Opinion: Elected members must stay connected

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Newly elected members, like Tauranga's new mayor Greg Brownless, must stay connected to the community, writes Tommy Kapai.
Newly elected members, like Tauranga's new mayor Greg Brownless, must stay connected to the community, writes Tommy Kapai.

What a difference a day makes. We have gone from moral outrage to mayoral front page in two short sleeps.

Finally, we have trumped scraping the bottom of the rugby barrel and for now the hall of shame can suffer in silence; while we salute the successful candidates of our local body elections.

Some have been elected for the first time locally and nationally, while a couple of koro councillors have been around almost as long as the white cloud itself.

If there is one thing Tim Shadbolt and Trevor Maxwell have in common, it is they have both been sitting at the council table for 24 years. Tim who towed his concrete mixer down from Titirangi to become the Mayor of Invercargill and Trevor who brought his taiaha of knowledge and tikanga Maori to the Rotorua chambers.

The common denominator in both these council statesmen is they are connected to their communities and if ever there was a recipe for success at staying at the table for our elected leaders it is the ability to stay connected to every sector of your community, especially those who are struggling.

There are many interesting anomalies to download from the results over the weekend here in the Bay, especially between the demographics of the Rotorua and Tauranga councils when it comes to the level of Maori standing and now sitting at the table.

Rotorua had 10 Maori standing strong for council and four were successful - including Koro Trevor while Tauranga had only one - Antoine Coffin, who may have not been successful this time around, but with well over 6000 votes is one to watch in three years' time.

Why is that, many may ask?

Perhaps apathy is the answer or is it leadership from within when it comes to promoting politics on the paepae (speaking platform)?

If Tuku can do it in Tainui, then why not here in Tauranga Moana?

The other taniwha at the table for getting Maori on to councils is the rorohiko (computer) - surely to be in place next time around?

The sooner digital democracy kicks in the sooner we will get more Maori elected in Aotearoa - it's that simple.

Any wise mayor worth his chains will know the potential for growth has to be tempered by the potential for increased poverty and it is getting this balance right that could be their biggest challenge.

For now, the people and the polls have spoken and our eyes have been given a much needed break from the billboards.

Two new mayors, Greg Brownless and Garry Webber and the wonder woman of Vegas, Steve Chadwick, make up an exciting front row of elected leaders with another proven leader from Regional Council.

In Tauranga, a couple of councillors have been dropped like a Springbok coach while a couple of young shining stars (Sheldon Nesdale and Antoine Coffin) are waiting in the wings for a shoo-in, in three years' time.

Some standing for council believed the jewel in the Bay's crown was unlocking the putea within the Port of Tauranga, more so Quayside Holdings.

Others hold to the view - just like Treaty settlements, the jewels are best left consolidated and we should not be unlocking Quayside and plundering the war chest we need for the long term gain and growth of the Bay.

Packaging our tourism potential together with Rotorua is another jewel for both sides of the Mamaku to benefit from, and for Tauranga the three iwi working together with councils is paramount.

Getting the balance sheet of money and mana right is something the new mayors will have to learn as will facing the real challenge of bringing our communities together, especially the homeless.

We cannot afford to have our communities collapse under the burden of increasing inequality and what is coming our way next winter needs to be planned for now, not in three months.

I still believe many of our leaders don't understand the crisis we are facing with homelessness.

As a columnist you cannot show bias before an election but now the votes are in I can express my tautoko for those who have helped the homeless at Te Tuinga long before they were elected (Max Mason, Garry Webber, Awanui Black and Terry Molloy).

We can all learn from successful long standing mayors such as Tim Shadbolt and Meng Foon in Gisborne.

If our new mayors can corral the collective intellectual capacity of their elected members, both young guns and wise heads - and stay connected to their communities, they have every chance of long term success, just like the Mengs, Tims and Trevors of our country.

If not, we could be reading a headline "Mayor Today - Gone Tomorrow" in 2019, as there will be shining stars and digitally connected candidates in three years-time to take their place.

broblack@xtra.co.nz

Tommy Kapai is a best-selling author.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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