17 Sep 2019

Tauranga mayoral race: 10 candidates chase top job

11:24 am on 17 September 2019

A newcomer to the political scene in New Zealand's fifth largest city says Tauranga deserves better leadership.

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Tauranga mayoral candidates from left Greg Brownless, Tenby Powell and Kevin Clout. Photo: Supplied

Ten candidates are chasing the top job, with three looking likely to be the ones to fight it out for the key to the mayoral office.

They are incumbent Greg Brownless, Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout and newbie Tenby Powell.

Businessman and former army officer, Tenby Powell grew up in Tauranga and earlier this year returned to live in the city to contest the mayoralty.

He is campaigning on issues around the need for a culture change in council, which he believes is divided on virtually everything.

"I think it is time to have some courage in council and for council to lead and make decisions and to make decisions on behalf of residents and for the future of the city."

He said the growth the city has been experiencing in recent years has far exceeded improvements to infrastructure, particularly roading.

"There is no doubt we have to fix our roads in Tauranga, we have got to create the ability for traffic to flow more freely.

"State Highway 2 is a classic example of a road that was budgeted for funding and that funding for various reasons was withdrawn. We have got to get back around the table with central government."

Mayor Greg Brownless said his first term as mayor has been difficult with a number of issues facing the council, including problems with residential developments, such as the Bella Vista project in the city and the management of council.

"It's been quite a rough first term but I believe I faced up to those problems and tried to sort them out."

He said that now is the time to focus on the future.

"Not perfect yet but I believe in the next term I can actually continue those changes and get a council that is responsive to the community and does things with the community rather than to them and that has been one of the things council has not been good at."

He agrees that transport and roading are two of the key issues facing Tauranga.

"We are getting more and more choked up with congestion and we know we have to switch to using some forms of public transport, but we also need to get the roads right at the same time."

He said the roads to and from the port, need to be freed up.

"It's the most important port in the country."

Kelvin Clout has been a councillor for six years, and deputy mayor for all of that time.

He is running for mayor for the third time, having been runner-up at the last two elections.

As well as infrastructure not keeping pace with development, Mr Clout said a shortage of housing and housing affordability are key issues he is campaigning on.

"The first thing we do need to do is increase the supply of housing and there are many ways we can do that, so that will involve smaller houses, smaller sections and bringing the pricing to a more affordable range. The other thing we have done is support the charities that support the homeless."

The central business district of Tauranga has suffered with the expansion of the Bayfair Shopping Centre in Mount Maunganui and The Crossing at Tauriko.

Greg Brownless said he is convinced than when the Farmers Trading Company development, which includes shops, parking, accommodation and apartments, is finished in about a year and a half, it will bring change to the CBD.

Tenby Powell said the inner city is in crisis.

"The reality of any downtown is it should be the heart and soul of the city."

He backs the idea of apartments on top of retail to bring vibrancy back into the central city.

Kelvin Clout said that within five years the CBD will be humming.

He does not think that new blood is needed to lead council and believes his time as a councillor has been invaluable to now step up to become mayor.

"Local government is an incredibly complex beast and so it takes a while to navigate that to get some good outcomes and so I feel more than ready and capable of stepping up into the top job."

Greg Brownless said he is the person to lead Tauranga for the next three years.

"I have probably been mayor during the toughest three years that Tauranga has ever experienced and I have faced up to the issues and we have ordered inquiries into all those things and we have made most of the results public and we are determined to change and turn around the culture of council."

Tenby Powell said he has a really clear vision for the city.

"This isn't just all about business and economics and a city is much different than a business. It's not a business, it's much bigger and more complicated than a business, but I have yet to see a city that is thriving and vibrant whose economics are in the state Tauranga's are in."

The others standing for the Tauranga mayoralty are Murray Guy, Andrew Hollis, RangiMarie Kingi, Jos Nagels, John Robson, Christopher Stokes and Les Wallen.