John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Council urged to open satellite offices

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Councillor Matt Cowley.
Councillor Matt Cowley.

One of Tauranga's biggest ratepayer organisations has called on the council to open satellite offices so that services are taken to the people and more room can be created downtown for a new museum, community centre and library complex.

The suggestion was made by Papamoa Progressive Association deputy chairman Ron Melville in response to the council's Civic Heart project to redevelop the CBD's civic block.

He wants the council to take advantage of the "once in a lifetime opportunity" offered by the project to take council services out to the people.

Mr Melville told councillors last week they needed to think outside the square: "It is our kids' future and the community's future."

He said Tauranga could lead New Zealand in the way it did business with the community.

People would be able to access a large number of staff and services at the suburban offices including dog rangers, parks and recreation staff, and consenting processes.

Ideally, the staff working in satellite offices would also live in the area and therefore have an affinity with residents, he said.

Mr Melville said people had commented to him that it would be like the old days when people met people.

A core of staff would be left in the CBD, along with the council's debating chamber and offices for the mayor and councillors.

Although people might be sceptical about such a "wild, out-there idea", he said the direct links with the community would make the council more productive and more people would vote in elections because they felt closer to the council.

Part of the process would be to ensure satellite offices operated efficiently and delivered the needs of residents, he said.

Mr Melville was asked whether moving a significant number of staff to satellite offices would have a detrimental effect on the city and CBD.

He replied: "The people here are not setting the CBD on fire now, so a reduction would not make much difference."

Councillor Matt Cowley said big developers with projects in various parts of Tauranga might get frustrated going from one satellite office to another because no matter where they went, they got the same service.

Mr Melville argued that local applications would be processed a lot more quickly, saying it would apply even if developers had multiple developments all over town.

Councillor John Robson said he found the submission "quite entertaining", and asked whether there was anywhere on planet Earth where a council ran this kind of structure.

Mr Melville said he understood that Thames had a similar structure, as did Perth in Western Australia.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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