Residents are less happy with Tauranga City Council than they were last year.
The council's annual community perception survey, released yesterday, resulted in the council's lowest satisfaction ranking in the last five years.
Of the 604 people interviewed, two thirds - 66 per cent - were satisfied with the council's work this year in general, an eight-point decrease from last year.
The council's reputation dropped by 11 points and was ranked "poor" against the benchmark used by the research company, with the biggest drop among people living in Mount Maunganui and Pāpāmoa.
The biggest lifts in satisfaction rankings were around rubbish collections, playground quality, litter, boat ramps and the library collection.
Rankings dropped in the areas of road safety, event numbers, footpath safety, cemeteries, drinking water, the amount of green space in the city.
But the biggest drop was the perception of how easy the council was to contact. That metric had some elected officials bemused when they discussed the survey results in a meeting of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee today.
"Bizarre," said Councillor Leanne Brown, saying the council was expanding its communication channels, especially online. "I think we're very accessible."
She suggested the council might explore an 0800 number.
The survey was done in three waves - November/December, February/March and May.
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Councillor Steve Morris said headlines in the media in those periods - particularly the first one - might have influenced the results.
A quick search of headlines in November/December turned up stories on controversial projects such as the begging bylaw, Greerton roading changes and the new name for the old Phoenix carpark, Te Papa O Ngā Manu Porotakataka, he said.
After the meeting, Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said the results were mixed reviews.
He believed the drop in satisfaction reflected a tough year for the council, where some high profile projects had problems and the council ran inquiries into them.
Asked to comment on community satisfaction levels, the leaders of two residents' groups pointed to one area that had consistently damaged the council's reputation: consultation.
Phil Green, from the Grace Rd and Neighbourhood Residents Association, said the message often seemed to be: "This is what we're doing, like it or lump it."
In his view, some survey questions seemed to prompt a particular outcome, and the language used was often full of council jargon.
"Ratepayers want to know in black and white what's going on, what's it going to cost and who's doing it."
In his professional dealings with the council, however, he thought the communication channels had become more open.
Andrew Hollis, co-president of the Mount Maunganui Residents, Ratepayers and Retailers Association - and an indicated candidate in the upcoming elections - said the group's members were generally not happy with the council.
The Mauao base track still not being fixed, the Phoenix carpark redevelopment, changes to the road outside the netball courts and dropping the New Years' event were all sore points.
There was also a feeling in Mount Maunganui that residents were not seeing much investment in their suburb for the amount they paid in rates, he said.
"They see lots of their money going into other suburbs."
Matua Residents' Association chairman Richard Kluit believed some of the dissatisfaction could be influenced by an uptick in negative views about the council being expressed on social media.
He believed the Matua area was generally well served by the council.
As the 2018 Census results have yet to be released, the survey was weighted against the population profile of Tauranga in the 2013 Census for age, gender, ethnicity and suburb.
Value for money?
Half of survey respondents felt they did not get value for money from the council's services in 2019, up from about 40 per cent last year. Here are the reasons they gave:
52 per cent - Happy with the council, they do a good job, rates are reasonable
4 per cent - Great transparency of spending, core services first such as infrastructure
7 per cent - Other
32 per cent - Rates too high, not value for money, pay for services we don't use
24 per cent - Traffic congestion, too many roadworks, poor quality roading, safety hazards
19 per cent - poor decision making, lack of forward-planning, wasting money
17 per cent - rubbish and recycling collection, should be in rates, tip is too expensive
6 per cent - lack of parking, cycleways
3 per cent - poor bus services, more bus shelters needed, no need for bus lanes
2 per cent - Footpaths, streetlights, parks and reserves, events, community initiatives
8 per cent - Other
We asked people on the street in the CBD to give Tauranga City Council a ranking for the year.
Teisha Paratene, Gate Pā, 40
"I think they're doing pretty good. They are out there in the community a lot."
Tom Carroll, Ōmokoroa (works in Tauranga), 55
"Very dissatisfied. The lack of speed on infrastructure. Recycling issues. I also have issues with the cost of doing business with the council."
Shayde Boryer, Matua, 45
"I live in Tauranga but I travel around a bit. Generally speaking, it's pretty good here compared to other places I visit like Wellington."
Taitimu Sellars, Welcome Bay, 57
"I live in the Western Bay but my daughter lives in Tauranga and she's happy. The services [Tauranga] provides are so much better."