John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Regional Council office moves to Tauranga

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.John Cronin. Photo/File
.John Cronin. Photo/File

Tauranga has become the unofficial head office for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council after an attempt to shift from Whakatane was rebuffed by the Court of Appeal five years ago.

The gradual shift, over the last three to five years, out of the registered head office in Whakatane has happened after the council's decision to move its head office to Tauranga was foiled by the court decision in 2010.

Former regional council chairman John Cronin said the section of the Local Government Act which the Court of Appeal used to set aside the decision to shift the head office to Tauranga had since been repealed.

"It makes sense that they locate themselves where the greatest growth is occurring."
Chief executive of economic development organisation Priority One Andrew Coker

Current council chairman Doug Leeder said that functionally and administratively, the head office was now in Tauranga.

"We are trying to ensure that ratepayers' money was being spent effectively."
While the registered head office was still in Whakatane, he said the functional and operational reality was that Tauranga was the Bay's biggest centre and was well positioned to service the region.

"A lot of the functions are centred around Tauranga."

Mr Leeder said the council was still delivering services from the nearest office, so that Whakatane continued to be the base for the council's extensive river and drainage catchment functions.

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However, the administrative and policy arms of the council and, to a large degree, the consents were centred on Tauranga, he said.

Andrew Coker, chief executive of economic development organisation Priority One, did not have a view on where the head office should be but said Tauranga was the Bay's major growth area and required a strong focus by the regional council.

"It makes sense that they locate themselves where the greatest growth is occurring."

Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne said the shift of the head office to Tauranga had been a fait accompli involving the transfer of regional council senior managers.

"We accept it has happened."

More than 300 regional council staff in Whakatane had dropped to about 140.

Mr Bonne said the loss of senior staff had a flow-on effect for the town because they were typically on sport club and community committees.

"It hurts small communities like ours."

Mr Bonne said most of the changes were made before Mr Leeder was appointed chairman after the 2013 election.

"There is no bad blood between the two councils. We are in the same waka - it is pointless opposing each other."

Mr Cronin said the question of the head office could be addressed as part of the review currently underway to achieve the best utilisation of the council's properties including the Whakatane office. The review follows last year's council restructuring.

Mr Cronin said the property review would include the implications of Inland Revenue moving out of the council-owned Regency House in Elizabeth St and into a new building under construction in Cameron Rd. Staff at offices in Mount Maunganui could be centralised into Regency House.

BOP Regional Council staff: the three main offices
Tauranga: 153
Whakatane: 139
Rotorua: 36

- Bay of Plenty Times

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