Sacking an elected council and appointing commissioners to run a council’s governance functions is quite a rare event.
Essentially, that situation only arises if there are significant issues within a group of elected members, and they are unwilling or unable to resolve those issues for themselves, in which case, the Minister of Local Government will step-in.
The former Tauranga City Council elected members exemplified dysfunctionality, their conduct marked by infighting; a lack of ‘collective responsibility’; and in some cases, no insight at all into their personal contributions to the council’s problems.
That was the background to the appointment of four Tauranga City Council commissioners in early-February. Anne Tolley (Chair); Stephen Selwood, Bill Wasley and Shadrach Rolleston (see below for brief profiles on each commissioner) ‘hit the ground running’, and they needed to.
One of the key tasks they were charged with was delivering a 2021-31 long-term plan (LTP) which would take the city forward and address its obvious infrastructure and community facility deficits.
“The draft LTP was an enormous piece of work,” Anne Tolley says. “We needed to have a good understanding of the Council business before we could start, and of course, we needed to have the widest possible feedback from the Tauranga community to help us make the final decisions. If our efforts are going to have a lasting benefit for the city, we have to take the community with us and that means having the widest possible buy-in to all key aspects of the LTP.”
She says the commissioners are very happy with the feedback they have received via dozens of community engagement opportunities and face-to-face contact with hundreds of individual residents. “There are some people who are not happy with the priorities set-out in the draft LTP, but overall, most people have realistic expectations – they know something has to be done and are pleased that the city now has decisive governance, which is committed to getting things back on-track.”
Commissioner Stephen Selwood says the inclusion of $4.6 billion of infrastructure development over the next decade is a ‘game-changer’ for Tauranga.
Legacy of underinvestment
“The Council has a legacy of underinvestment in community facilities (like swimming pools, playing fields, libraries and a museum) and key infrastructure (roads, water and wastewater pipes and treatment plants, etc) because successive councils decided it was better to keep rates down than to invest in the things the city needs,” he says.
“That’s fine for a while, but in the end, it costs everyone, because our infrastructure no longer meets our existing needs, let alone keeping up with the needs of a growing city.
Bill Wasley and Shad Rolleston are the ‘locals’ on the commission. They both come from planning backgrounds.
“We’ve looked at the things we can do to help open-up land for development, because as it stands, houses in Tauranga have become so costly that new home-buyers have been virtually priced out of the market.
“That means prioritising projects like the Papamoa East Interchange and the infrastructure needed for housing and commercial developments at Tauriko and accelerating the work required so that we can encourage some positive changes in the market, although there is no one ‘silver bullet’ to address the current housing challenges we face,” Bill says.
“In addition, the commitment to facilitating intensification is exemplified by initiatives such as Plan Change 26, which is about providing opportunities for housing in areas such as the Te Papa peninsula,” Bill says.
Anne Tolley – Commission Chair: Anne brings a wide experience in local and national politics to her role. Elected to the Napier City Council in 1986, she served as a Standing Committee Chair, and then Deputy Mayor for six years. She was also elected to the inaugural Hawkes Bay Regional Council. In 1999, she was elected to Parliament as a National Party List MP and after moving to Gisborne, was elected as the MP for East Coast in 2005. She held that seat until her in 2020, moving to Ōhope as the growing electorate’s boundary reached the edge of Te Puke. Anne served for nine years as a Government minister, holding the portfolios of Education, Police, Corrections, MSD, Children and Local Government.
Stephen Selwood: Stephen is a professional director and an expert in infrastructure vision, strategy and policy. The founding Chief Executive of Infrastructure New Zealand, Stephen continues to serve as a board member of the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission – Te Waihanga; and provides public policy advice to the infrastructure sector, as a director of Selwood Infrastructure Advisory. In 2019, he received the Infrastructure New Zealand leadership award for his contribution to the industry in NZ Stephen describes himself as a thought-leader who brings a deep understanding of integrated urban development and infrastructure planning, funding and delivery to his commission role.
Bill Wasley: Bill comes from a professional planning background has more than 40 years’ experience in resource management and senior management positions in local government and the private sector, the latter including serving as Company Secretary for the Port of Tauranga Ltd, and a director of its subsidiary companies. Amongst his many current and past governance roles, Bill was the Independent Chair of the western Bay of Plenty’s SmartGrowth partnership from 2001 until his appointment as a Tauranga City Council Commissioner. He has a strong interest in governance and collaborative approaches which achieve integration between spatial planning, economic development, social community outcomes and the necessary funding arrangements.
Shad Rolleston: Shad is a consultant planner and policy advisor with expertise in resource management and Māori relationship management and engagement. He has tribal connections to Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Pukenga, as well as affiliations to Te Arawa. Shad’s public service career spans more than 20 years and includes working as a policy advisor and planner for central and local government, specialising in transport and environmental reforms. He has served as a board member on the Ngāti Ranginui Post Settlement Governance Entity; is a former SmartGrowth Tū Pakari Advisor and co-chair of the Combined Tāngata Whenua Forum; and is the current Chair of Arā Rau Tāngata.