His name's not on his office door yet, but former police officer Marty Grenfell has stepped into his new job as chief executive of the Tauranga City Council.

The Whakatāne District Council, which Grenfell has led for the past seven years, formally handed him over to Tauranga in a pōwhiri ceremony held in the council chambers yesterday.

Kaumatua and leaders of iwi from both Tauranga and Whakatāne joined elected members, Grenfell's family, friends and senior staff from both councils - in total more than 100 people - to watch the ceremony, conducted in accordance with Māori protocols.

Among the dignitaries were Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless, Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman Doug Leeder, Whakātane Mayor Tony Bonne and former Whakatāne mayor Bob Byrne, who at 94 remains a keen observer of local politics.

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After speeches of welcome from kaumatua and a few rounds of waiata (singing) Grenfell, his wife, Clare, and their four adult children were symbolically walked over from the Whakatāne side to join the Tauranga crowd.

Marty Grenfell, flanked by current Whakatane District Council mayor Tony Bonne (left) and the district's former mayor Bob Byrne. Photo / George Novak
Marty Grenfell, flanked by current Whakatane District Council mayor Tony Bonne (left) and the district's former mayor Bob Byrne. Photo / George Novak

In a brief misunderstanding that caused a few chuckles, they were followed by Whakatāne's deputy mayor, Judy Turner, and interim chief executive, David Bewlie, who were quickly ushered back to remain on the Whakatāne side.

Both mayors gave speeches.

Bonne said it was a "sad day for Whakatāne" and a "great day for Tauranga".

"[Marty Grenfell] has made a real mark on our district. He has changed the culture of our council, and we will be taking that culture and making sure it carries on."

He said the strong iwi presence was a testament to the work Grenfell did to build relationships between the council and iwi of the Whakatāne district.

Brownless joked that his attempt to ensure Grenfell was welcomed with a nameplate on his door was foiled by two executive secretaries who said the mayor's replacement - Grenfell's name printed on paper in 100pt - was not good enough.

He bid Grenfell "a very warm and enthusiastic welcome" for the day and said the talking would begin first thing today.

"No pressure."

New Tauranga City Council chief executive Marty Grenfell beside Mayor Greg Brownless (left) and Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout (right) surrounded by kaumatua and other elected members. Photo / George Novak
New Tauranga City Council chief executive Marty Grenfell beside Mayor Greg Brownless (left) and Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout (right) surrounded by kaumatua and other elected members. Photo / George Novak

Grenfell, who rose through the police ranks to become Wellington's top cop before moving into local Government, gave a mihi, introducing himself in te reo Māori.

"I've been practising it all week."

In English, he thanked Tauranga for its warm welcome to "the wild west".

To his former colleagues in Whakatāne, he said: "I thank our mountains, our rivers and our mighty iwi for what they have given these last seven years to my family.

"As I look forward to the tasks ahead I am under no illusion that it is going to be a challenge."

Grenfell took up the reins just hours after the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment confirmed it was "reviewing" the Tauranga City Council and its building control activities for its role in the failed Bella Vista subdivision.

Former Tauranga City Councillor Garry Poole had his last day on the job on Friday.