"Cock-fighting" and "digging up dead corpses" were among behaviours Tauranga elected officials discussed avoiding during a nearly $36,000 leadership course that included an overnight lakeside retreat.
But after more news this week about toxic relationships and in-fighting in the council, a local iwi leader says they "should have gone to antenatal class instead because they're acting like babies".
Tauranga City Council released the cost of the two-part Institute of Strategic Leadership course, along with 25 other leadership, training and induction sessions for elected members this term, to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend in response to an official information request.
The total training bill was just more than $72,000, covering professional fees as well as venue hire, catering, transport and accommodation.
The largest single cost was $19,836 for the first phase of the institute course, held on December 5 and 6 for the 11 elected members as well as seven council executive staff.
The course covered "strategy setting, relationship building and collaboration".
It was held at the Lake Okataina Lodge in Rotorua.
An extra $7397 was spent on rooms and catering.
A second session was held on March 6 at the Mount RSA. It cost $8730.
The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend's request for training information followed turmoil in May and June that included an attempted coup for the deputy mayor role.
Recently released elected member emails and texts from that period have shown the frustrations and tensions in the build-up to the coup, and the fallout.
They exposed Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell's disparaging texts about councillor Kelvin Clout, councillor Dawn Kiddie mocking deputy mayor Tina Salisbury, and raised questions about councillor Andrew Hollis' lack of texts.
Another document in the released emails was entitled: "What should teamwork look like amongst TCC elected members".
Clout sent the one-pager to colleagues on May 7 as his summary of notes from discussions the council had at the lodge and RSA.
It included a list of 17 behaviours and values to encourage, including calm heads, honesty, allowing dissenting opinion, humour, humility and putting "community first and glory last".
Fourteen "behaviours to avoid" included lying, "cock-fighting", "stewing if unhappy", "digging up dead corpses", personal attacks, bullying, aggression and swearing ("some personal moral leeway here").
Clout told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend he sent the document when it was becoming clear the council was having issues.
"I didn't get much traction from it."
Later in May, he became a central figure in the coup attempt, supporting it at first then withdrawing in a move that saw him labelled "spineless" and a flip-flopper by some colleagues.
Clout said he did not regret his actions and elected officials should be able to change their minds with new information.
He said the list was largely created during the Mount RSA session, which was held, coincidentally, the day after Powell's "outburst" at councillor Andrew Hollis where he called Hollis a "f****** climate-denying racist".
Hollis - who the mayor had previously said should resign over his Facebook comment about burning the Treaty of Waitangi - denied being racist.
After a formal complaint the mayor was censured by the council and ordered to apologise to Hollis.
Clout said the council had to address "the elephant in the room" in the RSA session so spent part of the day talking about behaviour.
He said the course overall had mostly been about teambuilding. The group failed to settle on a shared vision but that was true in his previous two council terms too.
Clout said the course was "money well spent" for council chief executive Marty Grenfell and his executive team.
For elected members, however: "Ratepayers haven't had great value for money at this point".
"But there is still time, if we can get that collective buy-in."
Paora Stanley, chief executive of Tauranga iwi organisation, Ngāi Te Rangi, said ratepayers deserved a refund.
"They should have gone to antenatal class instead because they are acting like babies."
He said the council appeared to have forgotten it was there to look after its stakeholders - the people of Tauranga.
"I'd like to throw the lot of them out. They are chewing up resources.
"People are getting sick of it. I for one am sick of it.
"My mokos can act with better respect than what you can. You are not there to represent yourself, you are there to represent the people of Tauranga - and not just the people who voted for you, but everybody."
The council also spent $11,138 for media training for councillors.
Other sessions this term covered subjects such as finances, growth, civil defence, cultural awareness, standing orders, the code of conduct, and the Local Government Information and Meetings Act.
Mayors clash: Powell v Brownless
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said despite all the turmoil, the council had accomplished things it could be proud of, "many of which were placed in the 'too-hard' basket by the previous council".
"Much of the angst centres around making decisions and moving forward, two things which entirely eluded the last council and which many of the elected members who served on the [previous mayor Greg] Brownless council still struggle with today."
He said the council had achieved more in 10 months than the previous one did in three years.
He highlighted the fast reinstatement of the Mauao base track at 13 per cent of budgeted cost, 11 Mission St, the Kainga Tupu strategy to deal with homelessness issues, free two-hour parking in the CBD, a workable budget to keep the city moving forward and reduce rates for one-third of ratepayers, and stronger than ever partnerships with regional partners, central government, NGOs and special interest groups.
Brownless said Powell's comments were an "attempt at distraction" from the "problems and toxic culture very publicly affecting this current council".
He shared the concerns of some councillors about the "terrible" way things were going, but said he had not been involved in any destabilising efforts.
"I have sat back with a wry sort of look and thought things weren't as bad under my term as what some people had thought."
He defended his council's record - saying it saw the airport upgraded, the Waiāri water build started and the southern pipeline finished - and rejected the idea it did not have good relationships.
He said his council rejected high-cost options for the base track sent them back to staff for a solution Powell was now "claiming credit for".
Tauranga's main street was "now worse than ever".
"Fair's fair. If a decline is my fault in my term, then it's his fault in his term."