Many brickbats and few bouquets were thrown at Tauranga City Council at a public meeting to introduce the city's future mayoral candidates.

Around 400 people filled the Tauranga Girls' College hall last night to hear from the seven candidates who have so far launched bids for the city's top job.

The candidates included two incumbents, a tour bus driver, a pilot preacher, a retired lieutenant-colonel, a woman who also goes by Lady Justice and a former Bella Vista director.

Seven mayoral candidates attended Tauranga Girls College hall

It was a tough night for the two incumbents, Mayor Greg Brownless and Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout, who had to account for various council failings revealed this term.

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Both did their best to acknowledge the issues but move past them.

Brownless, drawn from the college's ominously named "jug of doom" as the first speaker, claimed credit for being transparent about the failings, and for instigating "real and measurable change".

He also reminded everyone about that time he was the only mayor in New Zealand to turn down a dinner date with Barack Obama because he had local commitments.

Mayor Greg Brownless. Photo / George Novak
Mayor Greg Brownless. Photo / George Novak

Clout emphasised the complexities of local government and how much he had learned in his six years as deputy about the ways projects could go wrong, and how to fix them.

The council's issues provided plenty of fodder for the question and answer session with the Phoenix carpark redevelopment, Greerton roading changes and Bella Vista the top targets.

Clout had easily the least popular statement of the night, when he defended the turning of the Phoenix carpark into an urban space named Te Papa O Ngā Manu Porotakataka.

His promise that once the trees matured a bit it would be nice and shady were largely drowned out by audience groans and heckling.

Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout. Photo / George Novak
Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout. Photo / George Novak

There were some raised eyebrows in the audience when pastor Les Wallen likened the council's transport planning strategy - especially in Greerton - to the melanoma responsible for the recent death of his wife.

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He said the melanoma grew up her spine and strangled her.

"I look around Tauranga and that's what's happening here. This melanoma in our city is strangling us."

Mayoral candidate Les Wallen. Photo / George Novak
Mayoral candidate Les Wallen. Photo / George Novak

Businessman Tenby Powell appeared to be gunning for a debate, but the format and number of candidates limited opportunities for back-and-forth.

The former Aucklander managed to work in a lot of references to his military and Government experience - even name-dropping Kofi Annan - and landed some firm criticisms of the current council while defending his local credentials.

Powell struck a blow to Brownless after the mayor suggested a disgruntled questioner take his issues to court.

Mayoral candidate Tenby Powell. Photo / George Novak
Mayoral candidate Tenby Powell. Photo / George Novak

Powell criticised the mayor's "arrogance", which seemed to go over well with the audience.

Less well received was his statement that, contrary to the beliefs of many he had spoken to, Tauranga's "safe blue seat" reputation was not the reason Transport Minister Phil Twyford seemed unwilling to invest in the region's roading.

Some audience members - National supporters, perhaps - loudly voiced their disagreement.

Mayoral candidate Murray Guy. Photo / George Novak
Mayoral candidate Murray Guy. Photo / George Novak

Lightening the mood was former councillor and current tour bus driver Murray Guy, who claimed to be uncomfortable with public speaking but got a lot of laughs with the entertaining patter he mixed in with his views on the issues.

Concerns raised by RangiMarie Te Amopiu-Kaa Kingi, who was also running for Rotorua mayor, included the council's growing debt, poor use of satellite imagery in project planning, and the presence of security guards at council meetings, who she said were there to "hide mass spending".

Mayoral candidate RangiMarie Te Amopiu-Kaa Kingi. Photo / George Novak
Mayoral candidate RangiMarie Te Amopiu-Kaa Kingi. Photo / George Novak

Former Bella Vista director Danny Cancian - currently in a legal battle with the council over the failed development - said people who "sniggered and laughed" at his candidacy were "ill-informed".

He railed against council "bullying" and accused the organisation of causing his business to fail.

"I tried to bring affordable housing to Tauranga and this council shut me down."

Mayoral candidate Danny Cancian. Photo / George Novak
Mayoral candidate Danny Cancian. Photo / George Novak

Broadcaster Peter Williams chaired the evening, which was organised by Dawn Kiddie and Andrew Hollis of the Mt Maunganui Ratepayers, Residents and Retailers.

Dame Susan Devoy dropped out of the mayoralty race on Sunday, citing family reasons.


LOCAL ELECTIONS 2019: KEY DATES

July 1: Enrolment update packs sent to all enrolled voters
July 19: Candidate nominations open
August 16: Candidate nominations and voter enrolments (printed roll) close
August 21: Candidate names published
September 20-25: Voting documents sent out
October 12: Voting closes at midday.

Source: Electoral Commission