Council chief looking forward to challenge

Garry Poole has been appointed Tauranga City Council's new chief executive and will take up the role in April. He believes the city can lift its standing nationally and internationally - and answers our 10 questions.

1 You were in charge of Wellington City Council for 15 years. What were your biggest achievements in that time?

Overall, I'm proud that the council invested in social infrastructure and events while maintaining the delivery of core services.

Wellington's international reputation as a place to live, work, study and as a destination for sport and recreation undoubtedly improved. Lonely Planet described Wellington as possibly the coolest little capital in the world.

Specifically, I would list the $180 million Moa Point sewerage treatment plant, the $50 million ASB Indoor Sports Centre and cementing Wellington's reputation as a host of world-class events, such as the Rugby Sevens and WOW (World of Wearableart).

But equally, there are the things not so obvious to the public eye, like the steady, ongoing investment in earthquake resilient infrastructure over the last 15 years, especially our underground water networks.

2 What do you envisage being the major differences between running Wellington and Tauranga City Council?

Every city has its own challenges and issues but ultimately it comes down to serving the public - finding the balance between the need to keep investing in the city and keeping the cost of services affordable for residents and ratepayers.

3 What are the biggest challenges facing you in Tauranga?

Getting to know the city and the people.

4 What do you see as the greatest opportunities?

I think Tauranga has the potential to improve its standing nationally and internationally.

5 You were voted out of your position at Wellington. There has been speculation as to the reasons why. Is there anything you would like to say to clear the air?

I had been in the job for 15 years and councillors voted for change. I accept the decision.

6 Did Wellington's debt increase during your tenure? If so, what were the reasons behind this?

Borrowing allows the costs to spread over the life of an asset - meaning those people that benefit from it in years to come also pay a contribution towards it. The costs would otherwise need to be met by current ratepayers.

Yes, Wellington's borrowings did increase in the last 15 years but you also have to look at where the money was invested.

We built the Moa Point sewerage treatment plant, Westpac Stadium, the Indoor Sports Centre and the development of Wellington's waterfront.

The council holds an AA credit rating with Standard and Poor's. This is the highest rating possible for a New Zealand council at the moment.

7 You have said you had been considering other options before taking up the Tauranga role. What were these?

I think the more important point is that I chose the Tauranga role because I felt it would be the most exciting, challenging and rewarding.

8 When will you be moving to Tauranga? Will your whole family be coming and will you be buying a property here?

I will be commuting at first. One of my sons is at university in Wellington and he will be staying in the capital but my intention is to eventually establish a home with my family in Tauranga.

9 Hurricanes or Chiefs in the Super 15?

I'm a passionate rugby supporter. I have a strong connection with the Norths Rugby Club in Wellington, which was founded after a merger between the Titahi Bay and Porirua Rugby Clubs. Titahi Bay's colours were blue and gold so I have a natural affinity for the Bay of Plenty.

I will definitely be a Steamers supporter. With Super Rugby, can I support both the Chiefs and the Hurricanes?

10 Is there anything you would like to say to the people of Tauranga?

Only that I am really looking forward to the challenge ahead and working with the mayor, councillors and the organisation to ensure the city is managed in a way that serves the best interests of the community and the city's future.

I'm also excited about living in Tauranga and being part of the community and enjoying everything that the region has to offer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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