Rotorua's 'Resident and Ratepayers' group is embarking on a series of meet and greet events throughout the region ahead of the local body elections next month.
With two incumbent councillors already at the table, the group has a further three endorsed candidates running for council. It opposes much of the current council's spending and focus on large scale tourism projects. It wants a back to basics approach with a plan to reduce debt.
Group secretary Reynold Macpherson unsuccessfuly stood for mayor in the 2016 election and is standing again for mayor this year.
"In 2015 we found it was time to broaden our base because many of our members – residents and ratepayers – were very concerned about the pattern that rates raising was taking and the debt was being increased," Macpherson said.
"So in September 2015 we reformed what had been the Pro-Democracy Society into Rotorua Districts Residents and Ratepayers, shortened by some people to 'RDRR'."
But Macpherson says the group is now moving away from the term RDRR, due to negative connotations.
"That term became a term of abuse and so we have now, in more recent times, referred to ourselves as Residents and Ratepayers, who are the people that we represent."
What started as a group formed to "defend democracy" has since taken on a different mission.
"As time went on, we became very concerned about the effectiveness of the planning processes and in particular the planning of expenditure, and finally the fact that rates kept going up," Macpherson said.
RDRR, or Residents and Ratepayers' policies are drafted at quarterly meetings.
"Once we get into campaign mode, from the beginning of this year basically, then the responsibility for articulating the details of policy is given over to the endorsed candidates. We've endorsed six candidates for council and one of them - myself – as the endorsed mayoral candidate."
Macpherson says raising awareness of council processes and spending is the group's biggest achievement.
"We've become a voice for residents and ratepayers who are disconcerted by the expenditure, by the debt and so on. And in particular more recently some of the grandiose projects being proposed by council."
Sunday's rural networking session attracted only a handful of locals but their response was positive.
"I found it informative," said local farmer, Cristine Paterson. "It's good to see the group sitting together, seeing how they work together as a team already and how their thinking is aligned. It's good that they've identified some of the issues that we are all aware of in the community. My interest was in knowing how they think they can fix those issues."