Call for Tauranga Councillors to be sacked
A Tauranga ratepayers association wants all of the local council's elected members to be sacked and fresh elections to be held.
This follows the Tauranga City Council approving a budget of up to $350,000 to fund an independent team tasked with sorting out in-fighting among elected members.
But the city's mayor says formal decision-making by the council has not been a concern and he believes elected members can sort out their differences.
Elected member's conduct hit the headlines after text messages released under the Official Information Act revealed Mayor Tenby Powell called councillor Kelvin Clout a soft c**k and spineless coward.
Six councillors also forced out deputy mayor Larry Baldock as the atmosphere among councillors soured.
The council narrowly avoided a Department of Internal Affairs intervention by agreeing to sort its own problems.
The solution elected members voted in favour of was an independent review and observer team, along with a budget of up to $350,000.
The council also chose to have an 'off-ramp' option, where it could end the process four to six weeks in.
Papamoa Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Philip Brown says ratepayers should not foot the bill of poor performance.
"What really springs to mind is the phrase 'a leopard never changes it's spots', so we consider this will probably be a bad investment."
Brown believes the council should resign and a re-election be held.
But councillor Kelvin Clout - who was a victim of name calling - says replacing the council would be too much of a radical move.
He says the issues should have been tackled head-on months ago.
"We should have, as competent adults, been able sort out these issues amongst ourselves without the need of this very expensive review and observer team."
He believes the review and observer team will help facilitate discussions among council members.
"Once we get ourselves together and communicate with each other, [and] get issues on the table then we should be able to sort them out in due course."
Councillor Steve Morris says councillors should bear the financial burden instead of it being tossed onto ratepayers.
He says there has been little interaction between mayor and councillors since the decision to appoint an observer and review team.
"There's no demonstrable improvement in the interpersonal space, because people are avoiding each other and just trying to confine their interaction to the professional space."
Steve says the departure of "certain elected" members would pave the path of peace, but he did not want to name names.
Councillor Heidi Hughes believes stress and strong personalities have contributed to the disputes.
"We had four people who wanted to be mayor who then were elected onto council. There's sort of quite strong personalities and they have all still really wanted to be mayor, so that hasn't been easy," she says.
Mayor Tenby Powell declined a recorded interview, but in a written statement he says he did not think it would be appropriate for the council to be replaced and that's not the action being sought by the government.
"The Department of Internal affairs has asked to see a proactive approach to dealing with our interpersonal relationships, which will restore confidence that the council can function as a high-performing local authority. We have every ability to do this if a collective will to do so exists among councillors," he says.
"Having initiated that process, it's now incumbent on all elected members to see it through and commit to representing the community in a positive and professional manner.
"In fact, our relationships in formal decision-making situations are not what has caused concern. While there has not always been wholehearted agreement on all issues, and nor should there be, we have worked well on any number of crucial issues for the city and made many key decisions where the previous council failed to do so - the 2021 annual plan and budget being one example and which was hailed by one long serving councillor as the best process in which he has been involved.
"My hope is that the discord behind the scenes is now behind us. As mayor, I am committed to continue the leadership I have given to the city and to working positively and collaboratively with anyone who is looking to make good decisions on behalf of the city."