More than 200 people gathered at Bob Owens Retirement Village yesterday in what has been the largest Meet the Candidates event yet.

The 11 contenders for the Tauranga mayoralty were given three minutes each to promote themselves, then the candidates were asked questions.

One that stirred a variety of responses was whether the civic heart process had been robust and innovative enough.

First up was Graeme Purches, who said the public should have known about the problem far earlier than they did.


During consultation, he said he had asked the council what the vision for the city was and was told there was not one.

Next was Greg Brownless, who said instead of "throwing a whole lot of money" at the project and including facilities like a library and museum, the city should work towards different components as it could afford them.

Max Mason brought up the Panuku Auckland development, the Auckland Council organisation involved in developing the Viaduct Basin and Wynyard Quarter, and said he had invited the man behind this project to talk about how Tauranga could "develop a city centre we can get behind".

Hori Leaming said Tauranga should be a "trailblazer" and have a city centre no other city in the country had, like how Kawakawa had Hundertwasser's toilets as a tourist attraction.

Noel Paterson said even if external funders came to the party and built the civic block, ratepayers would still have to pay for the fit out.

Doug Owens said he could not understand why the council was so "hell-bent" on getting a proposal for the civic block together before the election, which was a risky thing to do.

Murray Guy said the first news that came out about the leaky building was of an employee who had become sick, and he was yet to see any report that confirmed the sickness was caused by the mould, which made him believe there was a hidden agenda.

Larry Baldock, who was not at the meeting due to sickness but prepared a response read out by Tony Christiansen, said there had been unnecessary delays and costs in solving the leaky building problem.

"It has been nearly two years since mould was discovered. It should be gone by now. A new library should have been nearly under construction on the site."

Steve Morris, who was late because he was at a council meeting, said in his view, the council had "consulted some people to death" about the civic heart and the council should focus on replacing the civic building first as a necessity, then worry about the other projects as the city could afford them.

Kelvin Clout, who was also late due to a council meeting, said he valued the council staff and believed they deserved to be housed in a reasonable work environment.

John Robson, who was at the same council meeting, arrived too late to respond to the questions, but told the assembled voters he was made chairman of the council's Finance and Risk Committee as the mayor recognised he was the councillor with the strongest finance background, and said the mayor picked the right man for the job.