Tommy Kapai: Merger best for Western Bay

By Tommy Kapai

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The best place to live on the planet - The magical Tauranga.
The best place to live on the planet - The magical Tauranga.

Last night I flew back home from speaking at an aspiring leader's forum sponsored by mayors, politicians and businessman down in Wellington.

It was, for me, a conference like no other I have spoken at, possibly because the audience I was giving my korero to were the future leaders of our country and they could clearly see the silver lining of this long white cloud we call home.

Gathered in one hotel were the creme of our intellectual and inspirational minds and they could see the potential of transcending political patch protecting and working for the common collective of all New Zealanders.

So I was coming home with a heart full of hope and feeling as happy as the happy song itself when we descended over the Moana of Tauranga, tagged by a crimson sunset that only the Kaimai Range is capable of painting.

It was one of those take-your-breath-away moments when you could look down below and say this is my turangawaewae, my place to belong.

This is Tauranga, my home.

I have never known Tauranga as any other name even though I live in the Western Bay rohe (electorate) and work a click inside the Tauranga city boundary.

In fact, I don't recall ever meeting anyone that introduces themselves as a resident of Western Bay.

Be it by air or land the feeling of belonging is the same. When I drive down the slopes of the Kaimais at night with the city twinkling like welcoming stars, or when I get the first glimpse of Mauao and Matakana island apres Athenree, I get this quiet comfort of knowing "Chur, I am home. I am in Tauranga".

As we evolve into the best place to live on the planet the timing to take up the turangawaewae of Tauranga and let go the divide of Western Bay must surely be now.

There are some obvious and not so obvious reasons to bring the two councils of Tauranga City and Western Bay together.

The economical ones are a given. Two of everything including chief executives and council staff with similar and sometimes the same roles are not in the interest of the ratepayers' pocket.

The not so obvious benefits are the bringing together of a unified brand that we already belong to.

Any marketing guru will tell you a brand is as only as good as the story behind it and the story of Tauranga - the safe anchorage is a brand like no other I know of.

Conversely the brand Western Bay is at best a third division rugby title that not many - if any - of us use even though we live in an electorate with that name.

The other sleeping giant, who is awakening in Tauranga Moana post settlement, is the three iwi who are also looking at opportunities to leverage off a unified Tauranga Moana ingoa (name).

All across Aotearoa there are iwi looking at ways of working together and the future success of these iwi have a horizon as colorful as the Kaimai one I flew home with last night.

Just like the aspiring leaders, many of whom were Maori and Pacific Islanders, our iwi and our councils have the potential to be patch free and work collectively together. If this is where we are heading - and I believe it is - then the time to climb aboard a one stop shop for Tauranga is now.

If ever there was an example of how these two councils work in isolation it is the Gate Pa exhibition where we have had the total support of Tauranga City Council, its Mayor and its chief executive Garry Poole.

Yet a matter of a few hundred yards down the road is the headquarters of the Western Bay of Plenty District Council - and the silence of their support has been heard loud and clear.

One of the inspiring speakers at the leader's forum was a Maori lawyer who had studied for four years at Harvard and her korero reflected the same challenges we are facing here in Tauranga Moana.

That is, if we can drop the patch protection, almost exclusively put up by those who stand to lose their assumed power, we can unlock the true potential of our people, both Maori and non-Maori.

The challenge is, for those who hold on to these perceived purse strings of power, to let them go.

broblack@xtra.co.nz

Tommy Kapai is a Tauranga author and writer.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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