ACT backs call to make commissioners "caretakers"

ACT MP Cameron Luxton said the commissioners have been given "free rein" to commit ratepayers to major spending projects. File photo: SunLive.

ACT is joining a former mayor in calling for Tauranga’s commission to act in a “caretaker role”.

Greg Brownless, mayor from 2016-2019, has called on Local Government Minister Simeon Brown to amend the commission’s terms of reference.

“It’s unacceptable that the commission, acting under the instructions of the former minister [of local government], continues to make important decisions that should be made by community representatives chosen at an election,” he says.

“New minister, Simeon Brown, has the power to instruct the commission to act in a caretaker role only, to leave the Long Term Plan to decision-makers appointed by the community.”

In February 2021, Anne Tolley, Shadrach Rolleston, Stephen Selwood and Bill Wasley were appointed as commissioners to the Tauranga City Council by Nanaia Mahuta.

Local government minister at the time, Mahuta replaced the elected council with the commission because of “significance governance” issues.

She extended their term in April 2022 to provide “crucial continuity and stability” for Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty.

Tauranga will have an election in July, the first since 2019.

Former mayor Greg Brownless wants adoption of the long-term plan left until after the July election. File photo: SunLive.

Brownless says: “I believe the commissioners are attempting to entrench decisions and contracts for which they have no community mandate, and which will unfairly bind a new council, to be decided by voters in July.”

Some of the projects Brownless believed the commission had no community mandate for included Cameron Rd Stage Two, increases in user fees for sport facilities, closure of the Ōtūmoetai Pool to be replaced by a $122m aquatic centre at Memorial Park.

“Those decisions should be made by an elected council, a community council. It's no use pretending that this [the commission] is any form of democracy, because it isn’t.”

The 2024-30 draft Long-Term Plan was consulted on last year, with hearings to begin in February. The LTP sets out projects, spending, and projected rates for Tauranga for the next decade.

ACT’s local government spokesperson Cameron Luxton is backing Brownless’ stance.

“For too long, Nanaia Mahuta’s commissioners have been given free rein to commit ratepayers to major long-term spending projects,” he says in a statement.

Tauranga list MP, Luxton says the commissioners have "acted more like dictators than caretakers" as they commit hundreds of millions of dollars to projects like the city centre transformation.

Commissioners Shadrach Rolleston, Bill Wasley, Anne Tolley and Stephen Selwood. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

A $306m civic precinct, Te Manawataki o Te Papa, is underway. It will provide a new library, museum and exhibition centre, and civic whare in Tauranga’s CBD.

“The city centre will look like chump change compared to the spending locked in under the coming Long-Term Plan."

The 10-year plan should be the role of elected leadership, who are held accountable every three years, he says.

“I’m asking the new Minister for Local Government to take steps to delay the Long-Term Plan and its associated contracts until after democratic leadership is established in July.”

However, Commission chair Tolley, says the commission’s terms of reference task it with making good decisions on behalf of the community, and with the development and adoption of the council’s 2024-34 LTP.

“In essence, we’ve been asked to redress the failings of past councils, with a focus on addressing a longstanding underinvestment in infrastructure and community facilities,” she says.

Luxton was a member of the National-led coalition Government, and would be aware of the channels he should use if he wished to amend Government policy, says Tolley.

Commission chair Anne Tolley said the commission was asked to redress the failings of past councils. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

“He is of course welcome to his opinions, but we can assure the community and his government colleagues that the decisions made by the commission on behalf of Tauranga City have followed the democratic processes set out in legislation and, based on the weight of submissions and the unsolicited feedback we receive, have wide community support.”

The commission was duty bound to comply with the requirements of its terms of reference, she says.

“We are working closely with Minister Brown, on a wide range of matters of importance to the city. Any call for amendments to our terms of reference should be directed to the Minister.”

The Taxpayers’ Union also weighed in, issuing a statement.

Taxpayers’ Union policy adviser James Ross says unelected commissioners in Tauranga have spent years tossing around ratepayers’ money, knowing they won't be accountable to ratepayers.

Simeon Brown was approached for comment but didn’t respond in time for deadline.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

You may also like....


"wide community support"

Posted on 26-01-2024 17:59 | By A. Lincoln

Saying "wide community support" doesn't make it true. An April 2023 Curia scientific poll of Tauranga residents found 67% wanted the commission dismissed in time for the 2023 general election. Only 26% wanted them to remain.

TCC's self-conducted 2021/22 residents' satisfaction survey showed a notable decline in satisfaction levels, with only 32% expressing contentment with the council under commissioners. This marked a substantial drop from the 66% satisfaction rate reported in 2019.

The perfect solution!

Posted on 26-01-2024 18:13 | By Shadow1

You’re quite correct Mr. Luxton and Mr. Brownless, there is no reason at all why the Minister of Local Government cannot change the terms of reference for the Commission’s employment. They are, after all, employees. In fact in a caretakers role, only one would be required. The CEO is their only employee, the council staff work for the CEO. None of us know the huge expenditure they have built into the 10 year plan.
Their claim that previous councils should have spent more on infrastructure is totally baseless, our council maintained and replaced aging infrastructure as required. To say otherwise is insulting. No one could foresee that Central Government would bring thousands of immigrants into NZ, people without work or homes. They then forced local councils to open subdivisions, which made all of the downstream infrastructure obsolete.
Spare us the accusations.

A glimmer of light.

Posted on 26-01-2024 21:38 | By morepork

I hope these are the pebbles that precede a landslide. My own position on this is a matter of record; check the SunLive archives. We have been denied democracy for far too long and it is good to see the new government looking to stop the gravy train. It isn't about whether the Commission has done a good job or not (we could argue that all night with both sides winning points...); the fact is that large amounts of OUR money are being spent by people who don't even live here, and without any kind of referenda as to what WE want, (who would have the downright rudeness to spend $300 million of Other People's Money, on a controversial CBD revitalization, and not even ASK them if they want it?). The Commission should have gone long ago. Better late than never... Morepork for Mayor!!!

Democracy, A-hahahaha

Posted on 27-01-2024 07:11 | By LHem

Democracy, for the people? I think not!! ...I really hope this is followed through with. We , the ratepayers of Tauranga, need to elect a commited panel that will advocate for the people, listen to the people, that will benefit the people and the city. Currently, we are not being listened to, millions of $$$ being spent without consultation, and because of new roading layouts, yellow lines down Cameron Road, local businesses are closing down, and this is just NOT okay! :(


Posted on 27-01-2024 07:52 | By Kancho

The commission has spent up on pet projects and nice to haves whilst essential core . business has been left with insufficient funding , The city has growth has outstripped its infrastructure with water bans and congestion and lack of maintenance . Smartgrowth is a joke that they have presided over for years Closing South Tauranga transfer Station expecting people to travel long distance another example of lack of service , The commission has set up ongoing projects and debt and the poor ratepayers have seen an will continue to see large rate increases without end. The lack of real consultation is real and the commission was undemocratically foisted on us should have gone long ago but must go now. Hopefully we can wind back on some of the stupid waste of money projects and concentrate on core business and ratepayers get a better deal

Commissioners' best thing for Tauranga

Posted on 27-01-2024 08:51 | By Robert McAdam

Interesting that Greg Brownless is getting worked up over the Commissioners, he also a failed past council leader.
The Commisioners have had a huge task in getting Tauranga back on track and this has largely happened.
What we end up with after there retirement is of great concern as it appears the old cronies are waiting to retake the reigns and stifle any future development.
Interesting people saying democracy but its never as democratic as it sounds. Largely councils fumble there way forward as shown in all NZ councils. Failing to address major issues. Getting all on council onboard to pass something is almost a miracle.
We need intelligent, experienced, open minded, forward thinking people to stand for our next Council start looking now!!!!

Yes they should

Posted on 27-01-2024 10:35 | By an_alias

The fab4 have spent way more than allowed hence our GOVT LEVY, I mean heck is that even legal ?
They have introduced massive taxes and affected the future of Tauranga without the people who have to pay these taxes having a say.
They should stop down or be limited in what they can do to maintaining the gardens.....heck they haven't even done that.


Posted on 27-01-2024 11:53 | By peanuts9

What a complete load of garbage. Greg Brownlees is an "ex" mayor for a very good reason, he was voted out, at an election not disposed by the commissioners. Obviously, those who voted for a different candidate thought he was not the best for the job.
To say Tauranga needs democracy is true but democracy means much more than just having a vote. Many in Tauranga feel the there was not democracy under the elected council for a number of years. It was an "old boy's network" catering to a privileged few and ignoring the majority of the city.
Maybe the commissioners are not the ideal solution but do we really want to go back to the dysfunctional, biased and racist council we had? I hope not.

Spare us the Self Congratulations

Posted on 27-01-2024 12:00 | By Jules L

I do wish that the commission would stop telling us all how much we all apparently love and support them. Let's get real, people voted many times NOT to have a museum, for one example, and the latest submissions were also a sound rejection. The commission then had the nerve to say "We heard you say No, so you are getting a museum anyway, tough!" Then they told us that it was our choice. That's pretty much how the "consultation" has been from day 1. People should also be aware that the commission is already trying to extend their reign for yet another term, they are desperately trying to cling on to their dictatorship. How much fun it must be to just spend like drunken sailors while putting us the ratepayers into incredible debt.

Very frustrating

Posted on 27-01-2024 13:15 | By nerak

to read that both Tom Rutherford (MP BOP) and Sam Uffindell are singing from the same song sheet, along the lines of ' National will restore local democracy in Tauranga ...' but they have no desire to move things forward and derail the gravy train, rather will let the commissioner crew tenure run its course to July. Thats another 5 months of our money.


Posted on 27-01-2024 15:07 | By AJSommerville

The incompetent elected officials of the past have short memories of how they have held the city back. The Commission have given our city the kick in the pants it needs (except if you listen to the whingers on sunlive).

I think it's time for the commissioners to

Posted on 27-01-2024 17:14 | By earlybird

bugger off to Wellington. They have huge problems with their water supply. Our infrastructure 'issues' are nothing compared to Wellingtons.

We all agree

Posted on 28-01-2024 11:56 | By Kancho

So Ok Sam Uffindell step up and support this and the people of your electorate that voted for you to change things as we want a return to democracy

The Master

Posted on 28-01-2024 12:39 | By Ian Stevenson

@ Linclon - yes there is wide community support... The Commissioners know this because they live 24/7 in an echo chamber.

The Master

Posted on 28-01-2024 12:44 | By Ian Stevenson

The appointment of Commissioners was to implement "needed" infrastructure, however that5 has been completely lacking... just a few examples...
- New "staff palace on Devonport Road
- Not one but two museums, lets not forget that there was a referendum that was 60% against even one. PS: If that what "public consultation" looks like? Perhaps the "unsolicited" feedback was from those seeking/desiring it and not wanting to pay for it... Obviously those sweet words were all that Tolley needed to hear

Make no mistake here, these four are heading full speed to bankrupting the city...

@ Peanuts9

Posted on 29-01-2024 12:49 | By morepork

"... do we really want to go back to the dysfunctional, biased and racist council we had?" No, of course not. BUT, if a council is elected and displays these attributes, at least we can UNelect it when the time comes. Candidates know this and so there is "answerability". With the Commission there is no such thing; they can decide to do whatever suits THEM with impunity and NO liability for bad decisions. We have seen the way OUR money has been allocated for vanity projects that would not be part of OUR priorty and with no recourse or possibility to do anything about it. Tauranga is aching for democracy to be returned and it is good to see the new government recognizing this and doing something about it. Yes, we would like to see it before July, but it is better late than never.


Posted on 30-01-2024 09:25 | By Let's get real

I understand that Sir Don McKinnon, former General Secretary of the UN, did the honourable thing and offered his resignation from the post that he currently holds (I can't remember which) to the incoming government last year, because he was appointed to the position by the previous government and believed that it was the right thing to do. If only everyone was honourable and honest with themselves and the general public. The same could be said about backdoor appointments into council offices. Quality and positive attributes will always be discernible by the voting public.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to make a comment.