1 Feb 2021

Commissioners for Tauranga City Council to be announced this week

3:42 pm on 1 February 2021

The commissioners who will take over the dysfunctional Tauranga City Council are set to be announced this week.

Tauranga City Council offices.

Tauranga City Council offices. Photo: Google Maps

This follows the Minister for Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, sacking the council in December last year, after the city's mayor Tenby Powell and two other councillors resigned and called for commissioners to be appointed.

The commissioners tasked with leading the city are expected to be announced on Thursday and begin work next Monday.

Tauranga's fast growth has seen it become the fifth largest city in the country, but this expansion has it bursting at the seams.

It is mired with roading and housing issues, topped off by a hefty fiscal hole of $2 billion.

The situation reached a climax last year when the call to replace the council was made following messy and public in-fighting between elected members.

Former deputy mayor Larry Baldock, who was first elected to council in the early 2000s, reluctantly accepted the take-over.

"It's necessary [and] regrettable, I wish it didn't happen this term. The mayor was settling into the job really well. [He] was leading the city with a lot of progressive development and had enough support, most of the time, before everything hit the fan."

Crown-appointed commissioners taking over a council is rare - one of the more recent cases was Northland's Kaipara District Council in 2012.

Baldock believed there was no other option for Tauranga and pointed to the city's long-term plan as the most immediate task the commissioners needed to deal with.

"[The take over] has to be done. There was no way that a by-election for a mayor and two councillors is going to bring us to a position where we could handle a long-term plan this quick."

Long-term plan aside, he said the city has complex issues to solve, so the commissioners would need to hit the ground running.

Buddy Mikaere, a local iwi representative, thought commissioners were the right choice.

"The councillors had become so dysfunctional and divisive, the city just wasn't making any progress."

Matt Cowley, chief executive of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce, saw the take over as a necessary evil.

"No one likes to take democracy away from the people, but it reached a boiling point - quite literally - in terms of needing some intervention."

When the Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, made her intention to install a commission known, the council was given the opportunity to convince her otherwise.

However, she was not satisfied the council would be able to sort out its issues alone.

Matt Cowley said the councillors failed to prove themselves and Mahuta had not other choice.

Mark Cairns, chief executive of the Port of Tauranga, hoped issues such as the city's roading network around the port were sorted under the commission, without the distraction of drama at the council.

"I've been in the job 15 years now, and we've probably had this conflict for the last three councils."

Nigel Tutt, chief executive of economic development agency Priority One, believed the commissioners would provide better leadership for the city.

"[They will] probably provide a better basis for decision making. There are some pretty tough decisions there. Hopefully the commission can get their head around them and get on with things."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs