I apologise in advance for starting the show on Tauranga City Council, but I think there are lessons for all of us in what’s happening there.
Because while Tauranga City Council is clearly the worst council in the country right now, many of us will see in that council some of the behaviours we see in our won councils, wherever they are.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Tauranga’s councillors need to be replaced.
The news out today is that the Mayor Tenby Powell has resigned after ongoing dysfunction and conflict at the council.
We knew that things were likely to reach a head at a council meeting about its own future today, because the council were expected to vote on whether they would ask for a crown manager. That’s essentially someone brought in to parent errant councils. They voted for that.
But, Tenby Powell now says that’s not enough, and he’s calling on the government to appoint a commissioner to replace the council, and has resigned in the hope it’ll facilitate some government intervention.
I think he’s right. By the looks of things this council cannot be trusted to rise above petty politics and actually put the best interests of that city ahead of their own egos. Things have got bad enough for the lot of them to be cleared out.
If you want to understand how dire it is, just take a look at the report out earlier this week that revealed bullying, petty politics, suggestions of resolving differences with physical violence.
We’ve had name calling, claims that one councillor is unsafe around another, and failure to turn up to meetings.
All of this while Tauranga faces a shortfall in capital funding of as much as $4 billion.
Hands up who sees their own councils wasting time on petty politics and pet projects instead of the big issues needing attention.
I admire Tenby Powell’s ambition for that city. He came in wanting to shake things up but he got councillors off side. Because the thing is that politics at local body level is not business. You have to put in the effort to lobby councillors and take them with you, and it seems the mayor didn’t do that.
I also admire his self-awareness in his decision not to stick around. Because he doesn’t escape criticism in that report out this week either.
I’m sure there will be some in Tauranga who will feel disappointment that he hasn’t stuck around to try to make it work, but quite frankly, I think he’s done the right things. The status quo is not working. That council needs an intervention.