Mr Wassung missed out on a seat on Tauranga City Council but said he was really chuffed to have attracted 9245 votes after only 18 months living in Tauranga, and he intended to stand again in three years' time.

He took sixth place in the election for the council's four at-large seats, finishing a couple of thousand votes behind lowest-polling successful candidate Rick Curach.

Mr Wassung's post-election plans included setting up Tauranga's version of Hamilton's successful urban design advisory panel.

"I am passionate about making changes, I see a lot of mediocrity here."


The panel would include members of the Institute of Architects, urban and landscape designers and traffic engineers, with councillors welcome to observe.

Although it did not have legal teeth, he said the Hamilton panel had added huge value by making developers raise the bar. The expertise included people skilled in the built environment around new buildings.

Tauranga's panel could advise at the concept stage of projects, and he was glad the city's new mayor, Greg Brownless, would be revisiting the civic heart plan. He hoped the project would be completely reconsidered, this time involving Tauranga's design fraternity, rather than the way it had been pushed through.

He said there was no architecture in the city that people were really proud of. "We need a significant building that puts us on the map."

Mr Wassung vividly recalled a visitor describing Tauranga Harbour as the most beautiful harbour they had entered, but then compared the city centre to a used car lot.

"We really need to raise our game."

Mr Wassung admired the progress Hamilton had made with its river plan and saw a lot of scope to investigate building a light rail system down the middle of Cameron Rd.

He expected the cost would be large but everyone he had talked to in the election was concerned about traffic congestion, particularly along Cameron Rd and Turret Rd.

"There will be big numbers, but if you think about it like sewage and water, it is a generational investment."

Mr Wassung, a South African who has lived in New Zealand for 20 years, said Hamilton's design panel was completely independent, with members doing the work for free and declaring conflicts of interest when necessary.