John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Baldock pledges city-wide surveys if he wins mayoralty

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Tauranga mayoral candidate Larry Baldock wants to canvas public opinion on ratepayers fronting up for expensive new roads.  PHOTO/FILE
Tauranga mayoral candidate Larry Baldock wants to canvas public opinion on ratepayers fronting up for expensive new roads. PHOTO/FILE

Tauranga mayoral contender Larry Baldock has pledged to survey ratepayers on major issues that hit them in the pocket, including measures to reduce traffic congestion.

His election promise was sparked by concerns that people's lives were now so busy that they did not know what the council was dealing with.

He said that if he won the election to lead the city for the next three years, he would canvas public opinion on contentious big ticket items or controversial council policy changes.

''Some people don't know what is going on. They are so busy with their lives.''

Mr Baldock proposed sending survey forms out with household rates or water notices to save money. If the survey revealed strong feelings either way, the next option was to run a referendum that could be mailed out with election papers to boost interest in the elections.

He told the Bay of Plenty Times in his candidate interview that he was not satisfied that the usual public submissions process delivered a broad cross-section of opinion.

An obvious contender for a survey was the growing issue of traffic congestion on Tauranga roads and the need for the council to commit significant ratepayer funding.

Mr Baldock harked back to the 1997 Access Partnership to ring the city with a highway. But he feared that fixing the Te Managua to Bay fair section of the ring road would shift the problem to Hewlett's Rd with its series of intersections controlled by traffic lights.

He said Hewlett's Rd was already coming under growing traffic pressure from the city's growth and the solution would be to get rid of the lights by grade separating intersections.

''We need to get on to it. We have got to keep ahead of the rapid growth, otherwise traffic will be our downfall.''

Elizabeth St was another traffic pressure point, along with an emerging problem at Burke's Corner at the roundabout between Cameron Rd and Pres Pa Rd.

But a major funding issue for ratepayers would be going halves with the New Zealand Transport Agency to four-lane Turret Rd and 15th Ave to Cameron Rd, including a new bridge.

''The prime minister promised to fix it in 2008, but if he is not going to do it, we will have to do it ourselves.''

With construction started on the underpass from Welcome Bay, the four-lining had to be brought forward in work programmes.

''We can't wait 10 years for it.''

Mr Baldock was not confident that public transport and cycling was a solution to congestion. ''It hasn't anywhere else in the world.''

Another burning issue for him was to secure an internationally branded hotel in Tauranga downtown.

''If we want a hotel, we have got to put skin in the game and do all we can.''

The hotel had been subject to several failed bids over the years on the council-owned site on Durham St, opposite Bay court.

Mr Baldock said if it needed five or 10 years of concessions like rates or waste water relief, then that should be considered. The economic returns to the downtown and the city would be huge, particularly if it had conference facilities.

''We know people would flock here to come to a conference. The CBD has the best waterfront in the country.''

He said building a civic square without having an international hotel was putting the cart before the horse.

Asked if he championed the cause of developers, Mr Baldock said they were important to the city. They should not be frustrated with a bureaucracy and planning rules that did not make sense.

''The faster we build houses, the better off we will be... we need to listen carefully to developers. There is always a balance between the way planners want to city to look and the way it has to be to make it work financially.''

- Bay of Plenty Times

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