Big ask for city's new boss

By John Cousins

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Tauranga City Council's new chief executive has been called upon to "stabilise the ship" in challenging times.

Mayor Stuart Crosby reference to recent upheavals and controversy in the council took place during yesterday's official Maori welcome for Garry Poole.

The ceremony involved iwi and council representatives from the greater Wellington region and Taranaki, and leaders from Tauranga Moana's three iwi.

Mr Crosby said it was a mark of the man that Mr Poole's first two days at work would be mainly taken up with meeting the majority of staff.

He said there had been challenging times with the death of former CEO Ken Paterson and the restructuring of the council carried on by the interim CEO Leigh Auton. Mr Crosby asked Mr Poole to "stabilise the ship as we move forward".

His remarks follow the council making a confidential settlement to Melanie Paterson, the widow of the CEO.

It was subsequently disclosed that the council has made payouts of $1.3 million to former staff during the seven years to June 30 last year of which $828,000 was for 21 "settlement and exit packages".

The payouts were revealed in an Official Information Act request by Cr Murray Guy made after an investigation into allegations of bullying and intimidation within the organisation. The complaints were not upheld.

Mr Crosby said Tauranga was going through a transformation and the council was about to take another step in changing the culture of the city by bringing in elements that would define the city.

The key element was the relationship with tangata whenua in the post-Treaty settlement environment of co-management and co-governance. "Garry will play a lead role in that."

Wellington city councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer said Wellington had suffered a major loss and Tauranga a major win.

He described Mr Poole as being the engine driver that had dragged Wellington from being the "great city of mandarins" to the arts and cultural capital of New Zealand.

Mr Poole said "I hope I can make a contribution to the future of this city ... I am looking forward to working with all of you."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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