"A hallelujah moment".
That's how a local lawyer described the impact of Tauranga's new commissioners as they won over the business community in their first public outing yesterday.
An advocate for small business was equally effusive in her praise, saying their performance went a long way to restoring hope and confidence.
The glowing appraisal comes despite commissioners proposing to up commercial rates.
About 140 people attended the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Trinity Wharf.
Commissioners Anne Tolley, Bill Wasley, Stephen Selwood and Shadrach Rolleston were appointed in February after an independent report found significant governance issues in Tauranga City Council. The four-strong commission will head the city until at least October 2022.
Cooney Lees Morgan partner Mary Hill said the commissioners recognised how critical it was to get community buy-in.
Hill, who is also president of the Resource Management Law Association, said the commissioners came across as approachable and clearly valued creating a positive staff culture.
"I haven't spoken to anybody who doesn't think these people can't turn this city around. I haven't heard a negative comment.
"That's why I've got confidence. I think it is a hallelujah moment. It's time to get things done."
Hill had concerns about what would happen after the commissioner's tenure finished.
"I think it's important they generate a road map on what they've learned for whoever is next."
Senior tax and development manager at Baker Tilly Staples Rodway, Michelle Sinclair, said there was a loss of confidence in the council before the commissioners were appointed.
"I think today went a long way to restoring hope and confidence in the future and potential in the future for Tauranga City."
Sinclair, who is also the chairwoman of Small Business Tauranga, said the commissioners spoke clearly about what governance entailed.
"They are focused on developing a vision and strategic plan for our area. This will benefit local businesses and the community as a whole."
She said there was a sense of relief the new commissioners were steering the ship.
"They understand what it means to be a team. It gave me that confidence that I can jump on that ship and sail with them.
"We all need to get more involved in the democratic process ... We all stand to lose so much if we don't get it right."
VIP guest Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber said the commissioners had experience and expertise.
"They had a refreshing view that we really have to get on and make the city the city it can be. To me that is crucial."
Webber said he was "incredibly heartened" the commissioners recognised the sub-region as a whole was involved in moving the city forward.
Bay of Plenty list MP Angie Warren-Clark, also a VIP guest, said it was clear they were working at a high strategic level with a "real focus" on governance.
"I think the commissioners came across as professional, with a great depth of skill in many areas and a sound desire to fix the looming issues of our city ...
"Gauging from the interaction and reaction from the audience I think it would be very hard not to feel reassured that the commissioners are bringing a steady direction and certainty for our future."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said the commissioners were frank in their answers and there was little political spin.
"The city faces lots of issues and pressures and the commissioners are not afraid to take them on ...
"They gave the audience confidence that they are questioning staff on their true capacity and capabilities to make all these changes and investments. We shall wait and see whether their actions match their statements."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said it had been a "hugely encouraging start" from the commissioners.
"They have shown a willingness to confront the difficult issues and make decisions.
"Businesses want to see Tauranga move ahead, appreciate the engagement and have been impressed with the professionalism of the commissioners."
Commission chairwomanTolley said feedback from the business community had so far been "only good".
She said Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta had made it clear the commission had to work towards restoring local democracy by the next local body election.
"It does weigh heavily on our minds that we have a short amount of time to bring about some major changes. That's why we need everyone's help."
"Council's are a multi-billion-dollar complex business. They need to have people elected that have the capability and understanding to make the big decisions at a strategic level for a city the size of Tauranga."
A 'tax neutral sweet spot'
A "tax neutral sweet spot" is how Tauranga City Council's commission chairwoman Anne Tolley has described the proposal to increase the commercial rates.
The commission is proposing in the draft Long-term Plan to change the commercial differential - the proportion of rates commercial ratepayers pay compared to residential ratepayers - from 1:2 to 1:6.
Increasing the differential means Tauranga's commercial ratepayers will pay $1.60 to every $1 residential ratepayers pay for property of the same value.
Tolley acknowledged upping the commercial rates was a "big change" but it was about ensuring costs were shared among all contributors.
"The commercial rate is tax neutral. They're able to claim their rates as a business expense, whereas the ordinary householder can't. That 1:6 is sort of the tax neutral sweet spot."
Commissioner Shadrach Rolleston said the city's current differential was 1:2 and one of the lowest in New Zealand.