Tauranga City Council’s four-person Commission has wasted no time in getting the organisation’s governance functions back on-track.
Led by former Cabinet Minister Anne Tolley, the commission’s remaining members are Bill Wasley (the former independent chair of the Western Bay SmartGrowth partnership); Stephen Selwood (the founding chief executive of Infrastructure NZ); and Shadrach Rolleston (a consultant planner with strong iwi affiliations).
Their combined strengths and experience in governance, planning, strategy and policy development and infrastructure planning add considerable weight to the Council’s decision-making capacity – a critical factor which has been welcomed by the Council’s executive team.
Three months into their 20-month tenure (the commission has been tasked facilitating a transition back to democratic leadership for the 2022 local government elections) the Commissioners have gone through an intensive series of briefings on the council’s business; guided the completion of the draft 2021-31 long-term plan (which is now going through formal community consultation) and made a raft of key decisions along the way.
They’ve also maintained a hectic community engagement schedule, meeting with a wide range of organisations and individuals to expand their awareness of local issues and priorities.
We need your help to make some very important decisions for Tauranga, so please take the time to read the long-term plan consultation document (available online) and make a submission. – Anne Tolley
Chair Anne Tolley says they have had a steep learning curve, but are relishing the challenges of their role and enjoying hearing the community’s views.
“It’s fair to say there is wide recognition that investment in community facilities and infrastructure has not kept pace with the needs of a growing city. That means we have to play catch-up and start working on the facilities which will make Tauranga a great place to live, work, learn and play,” she says.
“That covers everything from community centres to cultural facilities (including a new central library) and swimming pools. At the same time, we have to upgrade our infrastructure – roads and water, wastewater and stormwater systems – to keep up with our current needs and put in the new infrastructure required to manage future growth.”
Of course, all of those investments have to be paid for, which is where “the going gets tough”.
Past decisions to minimise rates increases and use debt-funding as much as possible mean the council is close to its debt-to-revenue limit, with little headroom to take on extra borrowing.
The draft 2021-31 Long-term Plan therefore has a strong focus on revenue and debt repayment, to ensure that the city can afford capital expenditure totalling around $4.5 billion over the next decade.
“None of that is frivolous spending and it prioritises our most urgent needs,” says Tolley.
“We want the widest possible feedback on the draft plan – on the work programme it sets out and on the way we propose to pay for it.
“Unfortunately, rates increases are unavoidable, and we are asking the business sector to pay a fairer share of the costs through an increased commercial differential rate, bringing them more into line with other centres.
“We’re also working with regional and central government to access infrastructure funding and developers will be asked to play their part through higher development contributions.
“If we want to live in a city we can be proud of, it’s time to stop passing the buck.
“We need your help to make some very important decisions for Tauranga, so please take the time to read the long-term plan consultation document (available online) and make a submission.”