Tauranga to hold local body elections in July for first time in four years

9:35 pm on 12 April 2024

It has been four years since Tauranga had a council but the city will finally have local elections again in July.

Then-local government minister Nanaia Mahuta installed four commissioners at the end of 2020 to take over the reins of the dysfunctional council.

It is home to 160,000 people and is known for its stunning coastline.

Tauranga is the country's fifth largest city and has experienced rapid growth which has put pressure on its infrastructure.

So what kind of shape is it in, as it prepares to welcome back democratically elected leadership?

Some residents told RNZ they were ready for change.

"Yeah it's well overdue for it, why did we need commissioners in the first place," said one person.

"Absolutely yeah something completely different from what was before a fresh way of looking at things and doing things," said another person.

One local said: "They were right to move on and yeah get some elected people back, hopefully the elected people that stand are in touch with what's happening."

Four commissioners were brought in at the end of 2020 following the resignation of then-mayor Tenby Powell and an independent review.

Candidate nominations for the Tauranga City Council local body elections open on 24 May.

Candidate nominations for the Tauranga City Council local body elections open on 24 May. Photo: RNZ

Commission chair Anne Tolley said it was time for fresh elections.

But there is trepidation about what will happen when the commissioners go and what happens to major projects like the CBD re-build.

"They don't want to go backwards, so I'm reasonably confident that the community will have a good look at, you know, who's standing and make make sensible decisions to keep the city moving."

Tolley said the state of the council when the commissioners took over was alarming.

"It was a shock to see how bad Tauranga had been managed for quite some time, so lack of maintenance, even the roading maintenance was poor, lack of investment in the community and lack of management of growth."

The commissioners were only supposed to be in place for two years but were kept on - a move which attracted criticism.

But Tolley believes they have left the city in a better place than they found it.

"It's been a long journey and look, you never get everyone to agree with everything you do, but what we learned was because we weren't elected, we had to do more of getting out and about and talking to the public than perhaps councils have traditionally done.

"Seldom go anywhere that there isn't someone who will approach me and say, you know you guys have done a great job."

RNZ asked locals how they would score the commissioners.

"Well they certainly appear to have spent a lot of money, the rates are going to increase, to have to service the borrowings that have occurred in the past," said one local.

Another said the commissioners had done very well. "It would be good if the future council got things done instead of infighting and avoiding the tasks that needed doing to get this place going."

One resident said the commissioners had been doing a good job. "It'll be a shame to lose them," they said.

Locals ready to cast a vote in July had some burning issues at the top of their minds.

"Transport you know... a lot of the stuff hasn't been done for 30 or 40 years it's always been on plans to be built for roads and stuff nothing's ever done.

"It's an expanding city, so be good to see infrastructure keep growing."

Some local business owners were nervous about what the upcoming changes would bring.

"I'm hoping that the newly elected council will reach out and kind of work with the people and the stakeholders that are in the city that have kind of been doing the hard work while we have been working alongside the commissioners," said owner of Miss Gee's Bar and Eatery Ashleigh Gee.

Oscar and Otto Cafe co-owner Hamish Carter said he was worried about a repeat performance of the previous council.

"The previous councillors hadn't done their job and so I'm not sure what to think about the upcoming election because if we get the same people, we're gonna get the same result again so we need strong candidates putting up their hand."

Candidate nominations open on 26 April and close at 12pm on 24 May.

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