organisation which has an effect on EVERYONE in our City. Let’s see what October 2022 brings...

Frustrated

Posted on 06-12-2020 13:44 | By Kancho

Frustration is being polite. Apart from the list of poor decisions/ projects now to be sent an out of date letter on plan 27 changes with meetings already held before letter was received. Now a very short submission time and no one to answer questions as all meetings over booked ? Incompetent ! Surely it would be realised that council appear to be rushing this through before people wake up to the effect it has on property value and insurance. Council gave permission to build, council are responsible for drainage a d many properties have never flooded nor likely to unless half of Tauranga goes completely under water. Angry now. Council should visit every property they have altered on plan 27 and check their levels as they are dry suspect. Bet they will hide and spout BS

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