Tauranga residents’ satisfaction with council low

A recent survey shows a drop in people’s level of satisfaction with Tauranga City Council. File image/SunLive.

Traffic congestion, the proposed rates rise and “council stuff ups” are some of the reasons Tauranga City councillors are giving for a drop in residents’ satisfaction.

The Annual Residents Perceptions Monitor shows a drop in the level of satisfaction from 66 per cent in 2018/2019 to 47 per cent year to date. Overall image and reputation has dropped to 35 per cent year to date compared to 46 per cent in 2018/2019.

Councillor Kelvin Clout says there are several factors that have caused the drop including the Bella Vista development issues, overspend on the Durham Street upgrade, the renaming of Phoenix Park and changing it into a park from a carpark.

“We've had a couple of years of [what] you might call some council stuff ups.

“So there were a few issues which I think damaged the reputation of council.

Councillor Kelvin Clout.

“The other thing is when that survey was done, I believe it was in the middle of our discussions about the rates rise of 12.6 per cent and of course nobody gets too excited by that sort of rates increase.”

The second of the three 2019/2020 surveys was conducted between February 10 and March 16 and the proposed rates rise was voted on by council on March 4.

Mount Maunganui/Papamoa ward councillor Steve Morris agrees the proposed rates rise has affected people’s satisfaction.

“I think it's really understandable because over that period of time unfortunately we had, despite warnings from some councillors about the potential economic effects of COVID-19, there was a majority decision, the majority of one, to go out with a 12.6 per cent rates rise.”

Councillor Steve Morris.

Steve says residents satisfaction often drops around election time as well – the council elections took place in October last year.

“Usually around an election time council satisfaction will decrease because we have new candidates standing on platforms raising issues, which can be quite valid, and actually the community get engaged and think about those issues.”

Te Papa/Welcome Bay ward councillor Tina Salisbury says the results are influenced by the community’s perception of the council as well as events happening in the city and region.

The first term councillor says the newly elected council and gang activity occurring earlier in the year may have impacted the results.

Councillor Tina Salisbury.

“This survey also sits in the first six months of this new triennium, most of us didn’t know each other before the campaign began.

“This first six months has been very full, we’ve had a steep learning curve, legacy projects and new colleagues, while facing huge challenges to our city, our region, and our nation with COVID-19.”

Deputy Mayor Larry Baldock says traffic congestion is a contributing factor as well.

“We've noticed for the last several years, people getting more and more dissatisfied with traffic congestion. We've had some issues that haven't gone well and so you expect levels to be dropping.”

“Certainly traffic is a long term thing and some of the big issues in the city are not fixed overnight, they need to be addressed.

“I mean you're never happy to see a satisfaction survey drop that much, but you don't panic, at least I don’t.”

Deputy Mayor Larry Baldock.

Kelvin agrees that long term issues like traffic congestion and housing affordability have also played a part in the results.

“It's probably not unexpected that there would have been a reduction in satisfaction.

“But of course as a councillor, I'm not happy that that's the case but, we have to accept it and take it on the chin and then try to improve it over time.”

He says to improve the results, council needs to very cautious about initiating new projects and ensuring the community is consulted during the process.

“Some of the things that have gone wrong have been council initiated projects and haven't necessarily taken the community with us.

“So we need to be very careful, and I believe we are from now on, in terms of really identifying what are the critical things we need to improve in the city and not sail on and come up with their own bright ideas. It needs to be in conjunction with the community.

“The way I see it is that we're building trust one decision at a time, and if we can make the right decisions then that's going to help.”

Larry says better community engagement is something the council is working on and the perceptions monitor is just one tool.

“Connecting with the community is a challenge really, people are very busy and, and they don't understand all of what our job is.

“If you're really going to get a temperature on the community, you need to do it through more than just one survey.”

Larry would like to see surveys sent out with rates notices and water bills as well as making them available online to capture the community’s views. He say they trialled it with three topics in the last triennium and got 5400 responses.

Steve says relooking at the draft annual plans and proposed rates will help increase people’s perceptions.

The proposed 12.6 per cent rates rise was reduced to 7.6 per cent in March because of the impact of COVID-19 but council is now looking at a new draft annual plan in light of the economic effects of the virus.

“Whilst the world has changed, we need to relook at that budget - I'm delighted that we are.

“Now is not the time to be hurting already distressed businesses with a rates rise and it's not the time to be hammering our residential rate payers, some of whom have lost jobs, lost employment or have businesses struggling themselves.

“If the elected members approach the budget coming up with an open mind, with no predetermination not ruling out rates increases or a zero per cent rates increase, we can help start to rebuild some faith in the community.”

Tina says there is an opportunity as a group of new councillors to improve the results.

“We have inherited some challenges that have impacted our residents and ratepayers.

“I want to face them, learn from them and work together with my colleagues and our communities to do better, to begin to regain the trust that they have shown in electing us.”

The survey is conducted by Key Research and sample sizes between 170 and 200 people, are surveyed three times a year with the demographic representative of Tauranga’s population.

The first survey was between November 4 and December 9, 2019, the second between February 10 and March 16 and the next will be in June with results reported in August.

The results were released in the agenda of this week’s TCC Finance, Audit and Risk Committee Meeting.

The level of satisfaction measures the community’s perception of four key areas –leadership, acting honesty/fairly, financial management and quality of services/facilities according to the agenda.

SunLive approached Mayor Tenby Powell about the survey results but he declined to comment.

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Elizabeth Street

Posted on 20-05-2020 16:14 | By Happyday

This Council already owes many millions of dollars, yet they are now deciding to muck about with Elizabeth Street, which is OK as it is, and probably at many millions of dollars more. Baldock cut off any more discussion on the subject at their meeting then when some of the sensible councilors walked out in protest, said they were being childish. They should just be careful that they don’t treat the ratepayers the same as they treat dissenting councilors.

Tom Ranger

Posted on 18-05-2020 19:20 | By

Combine all they said here (Stuff ups) and other expensive decisions (Road name changes etc etc) with Increasing their own salaries incredibly soon after being elected and followed by proposing massive rates increases soon after and you get. Upset rate-payers...Go figure. They should all be taking a pay cut until they get their books in order.

Clean Up

Posted on 16-05-2020 22:29 | By

Our current Mayor is still having to ’clean-up’ from past Councils mistakes. Give Mayor Tenby Powell a little more time and a good chance to sort the crap out. No one could have seen the Covid19 global crisis coming. I know for sure I couldn’t do a better job and I bet all of US as finger pointers would get fingers pointed at us to. Give the man a chance just like you’d want, just like I’d want . . .

The 4 key areas...

Posted on 16-05-2020 13:18 | By morepork

… are meaningless without TRANSPARENCY! If you are not open and free about what you are doing, how can anyone assess whether it is fair and honest or not? If you want trust, don’t be afraid to take actions and show exactly what led to them being taken. If you sell a building, show what you got for it. If there are unexpected expenses report them with an explanation of why it happened. Cut the fat and lead by example; 10% wage cuts for all senior managers in TCC. Then, and only then, will you get some respect and trust from the Community.

Business must pay fair share

Posted on 16-05-2020 10:10 | By

It appears that commercial rates in Tauranga are artificially low, and the system rewards landholders and developers at the expense of homeowners.

Powell declined

Posted on 15-05-2020 21:43 | By nerak

to comment. Now, that speaks volumes in itself. Just who does he think he is...?


Posted on 15-05-2020 20:08 | By

A survey of 170 people. 1. How much did that cost 2. How is that very small number of people even close to statistically relevant (0.13%) Thats just stupid.

Mayor declined to comment

Posted on 15-05-2020 17:54 | By

Does Mayor Tenby Powell only comment on good news stories, preferably about him or some topic that has nothing to do with council activities? Cr Morris is the only one whose correct. It has everything to do with the ridiculous rates rise. Cr Salisbury, how could gang activity impact the survey results. Since when was your job as a councillor connected to the job of Police? We just want council to stick to its knitting and act for residents.

Here's another idea

Posted on 15-05-2020 16:18 | By R1Squid

Require Developer’s to pay for the infrastructure around their developments - not the ratepayer. I have made reference in the past that as Tauranga has grown, there are more properties to share the rate burden over therefore we should be seeing an easing in the rate burden per property.

Council Satisfaction

Posted on 15-05-2020 14:00 | By sensible

"The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money." Margaret Thatcher

Of course we've lost faith in TCC.

Posted on 15-05-2020 13:55 | By

I 100% agree with ’Morepork’. You should most definitely be protecting our money, not chasing YOUR dreams! When are you going to start listening to to us. Also Tenby, before Covid your name was being dragged through the mud, you’d be foolish to think the members of the public have forgotten about your behavior! You want to be a leader, ... So LEAD!

No surprise

Posted on 15-05-2020 13:53 | By spencerb

No comment from the Mayor? Not surprising given his performance in the job so far. Nice to see Clout finally conceding the fiasco around the redevelopment and naming of Phoenix Park. Hope he is going to do something about rectifying that balls up. He and the others mentioned in this article were also guilty of voting to use ratepayers’ money to buy 11 Mission St for a Maori trust despite the fact that the majority of ratepayers were against such a move. I suppose this squandering of ratepayer money will be repeated over the renaming or duplicate naming of our streets and public facilities, something that is not needed and most likely not wanted by the majority of ratepayers.


Posted on 15-05-2020 13:17 | By Avman

Kelvin Clout touched on it a little when he mentioned about councillors following their own ideas and not taking the community with them. This is the main reason for the dissatisfaction. Ask most people on the street if they are going to make a submission to Council, or go to a public meeting on an issue and most will say: "Why bother, the Council doesn’t care what the people want, they have already made up their minds". And it’s true, just look at any Council proposal, it starts off with: "here is what we are going to do, and here is when we are going to do it, do you want to make any comment?" Council does not care what the ratepayers want, simple. We need accountability.


Posted on 15-05-2020 13:10 | By

The excuses and reasoning they come up to dismiss the results is a staggering display of arrogance.

Traffic improvements a dog

Posted on 15-05-2020 12:46 | By gincat

“We’ve noticed for the last several years, people getting more and more dissatisfied with traffic congestion. This problem didnt happen over night, Councillor’s should have been ahead of the curve on this. As for traffic improvements, Greerton, Waihi road roundabout etc has made traffic flow worse. Those Councillor’s who have had a major role in the stuff ups need to consider their position need election time

"Declined to comment"

Posted on 15-05-2020 11:23 | By morepork

Probably his best option. Actions speak louder than words and Councillors could follow a few simple basics to improve their ratings (oops, sorry, no pun intended...): 1. Don’t spend money on projects we CANNOT AFFORD, just because they are nice to have. 2. Understand that you are spending other people’s money and respect that you have a duty of care with it. 3. At the moment, we have a community reeling under the effects of losing jobs and businesses going to the wall. It is not a time for Council to be seen to be extravagant. Show some cost cutting in the form of temporary wage cuts for senior managers, and make sure that all boondoggles and bunfights are off the table until we get back on our feet again. If you want approval, be seen to be part of the Community and lead by example.