Leaving democracy in good hands

By Anne Tolley, Tauranga Commission Chair

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When the Tauranga City Council Commission was appointed to a new term in 2022, one of the responsibilities we were tasked with by the then-Minister of Local Government was to develop a plan for a smooth transition back to democratic governance arrangements.

That’s something the commissioners have given considerable thought to over the intervening months, because to safeguard residents’ interests, we need to try and reduce any possibility of a return to the dysfunctionality and poor decision-making of past elected councils.

As always, the responsibility for electing an effective governance team lies with the community – that’s what democracy is all about – but we have tried to make that an easier process by encouraging people from a wide variety of backgrounds to stand for election.

We want people who are committed to the future of the city and have the right governance skills, community awareness and knowledge base to put themselves forward for election.

The information sessions we have held for prospective candidates have given us some confidence that voters will have a strong selection of candidates to choose from. Around 100 people attended the first of these events and while not all of them will be putting their names forward for election, that level of interest is very encouraging.

The Council has run a publicity campaign asking people who think they can contribute to the good governance of the city to consider standing and we’ll also be looking to encourage all eligible electors to vote.

The latter aspect is actually hugely important. In recent local elections throughout New Zealand, the voter turnout has been disappointing, with 40% or less of eligible electors actually casting a vote. Local democracy actually makes more decisions that affect our everyday lives than national government does, so it’s really important that people vote and that they put the right mix of elected members in place to guide their city’s future.

Information about standing for election, voter registration and voting can be found on the Council website and we encourage all eligible voters to get involved and ensure that they have their say on who represents them.

Likewise, we want people who are committed to the future of the city and have the right governance skills, community awareness and knowledge base to put themselves forward for election. Over the past three years, the city has taken some important steps forward, particularly in the work now underway to address our housing shortage and infrastructure deficit and revitalise the city centre.

We now have a comprehensive 2024-34 long-term plan in place for the new Council to work with and progress. The Commission also made a recommendation to the Minister of Local Government, Hon. Simeon Brown, that a Crown Observer be put in place to support the new governance team and keep the Government informed of its progress. However, he has indicated that he does not wish to make that appointment at this time.

Of course, the business community has much at stake as well, because a thriving economy will benefit everyone and help make Tauranga the city we all want – a great place to live, work, learn and play, not just for us, but for future generations as well.

Make sure you play your part in making that happen.

Anne Tolley
Anne Tolley
Tauranga Commission Chair

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