Tauranga businessman and regional councillor Doug Owens wants to follow in his father's footsteps and become the city's mayor.

Mr Owens, 62, has joined five other hopefuls vying to win the leadership of Tauranga in October's local government elections.

The decision to run for the mayoralty coincides with Mr Owens promoting an alternative solution to funding the controversial $71 million Tauranga City Council civic heart project.

He proposes to keep the delivery of the project within the local government family by the regional council's investment arm, Quayside Holdings, taking ownership of the planned new city council administration building.


Quayside Holdings owns 54 per cent of the Port of Tauranga and has diversified into property investments including the Rangiuru industrial park near Te Puke.

Mr Owens, whose father Sir Bob Owens was Tauranga's mayor from 1968-77, was suspicious of central government's motives in broadening the powers of the Local Government Commission to initiate changes to the structures of local government through amalgamation.

''The powers are very wide, we can't tell how they will use them.''

Amalgamation had proved to be very expensive for Auckland ratepayers and he predicted major environmental problems because the science that existed with the former regional council had gone since amalgamation.

''Regional council functions should never be collapsed in territorial authorities. It must retain its independence as an environmental agency.''

He said Tauranga could ultimately come together with the Western Bay District but it had to be done in a cost effective way or it could end up a disaster for ratepayers. In the meantime, he wanted the focus to be on shared services between the councils and for Quayside to be part of the equation.

Mr Owens said all the council property projects in the Bay of Plenty could be run through a property trust controlled by Quayside because Quayside was owned by the region.

''The money is put up by Quayside and the money goes back to Quayside for the benefit of ratepayers.''

The essence was that councils would not have large amount of debt on their books by perhaps paying a lease.

He said the civic heart project was a no brainer for Quayside commercial opportunities and authorities needed to take a look at it.

Quayside chief executive Scott Hamilton said the key questions for an investment like the civic centre was whether the valuation and investment returns were right. Generally they looked at assets that were resaleable.

They would look the $64 million council administration building first over a museum. ''We are not new to investing in council assets but it is a matter of finding the right one that works for the council and us.''

Mr Hamilton said that Quayside would not go banker for the administration building. It would be built using a developer and Quayside would own the building, with the council a tenant. Investing in social infrastructure would struggle to make a return unless the council guaranteed it.

If the Tauranga City Council went down the external ownership path then Quayside was an option alongside other commercial parties, he said.

However Quayside had to achieve commercial targets. ''The council should look for the best deal and if that was not us, then that would be fine.''