Tauranga ‘short changed’ by commission appointment

A commission will take over Tauranga City Councillors’ duties but how they will engage with the community is still up in the air.

Commissioners are set to take over Tauranga City Councillors’ responsibilities in February, but with so few details about the appointments, questions remain over how the public will still be able to engage with the decision-making process.

People and engagement general manager Susan Jamieson says it is too early to give definitive answers about whether the commissioners will be as readily available to the public as councillors are.

She says the commissioners will determine what the community engagement process will look like.

The appointments will be announced in early February and they take up their roles on February 8.

Councillors’ mobile numbers and emails are on the council website and councillor Kelvin Clout says they are effectively open to the public all hours of the day and night.

He is contacted up to 20 times a week, with a lot of this requiring follow up with council staff or connecting people in the community.

Kelvin doesn’t agree with the appointment of commissioners and says it is a step too far.  

“To replace all of the elected members with unelected bureaucrats is a backward step for local democracy.”

One of his biggest concerns is that people won’t have the same level of access to the commissioners and that they might not be Tauranga based.

He says because the commissioners are unelected they’re not as accountable to the voters.

“I think the community will be really short changed.”

The commission will still be required to abide by the Local Government Act so meetings will be open to the public and formal consultation processes will continue.

Susan says as part of the commissioner appointment process, the Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta made it clear that she expects a high level of community engagement and will be seeking to appoint people with strong relationship-building capabilities who can quickly develop the confidence of the community.

In December, Mahuta announced a commission will be appointed saying council had not presented sufficient evidence on how it would address its problems.

“I consider a commission to be necessary to deliver the strategic leadership that the council and city needs.”

Last year councillor Jako Abrie and Mayor Tenby Powell resigned, citing dysfunction amongst the councillors and calling for commissioners to be appointed.

Until the appointments on February 8, councillors remain in their roles and can be contacted. Any operational matters or information requests should be dealt with by council.

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