Garth George: Mayors gazing into crystal balls

By Garth George

Tauranga mayor Stewart Crosby.
Tauranga mayor Stewart Crosby.

If you see a man or a woman wandering the streets of Tauranga or Rotorua with a vacant expression on his or her face and a thousand-metre stare, then it's likely you're not seeing a drug addict but a local body member having a vision.

As our new and substantially changed city and district councils begin their reigns, "vision" is a word being thrown about with great gusto.

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

Mr Crosby told the crowd at the council's inaugural meeting that ratepayers could also expect a "culture shift" within the council.

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

In Rotorua, new Mayor Steve Chadwick, a former Labour Cabinet minister who convincingly unseated the three-term incumbent, said this week that councillors had met informally for the first time to create a new community vision for the district.

And so it goes on. Everybody, it seems, is engrossed in what is to happen in the future rather than keeping an eye on what needs to be done today.

Sure, both mayors have made it plain that we should see some results in the first 100 days.

Mr Crosby: "In the next 100 days, people will notice a big change. There will be a new vision for our city, a new direction."

Mrs Chadwick: "The first stage [of a three-stage plan] is a short-term plan for the 'first 100 days' to get momentum under way."

Well, at least I won't be a year older in 100 days, so I guess I can take an interest in that stage of the plan. It will be interesting to see what the two councils come up with in that time.

There has been no mention so far in Tauranga of longer-term plans. All Mr Crosby has said is that the election, in which 70 per cent of sitting councillors lost their seats, showed that "change must take place, we must move our city forward - we are up for it".

But in Rotorua, all the talk is about "New Directions 2030", which, Mrs Chadwick says, will determine priorities and work programmes for the coming years and ensure that the council, residents and other stakeholders are working together toward the same outcomes.

After the first 100 days the eyes will be on the rest of the council's term, then they will bulge out to 2030 to the "development of a longer-term vision for the district's future and a realignment of council governance and business operational structures in order to deliver on that vision".

Sounds good, doesn't it? Far-sighted politicians and bureaucrats making plans for our city for the next 17 years. But it occurs to me that, if I'm still alive - which I seriously doubt - I'll be 90; and Tania Tapsell, the 21-year-old lass who won a seat on the council on both credentials and name, will be 38.

It's all very well for us to peer into, and plan for, the future, but I wonder how much council revenue is devoted to paying bureaucrats, on probably inflated salaries, to gaze into their computer screens - the modern-day crystal balls - and figure out what's going to happen to Rotorua and district in the next 17 years.

If that's anything like long-range weather forecasting, I suspect the results will be inconclusive, to say the least.

For a man who lives a day at a time, and who can't tell you what's going to happen tomorrow, let alone next week or next year, it is all passing strange.

Just think Christchurch earthquakes.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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