"Total frustration."

That was Ōtamataha Trust chairman and Elms Foundation trustee Puhirake Ihaka's reaction to Tauranga City Council's move today towards taking back its decision to give 11 Mission St to the trust.

"We just keep on waiting," he said.

Last Tuesday the council decided to give the land to the trust, conditional on an endorsement from the Elms and a $1 a year lease agreement for the Elms.

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The council received that endorsement today, but it made little impact.

A majority of councillors wanted the decision revisited on the grounds crucial information about what the Elms wanted was left out of the discussion last week.

The Elms' position was described as neutral in that meeting. But it was not mentioned the Elms had internally decided - and notified the council - its first preference was to be gifted the land directly.

Council staff have since said information about that preference should have been included in the report, though it had been presented to councillors before.

Elms Foundation board of trustees chairman Ian Thomas. Photo / File
Elms Foundation board of trustees chairman Ian Thomas. Photo / File

In the letter endorsing giving the land to the trust, Elms board chairman Ian Thomas reiterated the foundation was trying to stay neutral while also staying consistent with its preference.

"You can see why it's confusing," said Mayor Greg Brownless in today's meeting.

"No it's not," called back the small audience of mostly people who supported giving the land to the trust.

Brownless said the information presented to the council last week was incomplete and revisiting the decision was "the right thing to do".

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Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless voted to give the land to the Elms Foundation. Photo / File
Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless voted to give the land to the Elms Foundation. Photo / File

Councillors Rich Curach and Catherine Stewart both said the missing information nullified last week's decision.

Councillor John Robson - who last week threatened legal action if the decision was not revisited - said a new vote on the issue was the "only defensible way forward" and noted it may not change the final decision.

Councillor Max Mason, however, said some councillors were "hiding behind process".

Both councillor Terry Molloy and deputy mayor Kelvin Clout said the council had voted twice to give the land to the trust - once in December and once last week.

Clout said the community was sick of the council "dilly-dallying around on this issue" and it should "stay the course".

Larry Baldock said there had been "too much emphasis on what the Elms wants and not on what is good for the city".

He said a partnership between the Elms and the trust embedded in land ownership and a long lease was the best thing for the city.

"It keeps that relationship real and keeps the Elms from going back to the days when there was very little participation from tangata whenua in what they were doing."

Steve Morris said he still supported giving the land to the trust but the council had to get the process right to ensure an "enduring decision without challenge".

The council voted seven to four to reconsider the gifting decision at a yet-to-be scheduled meeting before the end of this term.

It had received legal advice not to make the decision today, as the council needed to give the public more notice.


How they voted
On whether to revisit last week's decision to give 11 Mission St to the Ōtamataha Trust subject to endorsement from the Elms:

For: Greg Brownless, Steve Morris, Bill Grainger, John Robson, Rick Curach, Leanne Brown and Catherine Stewart
Against: Terry Molloy, Larry Baldock, Kelvin Clout, Max Mason.

About 11 Mission St

- 1400sq m
- Next door to the Elms, which earmarked the site for its expansion
- Bought by Tauranga City Council in 2006 for $825,000
- Worth $1m as of December last year.