It's been 100 days since Tenby Powell - a business leader and army Colonel - took up his first elected public position as the mayor of Tauranga — weekends included. Samantha Motion checks in.
Tenby Powell's first 100 days as Tauranga's mayor have included a dog on a cat-killing spree, an eruption, multiple shootings and moves to overturn two controversial decisions of the previous council.
But it's the council environment itself he has found most challenging.
Powell said the "lack of a cohesive team" was the hardest part of adjusting to the role. It was a "different environment" from the military and business, where leaders were usually aligned.
"While many of us would share the same values and beliefs on economics and social issues, not having the team aligned to move forward has been the biggest thing for me to get my head around because I've never been in a position like that before," he said.
Powell said he wanted the team to get to know each other better, and he was also learning to accept they may not all agree all the time.
He was also working with council chief executive Marty Grenfell to try to build understanding between elected members and council staff.
Shortly after the inauguration, elected members and the executive team went on a three-day retreat to the Lake Okataina Lodge. The groups met separately at first then came together for a day-and-a-half.
"It was very open and upfront," Powell said. "To my knowledge, this is the first time this has happened, this bringing together two teams who have traditionally been very separated and purposely so by the leadership of the time." Another retreat was planned.
Powell said he did not believe the council could work effectively for the city if the leadership did not understand each other as individuals and teams.
He did not think such crossovers between the two branches of the council would affect elected members' governance duties.
"I don't see there being any real conflict because we are a city that's, in my view, 15 years behind in infrastructure."
He said the $933 million in funding for Western Bay roading infrastructure announced last week was recognition by central Government that the region's leaders were working together.
Another win on his watch was repairing the Mauao base track. The full, accessible loop opened just before Christmas for the first time since 2017.
While some have noted the previous council set the repairs in motion after being presented with ideas from the community, Powell has been credited for meeting with the Mauao Trust Board and sticking to his promise of having the track open by Christmas.
He expected the final cost would be about $750,000.
Powell had also, with Western Bay mayor Garry Webber, launched a mayoral taskforce to tackle issues relating to poverty and homelessness.
He said he was comfortable blurring the line between local and central Government responsibilities on social issues as a "partnership approach" was needed.
Powell said he was aiming to split his time evenly between economic and social issues.
The council had also overturned the last council's 11 Mission St decision and moved towards doing the same to its controversial begging and rough sleeping bans.
Public submissions heard last week will be deliberated on February 20, followed by a final vote.
Powell voted to consult the public on ditching the bylaw but said he would not pre-emptively discuss how he would vote in the final decision.
On the issue in general, he said Mainstreet retailers - the biggest advocates of the bylaw - were under pressure from forces other than rough sleeping such as the spread of big-box format stores.
"Retailers ... can't direct that anger and anguish at Harvey Norman or Bunnings or JB Hi-Fi. So they pick on those that they can and in this case that is the most vulnerable, who are the homeless."
Powell said the downtown needed a strategy for how it would be developed as the city grew. Attracting developers to build mixed-use apartment buildings would bring life and vibrancy back to the CBD, he said.
Powell said he was also trying to woo some big companies that offer higher wages to move their head offices to the city.
Elected members rate Powell's leadership
Tenby Powell campaigned on his leadership skills and bringing together a divided city and council.
One hundred days into his leadership, the Bay of Plenty Times asked Tauranga councillors to give their opinion on Powell's leadership so far a letter grade.
The seven able to be contacted - deputy mayor Larry Baldock, Kelvin Clout, Andrew Hollis, John Robson, Heidi Hughes, Tina Salisbury and Jako Abrie - gave an average score of a B.
They also shared their views on what Powell was doing well and where he could improve. The most common responses were:
What he is doing well
- Collaborating with other regional leaders
- Building relationships with stakeholders, especially tangata whenua
- Public communication
- Advocating to central Government on behalf of the city
- Providing a positive vision for the city.
Where he could improve
- Bringing the elected members together as a team to discuss priorities and develop a shared vision to work towards.