Learning from the past

THE PORTER REPORT - A monthly update on the business world from leading writer David Porter

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There has been a groundswell of support from potential candidates as Tauranga gets ready for its first democratic city council election since 2019. Then the entire council was sacked after the abrupt resignation of new mayor Tenby Powell.

The replacement of the council by four election commissioners was by no means popular, despite the wrangling and disaffection shown by the ousted council.

The flood of candidates suggests that there is a considerable appetite for a return to democratic elections in Tauranga, despite – or as a result of – the experience of living with commissioners.

And lead commissioner, and former BOP News Business columnist Anne Tolley undoubtedly did herself and her colleagues few favours by suggesting that some of the commissioners should stay on in an advisory position to “help” the soon to be elected new council understand and carry out its duties. Her suggestion was quickly rejected.

What is coming?

So what are we to make of the new council elections, scheduled for July?

First, let us acknowledge that in many sections of the community the commissioners were welcomed as at least getting things done, rather than seemingly being in a state of constant conflict with each other.

And Powell, despite his military background and strong presentation during his election campaign was quickly proven to be ineffective at securing agreement amongst the councillors. More to the point, the commissioners obviously were not obliged to go through the enormous checks and balances provided by a large group of councillors who could be for or against any proposal.

We should be grateful to the current council bureaucracy, which has provided an easily accessible list of potential candidates, together with their email and/or phone contacts. Bluntly, there is no excuse for not quizzing the candidates about what they are offering.
Arguably, the key roles that any mayor must play in a local body are to both provide leadership and to balance that with the ability to secure consensus amongst a majority of councillors for the hoped for advancement of the community.

Interestingly, as of writing on the last day for candidates to apply, we had a total of eight candidates for mayor and more than 40 candidates for election to the various districts. That suggests a pent-up demand for a return to a more democratic election process.

Amongst the mayoral candidates, Mahe Drysdale, an elite rower and descendant of a former mayor, as well as Maori recording artist Ria Hall, had become front runners. But that was early days and there are now a number of candidates for the office.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the council candidate list includes a number of faces from the ousted council. Some of them, no doubt, wish to make it clear that the installation of the commissioners was a mistake and that they can do better. It remains to be seen whether this is the case.

I would urge all electors to read about and wherever possible question the motives and intentions of all candidates for office in Tauranga whose actions may affect you.

Related: The messy business of democracy
David Porter
David Porter
THE PORTER REPORT - A monthly update on the business world from David Porter

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