Tauranga City Council's first public meeting without any elected members has begun with a poignant tribute to those who lost their lives in the Christchurch earthquake 10 years ago today.
The meeting is unusual in the absence of a mayor and councillors, with Government-appointed commissioners taking their place. It is the first meeting of its kind in Tauranga in living memory.
However, former councillors Larry Baldock and Terry Molloy were among the handful of people in the public gallery.
Seated in the newly rearranged furniture, commission chairwoman Anne Tolley, commissioner Shadrach Rolleston, commissioner Stephen Selwood, and commissioner Bill Wasley each took a moment to introduce themselves to the meeting.
These four will now effectively act in the role of the previous elected member team by discussing and making decisions on key issues facing the council and the city.
Before the introductions, Tolley spoke and paid tribute to those people who died in the devastating Christchurch earthquake which took place 10 years ago by asking for a moment's silence.
"We have two flag at half mast today to honour those who lost their lives," she said.
Tolley then moved to business, saying the four were considering limiting the amount of time people can give submissions in the public forum part of council meetings to enable more people to be able to have their say.
"We are very keen to make sure we are open to the public and are accessible," she said.
Selwood said he was mindful the city, and the team, "have our challenges".
"As commissioner there is a tremendous opportunity before us to find the best way forward but that has to be in communication and in partnership with the city.
"We are very keen to hear what the community has to say we have to make some big decisions in a relatively short amount of time."
One of those decisions was whether to commit a statutory breach by delaying the council's 2021-2031 Long-term Plan (LTP).
The commission decided today to push out the adoption date by a month, to July 30.
In the agenda for today's meeting, Josh Logan, team leader of corporate planning, said staff had previously advised elected members that the original Long-term Plan timelines were about three months behind what they would usually be, due to the impacts of Covid-19.
"While significant progress has been made to put council in a position to deliver the LTP in a timely manner, it is still a very time pressured project."
Logan said the decision to appoint a commission had meant "it will be extremely difficult to meet the statutory timeframe of adoption" by June 30, 2021.
Tolley said community engagement would form an essential part of the LTP process.
"It's crucial that there's a good opportunity for the community to take part. We will need time to ensure we have a proper conversation with our community about the long-term plan, and to consider the issues raised by them."
Logan said that while not meeting the June 30 timeframe was a statutory breach, it arose due to "extenuating circumstances".
Other than being a technical breach and likely being mentioned in the auditor's report, there were no adverse legal implications.
The issue was considered to be of high significance because "it affects all residents, ratepayers and businesses in, and visitors to, the city".
It also involves the council's allocation decisions and rating decisions for the next three years.
Additionally, council staff will update the commissioners on its community services, transport projects, the Waiāri Water Supply Scheme and plan changes to the Tauranga City Plan.
Among the first items of their agenda is to consider removing existing standing committees such as the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee; Policy Committee; Projects, Services and Operations Committee; Urban Form and Transport Committee; Regulatory Committee; and the Chief Executive's Performance Committee.
The commissioners will also consider reinstating other committees such as the Tangata Whenua/Tauranga City Council Committee; City Plan Hearings Committee; and Wastewater Management Review Committee by confirming existing members except for elected members.
The commissioners will also appoint their individual members on behalf of the council to other committees or groups.
In December, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta chose to appoint the commission, and discharge the city's elected members, after an independent report that found significant governance issues in the council.
Mahuta said in a statement this month that the commission was "necessary to put Tauranga in a stronger position for the future".
The commissioners unanimously set the following timeframe:
• Late April: Commissioners adopt LTP consultation document
• 7 May – 7 June: Community consultation
• Mid-late June: Hearings and deliberations
• By 30 July: LTP adopted