Former councillor thrown out of Tauranga City Council meeting after Tolley clash

5:35 pm on 21 August 2023
Former councillor Murray Guy was removed from Monday's meeting for being "disoirderly". Photo: Alisha Evans/SunLive. [via LDR Single use only]

Former councillor Murray Guy was removed from Monday's meeting for being "disorderly". Photo: Alisha Evans / Sun Media

A former councillor has been ejected from a tumultuous Tauranga City Council meeting because he refused to stop speaking from the public gallery.

Murray Guy was one of 11 people who had their request to speak about the proposed $220 million community stadium at the Tauranga Domain in the meeting's public forum denied by commission chairperson Anne Tolley.

Tolley acknowledged people were "disappointed they were unable to speak" and explained there would be no public forum because there would be "plenty of opportunities to have conversations" about the decision as part of the draft long term plan consultation process.

Guy stood, interrupting Monday's meeting and questioned why there was no public forum.

Tolley reiterated her previous point and said: "I'm asking you to sit down, or I'll have to have you removed."

Guy refused: "I'm sorry, but you're going to have to have me removed.

"You are non-compliant. The council policy does not give you the right to deny me to speak in a public forum," he claimed.

Commission chairperson Anne Tolley. Photo: John Borren/SunLive. [via LDR Single use only]

Commission chairperson Anne Tolley. Photo: John Borren/SunLive

Tolley responded: "Actually it does. It is entirely at my discretion."

She said his "conduct is disorderly and creating a disturbance" and asked he be removed and adjourned the meeting.

Guy said, in his view, it was "gutless".

"You are non-compliant and non-elected."

Council chief executive Marty Grenfell asked Guy to leave but he declined. He was backed by members of the packed public gallery who said: "Let him speak".

Tauranga City Council CEO Marty Grenfell after escorting Murray out. Photo: Alisha Evans/SunLive. [via LDR Single use only]

Tauranga City Council chief executive Marty Grenfell after escorting Murray Guy out. Photo: Alisha Evans / Sun Media

Guy said as a councillor who helped set up the public forum in 2011, he and former mayor Stuart Crosby "never once denied a person the right to speak".

He left after multiple requests from Grenfell. A woman in the public gallery touched Grenfell and he warned her not to or she would be removed as well.

People in the public gallery included Garth Mathieson of the Tauranga Millennium Track Trust and Tauranga Lawn Tennis Club president Phillip Brown, who were also denied speaking rights.

The trust and tennis club have formed the Hands-off Tauranga Domain Alliance with the Tauranga Croquet Club, and the Bay of Plenty Speedway Association, who will all be affected if the proposed stadium goes ahead.

Some of the public continued to heckle the meeting, especially when chief executive of Priority One, Nigel Tutt, who led the stadium business case, spoke.

They were reminded by Tolley to "use their manners".

Tutt said the stadium was "quite polarising," but it aligned with rejuvenating the Tauranga's CBD.

The proposed community stadium would provide 7000 permanent seats with the provision for an additional 8000 temporary seats.

It would also include a "light" exhibition centre; a 1300 square-metre function centre, a community multi-use facility with 400 sqm of changing rooms and lounge space, and a sports science/physiotherapy space.

Two surveys getting the public's views were carried out - one by market research company Key Research and the other was a survey on the council website.

Members of the public forum heckled some of the speakers. Photo: Alisha Evans/SunLive. [via LDR Single use only]

Members of the public forum heckled some of the speakers. Photo: Alisha Evans / Sun Media

The Key Research poll, that attracted 1198 responses, showed there was more support with the younger demographic and males, Tutt said.

The council survey had 3318 responses and 35 percent strongly or somewhat supported the stadium while 63 percent strongly or somewhat opposed it.

Tutt said this survey had "substantially more negative" responses but there was "some misinformation" sent out about the stadium by online groups.

This was ahead of the commission deciding whether to add the stadium to the council's 2024/34 draft long term plan.

Commissioner Stephen Selwood also acknowledged the "divided view" within the community and said the council did need to consult with the whole community.

This was met with applause from the public gallery.

"I make the point about it being a long-term investment because if there's one thing the city has failed to do over the last few decades is to adequately invest in its future."

Commissioner Shadrach Rolleston said some of the misinformation circulating was that the stadium was going to be locked up.

"The public have free access into the domain. I do want to make it clear to those sitting here that that is not going to change.

"This is a community green space that's valued by the community."

The council proposed a staged delivery of the stadium starting in 2029/30, which is also when the clubs' leases expire.

Tolley acknowledged: "Financially, we [the council] can't afford this at the moment", so it didn't "make sense" to add it to the long term plan in the next few years.

"Let's get on with Te Manawataki O Te Papa, (the $304m civic precinct) and getting the centre of town looking like a place that people want to come to.

"We are here to do the best for the city for the next 30 years. One of the things we found was a huge under-investment in community facilities."

A budget of $70m is proposed for the first stage, with $40m from rates-funded loans and $30m from other sources.

The council also budgeted $30m to relocate the athletics track, Tauranga Bowling Club, croquet club and some of the tennis courts.

The stadium will be included in the draft long-term plan that will go out for public consultation later in the year.

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