“Simmering discontent” with port‘s social licence

Tauranga Business Chamber wants the port’s regional council dividends used differently. Supplied image.

The Tauranga Business Chamber is calling for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to look at how it uses its dividends from the Port of Tauranga.

The chamber made a submission at the regional council hearings on statements of proposals on Tuesday.

Chamber events and sponsorship manager Anne Pankhurst told the council there was a perception in the community of a “simmering discontent” with the Port of Tauranga.

“Whilst we are hugely supportive and completely agree with the port and its important role to the region, there is a simmering discontent that can be applied to its social licence,” said Pankhurst.

“There has been talk and there is always political caution around this, but the business community is starting to say remove the subsidy or some of the subsidy and invest in the region.

“It [the port] now has to recognise that it consumes a lot of our roads, it consumes a lot of our space."

Anne Pankhurst. Image: Tauranga Business Chamber.

"It is in growth mode, which we 100 per cent want to support… but it needs to bring the community with it.

“What we’re starting to hear is the community is not feeling supported by the port,” she said.

“[There is] a growing discontent that they [the port] Is actually like Pac-Man consuming our region and our environment and not necessarily giving back to those things.”

The chamber asked regional council to consider investing some of the dividends into the community.

“We would like to see some investment go back into the community. That can be through larger investments, such as The Domain and other particular amenities that will benefit all of the community,” said Pankhurst.

She was referring to the Wharepai Domain being identified as a preferred location for a multi-use stadium for Tauranga.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is the majority shareholder in the Port of Tauranga and the dividend paid to council from the port was $33 million in the 2020/21 financial year.

The shares are held by Quayside the regional council’s investment arm.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairperson Doug Leeder. Supplied image.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council currently uses the dividends to subsidise rates. For the 2022/23 financial year the forecasted subsidy will be around $400 for every rate paying property.

After the hearings regional council chairperson Doug Leeder told Local Democracy Reporting council is trying to build an annuity for ratepayers.

“The strategy is to build up an annuity that will be there for future generations of Bay of Plenty residents and communities,” he said.

“In order to do that, you've got to give the likes of Quayside the ability to grow.

“We've got to get a balance between letting Quayside grow so we can build an annuity and maintaining a meaningful return to the ratepayers,” said Leeder.

Leeder said how the annuity was dispersed would be up to the future council.

In response to the chamber’s submission, Port of Tauranga chief executive Leonard Sampson said the port was surprised by the comments.

“There’s no doubt that the port is the key driver of the economies of the Tauranga and wider Bay of Plenty, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs and business opportunities for residents,” he said.

“Through dividends to Quayside Holdings, the Port has returned more than $724 million to ratepayers in the past 10 years.

“In addition, Quayside has used its shareholding in Port of Tauranga to establish a $200 million infrastructure fund to help pay for regional assets and infrastructure.

Sampson said the port is one of the city’s largest ratepayers and has paid $337 million in corporate tax in the past decade.

“Port of Tauranga does not take its social licence for granted. We have invested heavily in air and stormwater quality, as well as carbon emission reduction,” said the chief executive.

Together with iwi the port established the Nga Matarae Charitable Trust that is funded through an annual grant from the port, said Sampson

The trust offers scholarships to tertiary students, as well as sponsorship of projects to improve harbour health, such as biosecurity research, he said.

“We have also partnered with dozens of community organisations to sponsor events and local infrastructure, including the Port of Tauranga National Jazz Festival to be held in June.

“The Port is also one of the biggest benefactors of the Tauranga Community Foodbank.

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

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@ Cameltoekid

Posted on 21-05-2022 15:49 | By Kancho

I wonder if you read the whole article but it seems to me the port contributions are very substantial. However I agree that the Domain is not a good place for a stadium at all. The whole area is already too cramped for space .

I agree with Anne

Posted on 17-05-2022 18:46 | By TheCameltoeKid

I’ve always thought that the Port doesn’t contribute nearly enough back to our community. It clogs up our roads and steals our harbour. The Tauranga Eastern Link and Route K were basically built to accommodate Port traffic yet other than tolls what does the Port contribute to get the toll gastritis removed? Nothing. I don’t agree with Anne on the Stadium at the Domain as parking will be a huge issue. I think it would be best to reconfigure Baypark so it’s fit for purpose. This company has made a huge footprint in our Community for little or no return.

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