Election 2022: Relief and disappointment at delay

Current Tauranga City commissioners Bill Wasley, Stephen Selwood, Anne Tolley, and Shadrach Rolleston. Photo: Rosalie Liddle Crawford/SunLive.

A murmur of relief spread across the room as Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced Tauranga City Council’s election will be delayed until July 2024 and a commission remain in place.

But, this relief is not mirrored by the entire community, with some expressing their disappointment and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has labelled the decision “plain wrong”.

Mahuta made the announcement, alongside the commissioners, to a room of “key stakeholders” invited by council. They included iwi and hapū representatives, business leaders, Western Bay of Plenty District Council mayor Garry Webber and Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman Doug Leeder.

The Minister says she had not made the decision “lightly” and the current commissioners had accomplished some “impressive achievements in their tenure”.

These included, strengthening relationships with the community, improving culture with the council and producing a long-term plan for 2021-2031.

“They have acted on many hard decisions that are essential to building a prosperous and sustainable future for Tauranga. But it is clear there is more to be done,” says Mahuta.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta. Photo: Alisha Evans/SunLive.

“Having a commission beyond October will ensure that the council have the stability needed to maintain its current pace.

“They will be able to deliver on several complex programmes of work, including plans for the new civic centre precinct and investment plans for future growth.

“Significant investment in infrastructure and services will be vital for Tauranga City and the wider Bay of Plenty region,” she says.  

Commission chair Anne Tolley says the decision recognised the complex processes required to get Tauranga moving and the risks associated with introducing a new set of elected members mid-way through some significant decision-making processes.

“That extended timeframe will allow a commission to continue implementing the work plan now underway to address the city’s severe housing shortage and underinvestment in community facilities and infrastructure,” she says.

Four commissioners took over in February last year after Mahuta deposed the previous councillors in December 2020.

This was because of “significant governance problems among elected representatives” and the findings of an independent review.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley says he is relieved rather than celebrating.

“It's a shame that we're in the situation when government needs to intervene,” he says.

“The relief comes from knowing that the city can focus on the issues… rather than discussing personality clashes.”

Cowley says because the commissioners have only been in a year, “There is a good chance that the local political environment is still quite toxic”.

Mahuta was asked if her decision was also about avoiding the return to personal politics of the previous council. She responded: “This decision is about Tauranga”.

She says the decision ensured “Tauranga’s interests first, were able to be stewarded through in a way that gave certainty”.

“The commissioners are a way of achieving that,” she says.

Tenby Powell: Photo: Daniel Hines/SunLive.

Previous mayor Tenby Powell, who resigned in November 2020 and called for the appointment of commissioners, is “relived and thrilled” by Mahuta’s decision.

“We need consistency, we need stability and we've got it with the commissioners,” Powell told Local Democracy reporting.

“They've had the courage to make the right decisions for Tauranga City, which is 20 years behind where it should be.”

Reflecting on his resignation Powell says: “While no mayor wants to hand a city over to commissioners, in my heart I knew it was the right thing to recommend”.

“Looking back, it was definitely the right thing to have recommended, and it has overwhelming support.”

Others were disappointed by the delay of elections claiming a lack of democracy.

Local Government New Zealand president Stuart Crosby says: “We’re disappointed the minister needed to make this decision.

“Local Democracy is at the heart of local government and this decision does not reflect that,” says Crosby, who was also the mayor of Tauranga from 2004 to 2016.

“We do acknowledge this has been a difficult decision for the Minister.”

Former Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless. File photo/SunLive.

Greg Brownless, who took over the mayoralty in 2016, told Local Democracy Reporting: “It’s a sad day for democracy”. 

“Government has broken the contract with the people for democracy it espouses,” he says.

“The issue isn’t whether the commissioners have done a good or bad job. It’s that it’s up to the voters to choose their representatives.”

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says: “Today’s decision by Nanaia Mahuta is plain wrong”.

“Everywhere else will have local body elections this year apart from us and for no good reason other than power and control and convenience,” he claims.

In response to Tauranga’s perceived lack of democracy, Mahuta’s says a commission is not the long term future for Tauranga.

“The real challenge for democracy is to ensure confidence that decisions can be made,” she says.

“The fact that we had to appoint commissioners, because that was not the situation here in Tauranga, is a salient lesson.

“What we have is a group of commissioners who have engaged, been able to deliver on significant planning documents and have positive partnerships and relationships with a range of stakeholders.

“I hope it’s an indicator to political aspirants, at the local governance level, that the expectation should be no less than working for the benefit of their great city,” says Mahuta.

Her goal is for a “smooth transition back to elected representation” with elections in July 2024.

Although the current commission’s term is due to end in October, the minister indicated her intention for the current set of commissioners to remain.

“We're mindful that continuity is important.

“The way in which this community has responded to the flavour of this commission and they really highlighted that engagement is a significant part of their obligation.”

Further announcements about appointees and terms of reference of the commission will be made in the coming weeks.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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Please enlighten me

Posted on 20-03-2022 20:51 | By The Sage

Why is anyone taking on board what the Chamber of Commerce says? I doubt one of them has ever owned a business and they are funded by the Council. What Nanaia Mahuta has down is totally wrong and I doubt it would be held up in a Court of law . It is my understanding that the High Court has to make such rulings.

Mayor from 2004 to 2016

Posted on 14-03-2022 08:36 | By Kancho

Interesting that widely commented on that Tauranga is behind on infrastructure spending so many years. Local Government New Zealand president Stuart Crosby making comments when he was Tauranga mayor from 2004 to 2016 a golden time of growth but it seems not future planning. A time also of Smartgrowth that was chaired by one ot our current commissioners too. Is it just me wondering

@ Tom Ranger

Posted on 13-03-2022 22:35 | By Yadick

Beautiful :-) Great comment.


Posted on 13-03-2022 17:01 | By Let's get real

Forget about the financial benefit to the chosen four and consider the deliberate decision to invite the "Key stakeholders" to the announcement. Other councils, business leaders and Maori Iwi and Hapu. The OTHER financial beneficiaries of the decision to ignore over 150 years of democracy and public input into decision making.

New Commissioners?

Posted on 13-03-2022 14:25 | By morepork

Informed says that there will be a new batch. Does that represent a vote of "no confidence" from Mahuta, or is it just an attempt to "spread the love" around the appointee whanau?

Tom Ranger

Posted on 13-03-2022 13:34 | By Tom Ranger

Damned if we do and damned if we dont unfortunately. Politicians are right up there on the trusted list with lawyers and second hand car dealers.


Posted on 13-03-2022 10:02 | By peanuts9

Thank goodness. Tauranga has sensible decisions being made for the first time this century. We are being governed by common sense and not the small but nasty vocal, self-interested groups.

Get informed

Posted on 12-03-2022 19:52 | By Informed

It’s amazing to hear people, so uninformed making the usual sweeping statements. So Tolley worked an 80 hour week and got $1800. That 60 hours more than that last lot ever worked. Plus for all your talk of this being self serving. The current commissioners haven’t been extended. A new group will be found and appointed.

get rid

Posted on 12-03-2022 17:12 | By terry hall

now the people of Tauranga it is your chance to vote this government out and their communist ideals and get nz back to how it was.

trough dwellers

Posted on 12-03-2022 15:50 | By Ross Darrall

Of course the Commisioners don’t want to give up their jobs in the Council. They are being paid huge amounts of money for what, so why not get Mahuta to continue their drain on the Tauranga Ratepayers as you the ratepayers are paying them their enormous salaries. Probbaly now that Labour are finished perhaps Mahuta gets paid as well by the ratepayers


Posted on 12-03-2022 15:37 | By dumbkof2

thank you mrs mahuta now i know my $1800 a day salary is secure for the next two and half years. i will just screw the ratepayers to pay for it.

Three waters vote

Posted on 12-03-2022 15:11 | By Johnney

At least Mahuta has someone on the payroll to support her 3 Waters. Crazy democracy in action

Tenby has as say why ?

Posted on 12-03-2022 13:08 | By an_alias

Why are you even quoting the guy. I have heard that he never lived here to start with. His family never moved here from Auckland from what I heard.

Relief for Tolley, $1800 a day

Posted on 12-03-2022 13:06 | By an_alias

Yep a murmur, as if they didnt already know. Thank goodness I’ll get at $1.2M to $1.5M out of this Tolley and associates were thinking. I mean we couldnt have a bi-elections as that would have cost us rate payers $100k. Then we get Local Democracy, what a laugh saying we asked a few select people who were happy with the results.

Thank Goodness.

Posted on 12-03-2022 11:17 | By R Goodall

This was a foregone conclusion when the Ratepayers Union continue the old worn-out rhetoric. I would be more impressed if they could deliver some constructive solutions instead of negative protest.

What Democracy

Posted on 12-03-2022 11:05 | By Fernhill22

The sooner we get rid of this government & commissioners the better. Not that long ago NZ used to be a land full of positivity & opportunity and a place where people wanted to live. This current government has turned the country into a state of desperation & despair. They have created more problems than they have solved (If any) & turned Kiwis against one another with their views. The people of NZ have no voice anymore, there is no democracy & yet we put up with these spineless p*ricks with their big egos who are so out of touch with the reality on the ground. We need a vote of no confidence in this government & to start turning things around.

Just another

Posted on 12-03-2022 07:35 | By Kancho

Broken promise and this government is great at delivering those but not much else. Still I promise to not vote for them ever again.


Posted on 11-03-2022 22:37 | By The Sage

Why is Tenby Powell even being consulted on this? He was the start of the demise.

Great News

Posted on 11-03-2022 22:08 | By IguanaEstate

Have loved the progress the commisioners have made with the unbias approach. Keep it up.

Why on earth

Posted on 11-03-2022 22:06 | By nerak

are we still seeing quotes from Powell? It was him who got us into this appalling situation.

This is concerning!

Posted on 11-03-2022 21:56 | By waiknot

The calibre of the the commissioners and the job they are doing running the city should never have been a criteria for extending their appointment. This extension could be a vote of no confidence in the commissioners job of preparing Tauranga for a return to democratically elected councillors.


Posted on 11-03-2022 20:47 | By Let's get real

An extremely destructive move from a government that is hell-bent on the destruction of the democratic processes of the country and the imposition of tribalism and dictatorship by stealth. If this is the only way forward for Maori, it doesn’t bode well for a multicultural harmonious nation. Pathetic.

An insult to Tauranga voters

Posted on 11-03-2022 20:44 | By Observer Tronn

Whatever way you look at it this isn’t democracy so stop the pretence. Every other town where there are problems still gets to vote. The fighting mayor and councillors have gone. Anyone notice the irony of this being Local Democracy Reporting when we don’t have a democracy, but good on you for reporting the death of democracy here.


Posted on 11-03-2022 20:36 | By dumbkof2

this was a foregone result with mahuta and her sidekick in charge. also mahuta would have vetoed it obscene salaries all round

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