Journalist John Cousins is retiring after a career that stretches back to the mid-1970s, with the last 24 years spent working at the Bay of Plenty Times. He reflects on his time in Tauranga and gives his opinions on issues and people.

Observing change is a constant for journalists, so seeing plumes of smoke erupt from the port as I caught up with Mayor Greg Brownless and councillors was a surreal way to end my career with the Bay of Plenty Times.

Everyone in the mayoral lounge was grabbing their phones to watch events unfold - nearly as it was happening.

It was a reminder, if I ever needed it, of how much the media landscape had changed since I brought my young family across from Napier 24 years ago and settled in a modest little Beazley home in Grange Rd.


Back then, newsrooms were transitioning to computers from centuries of writing stories on pieces of paper and having them turned into type by tradesmen compositors.

I went from a Napier newsroom still equipped with old fashioned typewriters and traditional production processes, to the Bay of Plenty Times' computerised single-stroke inputting.

Like a lot of things in life, it is only with hindsight that things are put into perspective. And so it was yesterday when the digital age suddenly intervened. Looking back and looking forwards magically coalesced in that instant when everyone sought an answer to the billowing smoke.

The ways of delivering news are being revolutionised.

But one thing's for sure, the essence of good journalism is timeless and has become even more important today as the chatter on the internet confuses fact and fiction.

I've spent a lot of my time at the Bay Plenty Times as the civic reporter, watching as successive councils grappled with the growth that has transformed Tauranga from an oversized village, mockingly called God's waiting room, to a vibrant city.

Trying to keep tabs on that growth and watching how infrastructure such as roading failed to keep pace, has provided a rich source of stories.

I've witnessed a constant tug of war between ratepayers on fixed incomes desperate to keep their rates bills under control, and councils facing huge financial pressures to do more.

Floundering around in the middle have been commuters impatient with lengthening traffic queues and residents with reasonable expectations of community amenities like sports stadiums and museums.

The museum is an issue that refuses to go away and remains a blight on the muddling of successive councils.

In hindsight, it would be fair to say that Tauranga has been well served by its mayors, particularly Stuart Crosby who had some tricky moments keeping things ticking over in the face of some very determined factions within council.

My reporting spanned mayors Nobby Clark, Noel Pope, Jan Beange, Stuart Crosby and Greg Brownless and an infinitely interesting variety of councillors, each with their foibles and strengths.

Barely a week passes when I am not asked when I was going to do another report card on our elected representatives.

With suburbs and lifestyle blocks continuing to swallow up our greatest asset, the Western Bay's fertile soils, everyone should be thinking a lot more carefully about not killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

It is with a sense of relief but a heavy heart that I am calling it day.

So a big thanks to everyone who has helped make it a memorable journey at the Bay of Plenty Times - including the unstinting good humour of my colleagues past and present.