Commissioners have agreed on the final proposal, which is subject to any submitter appeals, whilst also announcing the name of the newly established Māori ward and how they might achieve a return to democratically elected councillors with improved governance.
The current Tauranga City Council commission was appointed by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta in place of the previously elected councillors in December 2020.
This followed an independent review, which highlighted “behaviour issues and underlying growth management problems”.
The return to elections next October, and how that might look, has therefore been the topic of much debate but commissioners have now agreed that Tauranga residents will elect nine councillors - eight from general wards and one from a Māori ward - and a mayor elected at-large.
The eight general wards are Mauao/Mount Maunganui, Arataki, Pāpāmoa, Welcome Bay, Matua/Otūmoetai, Bethlehem, Tauriko and Te Papa.
The Māori ward, which will cover the entire city, has been named Te Awanui, as gifted by Te Rangapū Mana Whenua o Tauranga Moana.
The system will be in place for six years, covering two election cycles, or until the next review.
Commission chair Anne Tolley says public representation is the heart of local democracy, and feedback from the community formed a crucial part of the Commissioners’ decision-making.
“Throughout the Long-term Plan discussions, we heard that the community felt ignored and forgotten by the previous representation, and a failure to ensure an equal voice from across the city frustrated them.
“People told us they wanted to be fairly represented, and we believe this has been achieved through improved geographical ward representation and a more even distribution of residents for each elected member.
“Having the mayor elected by all voters across the city gives the successful candidate the mandate and authority to lead and make decisions, and for the first time, Tauranga will have a Māori ward councillor, elected by those on the Māori electoral roll.”
Council decided against having most councillors elected at large, as represented in various submissions against the now accepted proposal, as it would present “the most inequitable representation model for Māori”
“The chosen system provides fair and effective representation for our entire community,” says Tolley.
Anne Tolley. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.
In line with tasking from Minister Mahuta, the commission has recommended several steps to help achieve improved governance after the next election - following the way in which elected Councillors lost their seats at the table in 2020.
This includes greater collaboration with the community, greater focus on community, including the development of the My Tauranga Vibe communications strategy, and a range of initiatives aimed at increasing wider voter participation and encouraging more diversity amongst candidates.
“In 2020, the crown appointed Review and Observer Team recommended council review its representation, after observing many of the issues being experienced at that time stemmed from the how it was structured,” says Tolley.
“The new governance model addresses these concerns and provides an equitable and efficient governance model for the future of our city.”
The Council’s Final Proposal can be appealed by those who made a submission and anyone can object to the changes made, where the Final Proposal differs from the Initial Proposal.
Any appeals and objections will be sent to the Local Government Commission for their consideration and final determination.
For details about this and more information about the representation review, visit www.tauranga.govt.nz/representation.