All’s well that ends well
When we caught up with Tauranga’s former mayor Greg Brownless, he was at the gym.
Eight months on, and he’s finding life a bit more relaxed.
He’s been on the stage in a local play, had a trip down south and has been fixing his late mother’s house.
“I’m not a fitness nut as you can tell by my physique, and it hasn’t made any difference to my appearance yet.”
As mayor, Greg didn’t find time to “do that sort of thing” but is enjoying more exercise now, attending the gym five times a week.
“And I get to chat to people a bit too.”
He reflects on the last few months of Council progress.
“Getting the Mount base track up and running was great. I’m hopeful it lasts for many years although I do worry about it being prone to slippage.”
Looking back at his term as mayor he considers the Farmers development and airport refurbishment two projects well done.
“Farmers will make a difference to downtown, and I’m very happy to have had a part in that. And the airport has been funded by airport activity and doesn’t require funding from rates.”
He doesn’t mention other wins, but during his time as mayor 5500 new houses were built to cater for growth, the southern pipeline was put in across the harbour and the new Waiari water supply scheme which will help meet the future water supply needs for the city was kept 100 per cent in public ownership with construction expected to be completed in 2021. And with the light installation, Bay Oval was turned into a first-class cricket venue.
He’s watched from afar as Council has continued its decision making.
“Although the decision to allow people to beg in front of shop doorways again got me concerned enough to attend the council meeting that day to see what happened.
“I did feel a lot of empathy for shopkeepers struggling to make a living. In my view it was a backward step by council.”
He also thinks that eight months on, Council seems to be in a far worse place than it’s ever been before.
“There’s always been disagreements on councils. Everybody’s going to have different views, but now it seems to have become extremely antagonistic.”
As a previous city councillor and mayor, Greg knows that councillors want to have a say and to contribute to decision making.
“One of the key principles in council is that 11 people are elected, not just one. For various reasons Tauranga City councillors seem to feel they're not part of meetings and decisions as much as they should be.
“The mayor and deputy mayor have not fostered sufficient discussion, nor the concept of working together. It is essential even when you disagree, to still work together.”
One of the headaches that the 2020 council have is the Harington St parking building.
“It’s not fair to blame either the new or the old council for this. They did what most people do and hired a professional to do the job. And they went and got it peer reviewed. You would expect that both those actions would result in a good outcome. It hasn’t.
“What’s important now is that Council takes every action possible to recover that money just as you would do if you hired someone to do a job and they didn’t perform. You would expect them to put things right.”
When it comes to political or mayoral topics, Greg says it can be easy to be critical when you don't know the full circumstances of something.
“So you try and give the benefit of the doubt. But it does seem that on council at the moment things definitely aren’t going well.”
When choosing a deputy mayor Greg canvassed the elected members first for their input.
“I felt it was the decent thing to do. I certainly didn't just announce someone as a surprise. Consequently, councillors were happy and it was accepted. It’s important that whoever you choose is someone who will encourage discussion and communication and not shut it down.
“We used to say on council, we don’t want surprises from staff, management or from each other. We should encourage a team that works together. You've got to socialise ideas, it isn’t the mayor or any one councillor who makes a decision, it’s all 11.”
As to his future in the city, Greg is not planning to go anywhere. Involved in his Rotary club, he’s been asked to help a number of community organisations, particularly in areas of governance. And he’s keen to organise a fundraising concert with some local talent. Over the years Greg has compered and been involved in many concerts at Baycourt.
Greg’s committed a significant amount of his time and philanthropy to the city, including about $3.5 million over the years with Legacy Trust. One of his favourite places on the waterfront is the Hairy Maclary statues which he financially contributed to.
“I’m a committed resident of Tauranga and have been for over 30 years. If you’re prepared to stand in the political arena you’ve got to be prepared to win and lose. I’ve done both now. You don’t spit the dummy and go away.”