Tauranga council divisions remain after mayor's shock resignation

9:33 pm on 20 November 2020

Tauranga's mayor Tenby Powell terminated his "soul-destroying" tenure, with immediate effect, in a fiery speech to councillors and members of the public today.

Tauranga City Council offices.

Photo: Google Maps

He leaves behind a deeply divided city council who he accused of being "small thinkers" with a "track record of hindering any progress" and "petty politicians" in "desperate need of progressive thinking".

Before his speech, the divided city council agreed they would write to Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta to ask for a Crown manager to be appointed.

Powell would also like to the intervention to go further with commissioners appointed to replace the councillors.

"I hope history will show that November 2020, the DNA of incompetence among TCC elected members was recognised and cauterized, and after a period of crown management that the governors team can be rebuilt with real members," he said.

He said that was necessary because the city had a "historical legacy of councils which are essentially old men's clubs".

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Heidi Hughes said the speech provoked a range of reactions in the chambers, including stunned silence from those like her, who were taken completely by surprise.

She said one councillor began clapping loudly when the mayor announced his resignation, "which was really odd".

"It kind of reflects where he's at 'cause he didn't land with the idea that probably means commissioners and he would also lose his job," she said.

"That just reflects incredibly badly on our leadership as a team. There was also real outrage from the public forum, those who are just so let down, by people on the team that have led things to such a bad place."

It was just over a year after Tenby Powell was elected, and his resignation comes ahead of his treatment for prostate cancer. He said his resignation wasn't about his diagnosis - but rather the "desperate" need for new thinking, with the city's infrastructure in dire shape.

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Outgoing Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell Photo: Supplied

That was something Papamoa Residents and Ratepayers Association also wanted - in September it called for elected members to be sacked and fresh elections to be held.

The council had approved $350,000 in funding, for an independent team to sort out in-fighting among members, who it emerged had been name calling over text messages.

Because of the fighting, Councillor Steve Morris believed Tenby Powell's resignation was long overdue.

"The refusal of the mayor to work with the people that were elected democratically by the people of Tauranga was just impassable. The anger that the mayor directed at his colleagues was a real factor in the dysfunction of council," he said.

Hughes said the council chambers had been a difficult environment to work in, but she didn't think replacing councillors was the answer.

"I'd like to see us be able to get through to where we can have a proper election in two years time. Because commissioners sometimes, they can last for years, and really does really take things apart to the point it's quite hard to rebuild," she said.

She said there were underlying issues in the local government setup, so she would like changes to ensure councillors and managers represent their communities.

Deputy mayor Tina Salisbury will take the reins as acting mayor.

Mahuta said she would consider reports on the state of Tauranga City Council before making any decision about its future.

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