Tauranga City Council: A new era

By Natalie Dixon

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Cr Clayton Mitchell (left) congratulates Cr Kelvin Clout for being chosen as deputy mayor. Photo/Joel Ford
Cr Clayton Mitchell (left) congratulates Cr Kelvin Clout for being chosen as deputy mayor. Photo/Joel Ford

Tauranga's new-look council has been sworn in, with Mayor Stuart Crosby saying ratepayers can expect a united leadership that will focus on a new vision for the city.

The prediction comes after the recent election wiped out seven of the 10 councillors, with Mr Crosby clinging to his mayoral chains by just over 500 votes.

After the councillors were sworn in before a large crowd they confirmed Cr Kelvin Clout as deputy mayor during the new council's inaugural meeting.

In accepting the position, Mr Clout vowed not to become the mayor's "yes man".

"That said, I will seek to repay the faith Stuart has put in me by making wise decisions," he said.

Mr Crosby told the crowd ratepayers could also expect a "culture shift" within council.

"In the next 100 days people will notice a big change, there will be a new vision for our city, a new direction," he said.

"After the election we knew that change must take place, that we must move our city forward - we are up for it.

"We know that the true potential of this city can be achieved by a strong, united leadership team."

His optimism was shared by other councillors, many of whom, while positive about the future, reflected on the job ahead.

Cr John Robson described the meeting as a time for reflection, not celebration.

He said in three years' time he hoped to be able to celebrate Tauranga being a better place.

Cr Gail McIntosh said the re-elected mayor and councillors must join the "newbies" in delivering a new vision for Tauranga.

She said the community's call for more gender balance in the council and more experienced business people had been heard.

"I only made one promise during the campaign and that was to make better decisions and I intend to keep it," she said.

Cr Steve Morris, who will chair a new community development committee, said it was the most fulfilling role he had had in his life. "And it has only been two weeks."

He said he was looking forward to helping neighbourhoods "take the city back".

"I believe the community are up to the challenge," he said.

"I believe the staff are willing to embark on this journey and finally the governance of this city has caught up."

Another newly elected councillor, Matt Cowley, also called for major changes, telling the crowd it was time Tauranga City Council caught up with the leadership practices of successful global organisations, focusing on competence and clarity.

"Leaders of these organisations have evolved from the traditional hands-on command and control structure and we will do the same," he said.

Cr Cowley said he was keen to tackle some of the issues that had been put in the "too-hard basket" by former councils.

The three re-elected councillors - Catherine Stewart, Bill Grainger and Rick Curach - said they were looking forward to the new direction and thanked the community for once again voting for them.

"This election was quite extraordinary," Cr Curach said.

"I am not aware of any council which lost 70 per cent of its representatives in my history in local government.

"The message I took out of that was that we were out of touch so we need to be better and we are determined to."

Cr Bev Edlin said she was excited about the city's new direction and working with a "diverse and very talented group of people", while Cr Clayton Mitchell held up an image of a smiley face, saying a "picture often says a thousand words," to describe how he was feeling.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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