Tenby Powell resigns as Tauranga Mayor over council dysfunction

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 20 Nov 2020, 1:10PM
Tenby Powell. (Photo / File)
Tenby Powell. (Photo / File)

Tenby Powell resigns as Tauranga Mayor over council dysfunction

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 20 Nov 2020, 1:10PM

Tauranga City Council mayor Tenby Powell has resigned after the council voted to bring in a Crown manager after ongoing conflict among elected members.

Powell resigned in a public meeting.

His resignation came after a councillor issued a tearful condemnation of a fellow member.

Councillor Heidi Hughes said she wanted to respond to comments made about Councillor Andrew Hollis by members of the public earlier in the meeting.

"I apologise for not speaking out earlier. I have not spoken out because if I am honest it is because I am not willing to attract the kind of dark vitriol into my world from the community that supports his ideology," Hughes said, her voice choking up.

"I hereby lift my silence and publicly condemn the blatant rejection of the Treaty of Waitangi and the ongoing destructive commentary of this councillor on social media."

While she struggled to be on a team with someone with his views, she said she could continue to try and work with "whoever democracy throws me together with".

Tauranga City councillors vote in an extraordinary meeting today. Photo / George Novak

Tauranga City councillors vote in an extraordinary meeting today. Photo / George Novak

Hollis said he would have appreciated having the conversation with Hughes prior to the meeting.

The elected members are discussing how to respond to a scathing independent report that recommended they seek help from the Government.

The report, which was presented to council earlier this week, refers to the elected members' internal turmoil effectively preventing the council from governing appropriately.

The report was produced by a three-strong Review and Observation Team, chaired by Peter Winder. The team was brought on board on September 2 to observe the interactions of and between elected members following increased tension and conflict earlier this year.

The report listed several concerns such as allegations of "score-settling and a reported eruption where elected members suggested settling their differences outside of the council chamber by means of physical violence".

The report also referred to a "significant number of Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act requests originating from elected members, or in one instance from a lawyer acting for an elected member".

"Some requests seem to be designed to identify ways to undermine people or relationships, rather than to address the business of council."

The team, through the report, recommended the council request help from the Minister of Local Government by asking that a Crown manager and observer be appointed.

Winder addressed elected members this morning to answer questions before elected members vote on whether to accept the recommendation or attempt to work through their own issues, which was not recommended.

Councillor Dawn Kiddie asked Winder if the potential Crown manager would have the power to override any decisions made by elected members.

He replied they would.

Councillor Steve Morris questioned whether Winder would rule himself out from the potential Crown manager role.

Winder said he had not considered taking the role and doubted he intended to but did not rule it out.

Mayor Tenby Powell said the behaviour of some elected members on Tuesday exemplified the very issues highlighted in the report.

"The three members of the Review and Observer Team ... it was humiliating for them to be questioned in a way that reflected that report in just about every regard. It was off-topic, full of minutiae, unrelated detail."

"They were accused personally of errors.

"It was mortifying. It highlights in every regard this council in my view has really a limited, at best, ability to develop the necessary Long Term Plan required for a city of Tauranga's size and complexity.

"While I support it [recommendation], I believe we need commissioners in Tauranga city," Powell said.

Councillor Steve Morris said the Local Government Minister had the opportunity to call for a general election.

"Unfortunately, I think that would lack support around the table and I think, actually, lack the support of the Minister to do so but it comes from the principle of, I think the people should decide who runs Tauranga, not the Beehive and so I prefer a general election to commissioners.

He said the product had not met the packaging in terms of what had been promised during the election and what has been delivered.

"The packaging promised something collectively - the product is somewhat different and so the community are entitled to a replacement, and it should be their decision."

Councillor Andrew Hollis said accepting the recommendation was not the only solution for those elected members who were considering supporting it. There was the option to resign also, he said.

Hollis said voting in support of the recommendation was a "weak and cowardly decision and unlikely to solve the so-called problem".

"Bad behaviour is no reason to be babysat by the Government."

Councillor Bill Grainger said the decision was one of the hardest he's had to make and he'd been awake late last night still trying to decide "which way to lean".

"I've had people ring me and say 'I voted for you, not a manager'. I feel I am betraying those votes to get a manager in. My decision is hard, as hard as it is, I will support having a Crown manager."

The meeting continues.