A Tauranga city councillor has hit out at mayor Tenby Powell and accused him of getting angry with councillors who disagree with him.

Steve Morris made his comments after this week's upheaval in council in which councillors have clashed over the way things are run. One side says it's an attempt to slow progress, while the other claims the process is anti-democratic. The result is that six of the 11 councillors have signed a letter calling for a new deputy mayor.

But the row between elected members continues with criticisms and accusations being traded.

Morris claims: "If you disagree with the mayor, as politely as you can, the response is anger.

Advertisement

"A couple of my colleagues expressed a different opinion on the mayor's proposed 12.7 per cent rates increase, right as we were going into Covid. And the mayor exploded in a closed door meeting. It was a foul-mouthed tirade. In front of staff, in front of councillors, it was very unprofessional."

In response, the mayor says his outburst in March was the result of political pressure that started last year.

"From day one there have been three councillors who have done their level best to disrupt my mayoralty," Powell said.

"It wasn't the rates rise. There was a lot of social media activity at that point. And look, I did flare up at [councillor] Andrew Hollis. Andrew had been baiting me, continues to this day, constantly baiting me on social media. As a consequence of that I was unprofessional, I let fly at Andrew. I apologised for it, it's time to move forward."

Morris is now complaining about problems during lockdown with deputy mayor Larry Baldock, who chaired several "informal" council meetings over Zoom.

"Unfortunately his leadership style left something to be desired," Morris said. "Telling councillors to shut up when chairing meetings, when they expressed an opinion different to himself. It's not conducive to good decision making."

Baldock refutes these claims saying he ran the meetings efficiently and fairly.

"I don't let people speak too long," he said. "Some of [the councillors] think this is a 'sit around and have a cup of coffee', and go on forever about things, which wastes the staff time and everything else. Councils need to be efficient."

Advertisement

It came to a head as lockdown eased. The breakaway group of six councillors formally requested a meeting to choose a new deputy mayor. So on Tuesday Baldock resigned before that meeting could take place, allowing Powell to select a new deputy, first term councillor Tina Salisbury.

Baldock is adamant the mayor should choose the deputy, after his involvement as an MP in changing the law to make it possible.

"They've had lots of problems in lots of councils where the elected members choose a deputy that the mayor doesn't want to work with. Maybe a left-leaning deputy and a right-leaning mayor," Baldock said. "In 2012 they made an amendment to give the mayor the power to choose his deputy. Although there is still provision for elected members to override that."

This is the process that the council now finds itself dealing with.

"What's happening now is unprecedented and should never, should never have happened," fellow councillor, Dawn Kiddie said. "We were at our wits' end. What was the next step for us? Do we just sit back and not do what our community elected us to do?"

"It's not something you take any joy in whatsoever," Morris said. "[But] in the interests of standing up for members of the community that we represent, change had to happen because debate was being shut down at every turn."

Powell claims the breakaway group have other motives for changing the deputy.

"[They want] another report, another matrix, more information as a filibusting move to just continually go round in ever decreasing circles.

"I was voted in on a mandate to lead change, to lead progress. And many of the existing councillors have had a real inability to decide and move forward. I cite Mauao, three years nearly to fix the base track, and the Elms decision giving it back to iwi. They ran around on this issue for three years - we did it in the first 10 weeks.

"I think what they're discovering is that we are moving forward at pace, but we're making good decisions that the city wants and we're partnering with people - government and our regional partners, and NZTA to take the city forward and we have got to do that."

Powell's new choice of deputy is Tina Salisbury, who is a first-term councillor. He says she has better skills for the job than any of the breakaway six councillors, who have submitted another letter calling for a meeting to choose another deputy. They see it as symbolic of the need for better consultation among council.

"We're all so different, we're so diverse and that's really good," Kiddie said. "We're all professionals in our own right. We're intelligent in our own right. We need to be able to gel together and mix together and have our freedom of speech; to be able to speak our mind without it being a personal attack on ourselves. For us to be able to speak what we believe our community wants, and to be able to relay that - that's what we're wanting to do; without being shutdown, without being told to shutup, without being cut off."

The breakaway councillors form a majority on council, so they ultimately have the right to appoint a new deputy, unless a solution is found beforehand. As former deputy Kelvin Clout on Thursday indicated, they may even vote for Salisbury to stay as deputy.

"It's nothing to do with Tina because Tina could very well be a very good candidate," Clout said.

Made with funding from