A Whangarei councillor hoping to bump his job title up to "mayor" has described a council which is overly secretive and slow to consult its residents.
Greater transparency, stronger leadership, an examination of the rating system, and better consultation are on Stuart Bell's to do list if he is elected mayor in October.
He's the only one of Whangarei's six mayoral hopefuls - apart from incumbent mayor Sheryl Mai - with a position on the current council and said he felt the council lacked leadership and Ms Mai had failed to pull rogue councillors into line.
"We still have councillors voting based on where their family members live - that sort of crazy stuff. The leadership needs to be upskilling the elected council so they can make better decisions," he said.
A review of the rating system was also among his top priorities. Mr Bell voted against a series of increases which saw rates go up 9 per cent last year and 4 per cent this year, with plans for further increases until 2025.
"Yes, rates are a blunt instrument, but ours could be a lot sharper. We need to have a discussion with residents about it and we need to look at the system and make it fairer than it is now."
He was disappointed when dairy farmers appealed for rates relief from council this year, only to be told they would have to pay up.
"It seemed there was absolutely no flexibility, or even desire to accommodate their economic cycle's swings and roundabouts."
He had also despaired at the number of confidential meetings the council had - something he spoke out about in September last year after receiving more than 2500 pages of confidential information since the start of his term.
"We should be doing far more in sight of the community we represent," he said.
This would help engage the community on issues early, rather than "working on a plan in secret for months and then delivering it".
"At the start of my term, one staff member said the community doesn't know what's good for it ... We had another propose that we vote on something, then go tell the community what was going to happen ... These are examples of how not to do local government."
Mr Bell had the lowest meeting attendance rate of all current councillors. This was partly due to abandoning his post on the Planning Committee, in protest at fellow councillors voting to co-opt a Maori adviser on to it.
"I made a conscious decision not to participate in committees that have undemocratically elected people [and] earlier on in my term I missed a few meetings when my mother was terminally ill with cancer," he said.