Tauranga By-election and Local Democracy

https://www.sunlive.co.nz/election-debate.html

The Sunlive byelection debate last night was an interesting discussion about some important topics, so as an independent, non-aligned organisation, we’d encourage Tauranga residents to watch it before you vote.

The most striking difference was Labour’s candidate being (unsurprisingly) strongly in favour of the removal of democratic elections for Tauranga City Council, while the others all promised a fast restoration of local democracy. The most fascinating aspect was Jan Tinetti clearly indicating the rationale for extending the Commissioners’ term was that “successive governments had very little confidence in the ability to be able to invest in this city”… i.e. many years or even decades of council governance not supporting the government growth agenda – not just dysfunction in the most recent council, as many have claimed.

What no-one really addressed was the underlying factors that led many City Councillors over the past decade or so to push back against an expensive, unsustainable growth agenda. Those factors include:

  • Tauranga having the highest median residential rates of any NZ metro city
  • Tauranga having the lowest commercial rates differential of any NZ city (namely, there wasn’t one)
  • Council having no sustainability strategy, and no climate plan or carbon targets
  • The sheer pace of growth in the Western Bay, especially in freight to and from the Port
  • The power wielded by several wealthy landbankers-developers
  • The lack of government funding into state/social/elder/disability housing in the city
  • Heaps of government funding for highway projects (2nd harbour bridge, TEL, B2B, TNL), but between central government and TCC, very little funding to sort out local roads (e.g. Totara St), improve rail, grade-separate railway crossings on busy roads (e.g. Totara St) and build safe cycleways
  • Prioritising growth ahead of community amenities … and this got worse under the Commissioners, as last year’s LTP saw an astounding 62% of capital expenditure go on growth – far more than any other NZ city.

Putting aside party politics, to all those people who think the answer to these problems is removing democratic processes and aligning Council policy with the wishes of property developers, we say you’re asking the wrong question.

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