Earlier this month, I released a video raising several points about whether people knew what Tauranga City Council's Long-Term Plan was and whether they had faith the plan will be delivered.
I have put these points to a wide range of Tauranga Chamber members and business owners, and the discussion comes back to a fundamental question: Do we, as a community, want action against the key issues of housing supply and traffic congestion, or do we sit on our hands and continue with the current status quo?
From conversations I have had, our members generally prefer action and progress over inaction and indecision. This means they do not want to get stuck in the detail and they are happy to pay more for this progress to happen.
Historically, the community's reluctance to see rates increase was partly local politics and partly due to our collective low confidence in the council.
The business community has confidence in the commissioners.
The commissioners have proved they are there to lead council staff. Their professional conduct during council meetings and ability to reach decisions promptly has also re-established the council's governance credibility.
The chamber has held a few formal and informal events with the commissioners and our members. Overall, our members have told us to show support for the council's plan and make sure the commissioners are given a chance to make progress.
While I support the commissioners and their actions over the past few months, rest assured nothing in this column gives the commissioners a free pass.
The chamber will be submitting its feedback on a number of issues, plus looking at areas where further consideration is needed.
The reality is that since the commissioners had only a few weeks to put this Long-term plan together, to meet their obligation to central government legislation, there is a good chance the plan could be further refined next year.
The council is no different to other organisations where there are greater expectations for delivery if shareholders or funders are asked to contribute a bigger investment.
Nearly all of council's user fees are increasing, including building consents. Businesses will accordingly be expecting faster consent turnaround times for that increased cost.
The biggest cost for many businesses is personnel. Staff are asking for higher wages because the cost of living in Tauranga has increased dramatically over the past five years.
If businesses – who are being asked to pay 1.6 times the residential rate – contribute more to rates, then we might have a decent chance of easing the rapid rise in housing and renting costs for our work force.
- Matt Cowley is the chief executive for Tauranga Chamber of Commerce