Standing room only at art gallery as Tauranga's mayoralty contenders are grilled by voters

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Tauranga Art Gallery was packed with residents for the Tauranga Mayoral Candidates Forum. PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK
Tauranga Art Gallery was packed with residents for the Tauranga Mayoral Candidates Forum. PHOTO/GEORGE NOVAK

It was standing room only at Tauranga Art Gallery for the Tauranga Mayoral Candidates Forum on Tuesday night.

People lined the stairs in the packed room and latecomers were turned away at the door.

The candidates all had the chance to introduce themselves before each were asked a different question drawn from a hat.

First up was Doug Owens, who was asked whether development contributions were at the right level.

He said a lot of his business colleagues would like to see the system reviewed, and he would like to go "back in history" and look into using local body bonds in the current financial environment.

Graeme Purches was asked whether local government in the Bay of Plenty should be unified.

He said yes and no as unity among local councils was already underway within SmartGrowth "and they're doing a pretty good job", but he was a fan of amalgamation because of his positive experience with unified councils around the country.

A question about the importance of economic development and job creation was directed at Greg Brownless, who said if the economy was good, it was good for all society, although the trickle-down theory had its problems.

Hori Leaming was asked what Tauranga needed to do to attract businesses.

He said tourism had to be the focus and Rotorua did this exceptionally well by promoting Maoritanga, something Tauranga could also focus on.

John Robson was asked what policies he would support in relation to a museum. He responded that the current council had decided not to include a museum in the Long Term Plan as part of "a conflated project", then reintroduced it against the wishes of the broader community.

He wanted to see a different kind of museum spread among the libraries, The Elms and other sites.

Public-private partnerships in Tauranga was Kelvin Clout's topic. He said because of the pressure on debt and rates, the council had to be creative and clever about how it funded infrastructure. A museum could be built using charitable contributions.

Larry Baldock was asked what his priorities for investment in infrastructure would be in the next 10 years. He answered: roading, completion of the Southern Pipeline, and amalgamating or working more closely with other local councils.

Max Mason was quizzed about how he could make Tauranga a major tourist destination.

He said creating a vibrant, astounding city centre was needed. Tauranga was becoming spread out and the CBD needed intensification to make it the heart of the city and bring people back.

Murray Guy was asked how the city could accommodate the growing younger population.

He said one of his major frustrations with council was how it was not using technology to effectively reach more people, such as by streaming meetings online. He also wanted councillors and the mayor to get around to local schools regularly to connect with young people.

Noel Peterson was asked whether he considered the council to be business-friendly. Mr Peterson said some businesses worked closely with council; sometimes a bit too closely. He said he would be a mayor who could make that distinction.

Steve Morris was asked what role the council should play in supporting arts and leisure amenities to attract people and business investment. He said without investment in arts, culture and museums, the city would not be able to attract the kind of people it needed and wanted to live here.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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