Ordinarily, council elections would be due next year. Everywhere else in New Zealand will have them, but here in Tauranga Labour got rid of our council and inserted unelected commissioners in their place.

Some may say fair enough, but regardless of what has been and gone, I have a clear view that we shouldn’t be the exception to the rule in 2022.

Tauranga, like everywhere else, should get back to full democracy with elections. There is no sufficient rationale for any other option.

After all, have the commissioners achieved much? Do they deserve to be kept on in some shape or form? From observation, my view is that very little tangible progress on anything that matters has been made, or will be made, by the end of next year. Yes, there has been a long-term plan, but it only matters if implemented.

You may say ‘let them stay on and see it through’, but that is a non-argument that will always be made and only delays the inevitable – unless you say no to democracy for a very long time. We have to get back to full elections sooner or later.

Frankly, the best we can say about the unelected commissioners is that they’ve ended the outward signs of bickering and dysfunction we had seen previously. That’s true enough. But an unelected council comes with a very real downside. It is hard to hold anyone accountable.

When there are issues with rubbish, with water (and Three Waters!) and many other things, the reality of elected officials - flawed as we are - is that there is someone to complain to and be heard by (as well as someone to boot out, come election time). Currently, Tauranga doesn’t meaningfully have that at council level.

I know in saying this that there will be some that come for me. There are many vested interests at play.

I say two things in response: First, ask if those organisations who disagree rely on significant sums from either council or government. If they do, they are conflicted and you should discount what they say. I’ve learned over time that people rarely bite the hand that feeds them.

Secondly, if you feel strongly that we won’t get the people on council that we deserve, then seriously consider standing or encourage others to do so and back them in meaningful ways. Tauranga deserves nothing less. It’s time to get democracy back.

Simon Bridges
National Party MP