Survey: City not business friendly

By John Cousins


Tauranga City Council has been accused of lacking vision and doing little in the past three years.

A membership survey carried out by the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce found that nearly half of the 60 people who responded believed the council was not business friendly.

Only 7 per cent said the council was business friendly, leaving 45 per cent opting for the middle ground.

Chamber chief executive Max Mason said although the survey was answered by only 9 per cent of members, it required a lot of effort. They had sacrificed a "quicky"-type survey for something that required an in-depth response.

The same questions would be put to breakfast, lunch and evening focus group meetings on September 3 to arrive at a fuller understanding.

Mr Mason decided to release the results of the survey now to stimulate debate around the council elections and encourage people who were seriously thinking about standing to take the final step. Nominations close at midday today.

Only 12 per cent believed that the council's annual budget for events should remain at $200,000, with 53 per cent wanting the figure increased to $400,000 to $1 million-plus.

The answers tied in with more than 80 per cent agreeing that improving events, tourism attractions and cultural activities would attract more skilled people to settle in Tauranga.

Asked what the council had achieved in the past three years, more than 50 per cent said little had happened. Those who were positive acknowledged the waterfront development and city roading.

One of the strongest responses was reserved for the issue of local-government restructuring, with more than 75 per cent backing the need for councils to be more unified.

And 87 per cent ranked investment back into the city as more important than low rates.

Asked where Tauranga should be in 10 years, Mr Mason said the word "vibrant" was often used. Another common thread was that the city needed a vision that incorporated and valued all people and was economically sound.

As well, a strong call was made for the council to have less red tape and hoops for business people to jump through, particularly in the consents and planning areas.

Asked what would make them run for council, the strongest themes were for the council to have a clear vision and for councillors to work together for a common purpose. Better pay barely rated as a consideration.

Mr Mason said a typical comment was: "We need to encourage a new crop of talented people to stand for election. This current group is too divided and factionalised."

What the nominated mayoral candidates said

Mike Baker

"The city needs people with a strong vision to go forward, to make hard decisions and not just so they get re-elected. As a councillor I was often staggered by the lack of business acumen amongst councillors. In all honesty, it starts from the top."

Kelvin Clout

"My campaign will align with how the business community feels about these issues. I share the view that the two main drivers of an effective council are unity of purpose and a clear long-term vision. It concerns me that only seven per cent of respondents feel that the council is business friendly."

Stuart Crosby

"I agree with virtually all of that feedback. It is time to review Tauranga's vision and I am part of the Core Cities group [of Local Government New Zealand] that will bring more user-friendly tools into the council. As far as events go, a council workshop is coming next week that seeks to improve how events are funded."

Richard Moore

"We will open the books once this council is turfed out. I think the current council is tired and looks as if it doesn't have any ideas any more to get us out of the hole we are in. As far as not being business friendly, in tough times councils will look to spend less. That will be a part of it."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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