Read more below.
Read more below.
Wards, councillors and community boards
IT’S NOT OVER YET !!!
The Council's not-so-final decision.
In a full page piece in the Bay of Plenty Times, the council has given public notice of its Final Proposal (FP) for what the unelected commissioners want to be the city's representation system to be until 2028. But, what the council does not make clear in this huge passage of tightly packed words is that the final decision about what Tauranga's system of wards, councillors and boards will look like from next year onwards will be made by the Local Government Commission (LGC), not the council. The TCC commissioners’ decision will not be the final one made on this subject.
Every resident has the right to appeal or object to the LGC against the council's FP. The appeal or objection may be against the whole of the FP or only parts of it. The LGC will consider all appeals and objections and make its own determination about what the system should be. There's more about this further on in this memorandum.
What the council wants.
Getting back to the FP; the council has decided to stick with its own Initial Proposal (IP) of 8 general wards, each with 1 councillor, a Maori ward (which has already been established and cannot be objected against) and a mayor. Each of the general ward councillors will represent appeoximately17,000 residents. Community boards will not be established.
If this system becomes effective residents will be able to vote for & have access to no more than1 out of the 9 councillors - their ward councillor. Too bad if your ward councillor turns out to be a dunce or a council stooge!
This is not a democratic system! It disenfranchises voters. It waters down to the lowest level the right of residents to choose which people will represent them as councillors.
A possible consequence if the council's system comes into effect could be that residents lose interest in in taking part in such weak elections. Voter participation could fall to lower levels than we have ever had before. Democracy is about as many of the people affected by government taking part in its processes That's why a good voter turn-out is important.
Under the current system (suspended when the commissioners were appointed) there are 3 general wards, each with 2 councillors, 4 at-large (city-wide) councillors and a mayor. Residents could vote for and had access to 6 councillors.
Many submissions were made to the council's Initial Proposal and 14 of the submitters who opposed it made oral presentations to the commissioners. What most of the submitters saw as the major flaw in the IP was the fact that there were too many wards, that residents could vote for and have access to only 1 out of the 10 councillors, and that it did not include at-large councillors. Various alternatives were presented by the submitters and all of them gave voters greater powers. Some gave voters the right to vote for and have access to up to as many as 11 councillors. The commissioners rejected all of these submissions.
The council has also decided that community boards should not be established in any part of Tauranga. Here are a few things you should know about community boards: they are not another level of council bureaucracy- boards are community organisations not council organisations, running costs are low - if boards had been in place before now they could have saved Tauranga ratepayers a fortune by preventing some of the council project disasters, boards are better placed than councils to know how to handle local climate change challenges - something that we are going to have to deal with sooner rather than later, boards provide a place and opportunity for locals to have their say openly in surroundings in which they feel comfortable, board members are required by statute to advocate on for local needs and preferences - councillors have no such obligation.
Your LAST chance to have a say.
The council has announced the that the consultation period on the FP will run from the 12th of November until the 13th of December. This is your chance, your last chance, to have your say about how you want to be represented on council. You won't get another chance until 2028.
These are things you need to know:
1. Opposing the council's proposed system is not a waste of time! The power to make a final determination as to whether or not the Final Proposal will come into effect has now passed out of the council's hands. That power now rests with the Local Government Commission (LGC), which is not there to simply rubber stamp the staff and council's decision. The LGC considers residents' views as well as the council's views and forms its own opinion.
There have been many recent cases of the LGC stepping in to make significant changes to councils' FPs. In 2019 the LGC determined that the Hutt City Council would not consist of 12 ward councillors, which is what the council wanted. Instead it allowed 6 wards councillors and created 6 at-large councillor positions to provide better city-wide representation. In the same year the LGC turned down the Western Bay of Plenty District Council's proposal to disestablish its community boards and confirmed that they should remain in place and even went so far as to say that the council should consider establishing more boards.
2. Anyone who made a submission - written or oral - to the IP may lodge an appeal if they disagree with the Final Proposal. Their appeal must stick to the matters they raised in their original submission. However, if a submitter to the IP finds something in the FP they disagree with but did not cover in their original submission they can lodge an objection against that matter too.
3. People who did not submit to the IP, but disagree with it, or just a particular part of it, can lodge an objection specifying the nature of their objection and, if they like, suggesting what they think would work better. What this means is that virtually any resident can object to the FP. And should do so!
4. A ground for appeal or objection that should not be overlooked is that the boundaries for the council's 8 general wards do not coincide with so-called communities of interest, or, to put it simply, they are in the wrong place, they do not represent what any common sense person would regard as communities of interest.
For example, the council has decreed that Greerton should be split into two parts: the northern side of Chadwick road will belong to the Te Papa ward and the southern side will belong to the Tauriko ward. How do Greerton people feel about that? Judea and Bethlehem are deemed by the council to comprise one community of interest and will make up the Bethlehem ward. Really! The council has calculated that Arataki is just as big as the Mount and Papamoa and should be a ward on its own. How did they work that one out?
5. The easiest way to find out what the council's final proposal is all about and determine whether or not you agree with it is to look through the page that was posted on the council's website on 12/11/21. Google Tauranga city council elections review and it will come up.
6. There is not a response form on the website.
You can make your objection by …
(a) sending an email to [email protected], or
(b) posting a letter to the council at Private Bag12022, Tauranga 3143, or
(c) dropping a letter off at any library or at the council customer service office in Willow Street.
Remember, the consultation period ends at 5pm on Monday the 13th of December. Your appeal or objection must be in by then.
It doesn’t have to be in clever language. Direct and to the point (without being abusive) is best. It’s YOUR opinion.
The council must send all appeals and objections to the Local Government Commission; it cannot pick and choose which ones it forwards.
7. If you are not sure what kind of system is best, you can look at the other options that the council considered. They are shown on the council's webpage. Of course, you can out forward your own ideas about what would be a better system. Don't worry too much about detail; just say what you think as clearly as you can. This is not a literary contest.
You might like to consider asking for 1 city-wide ward with a mix of 4 ward and 7 at-large councillors. That could give general roll electors the right to vote up to 11 councillors and Maori roll electors up to 8 councillors. A system very much like this was the outright winner in the feedback survey that the council carried out but, as usual, the council ignored the public's opinion.
8. And, don't forget about community boards. If you are in favour of having genuine community input into Tauranga's governance system, ask for community boards to be established. They have proved valuable elsewhere
The LGC's appeals and objections process is not like the so-called consultation process carried out by the Tauranga City Council in which it sets the rules and then acts as judge, jury and executioner. This is an opportunity to have an independent body pay proper attention to what the community thinks and make an unbiased decision. It’s called democracy. As said earlier, the LGC is not there to rubber stamp staff and council proposals, it will form its own opinions, and your input will help it to do that.
This is your chance - your last opportunity until 2028 - to play a part in deciding how your council representatives will be elected for the next two terms of government, how many of them you will be able to vote for and will have access to, if there is going to be any genuine grassroots contribution to governance through community boards. Don't miss out on this opportunity. Write to the council with your ideas and let the LGC make the final decision.
The Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance have today launched an online survey aimed at gathering public feedback on proposed ‘game-changing’ decisions Tauranga City will be faced with in the coming months.
Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance Spokesperson Philip Brown says it’s important the community have their voices heard, as these opportunities are rare under this unelected Commission.
“Unfortunately, the Commissioners aren’t going to listen to the people of Tauranga, but we will.
Brown says it’s vital people have a say on major issues like the proposed Three Waters reforms, as they are likely to have a direct impact on how people live their day-to-day lives.
“The Commissioners seem intent on pushing ahead with their agenda, which is now being forced upon local residents without any say in the matter.
“We want to send them a message, we want them to know what the people of Tauranga really think
“With the Minister leaving the door open to extending the term of the Commissioners beyond October 2022 with no restoration of local democracy in sight, it’s vital the community is heard before it’s too late.”
Mahuta might cancel elections in Tauranga … again
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has refused to guarantee the return of democracy to New Zealand’s fifth largest city next year.
Speaking to Q&A’s Jack Tame on Sunday, Mahuta was unwilling to comment on whether Tauranga’s elections would be cancelled, instead saying the Commissioners she appointed at the end of 2020 were doing a good job.
Tame prompted Mahuta to offer a “flat out guarantee” that Tauranga would have local body elections next year. She refused.
Mahuta went on to claim her appointees had increased Council’s connectivity with the community.
This comes just two weeks after the Council admitted less than 30 people attended their ‘drop-in’ consultation centres regarding proposed changes in the Representation Review, something the Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance says is unacceptable.
“The people of Tauranga have very limited means through which to communicate with those who make decisions in the Council Chambers.
“The decision makers are unelected, aren’t there on a publicly supported mandate, and are unaccountable to the public.
The Minister’s claim that the people of Tauranga have “appreciated” the work of the un-elected Commission is a fallacy too, says Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesperson Ben Sokimi.
“The people of our city are suffering unprecedented increases to their rates bills and simply aren’t seeing the benefits
“Nanaia Mahuta should ask Winston Peters if she could borrow his ‘NO’ sign, because every time she’s asked about the prospect of democracy returning to Tauranga she doesn’t have much else to say
“A return to democracy is what is needed, and what is right for our city
“It’s time for the Government to end the charade and return democracy to the people
WOW. Hundreds turned out on Monday in the pouring rain to fight for our City and call out the unelected Commissioners who are fundamentally changing our city.
But democracy ended at the door of the Council chambers. Despite huge opposition to the massive rate hikes, and demands for less waste and more transparency, the unelected Commissioners still went ahead and approved Anne Tolley's radical Long-term Plan.
The Elite in the Tower and the People in the Square
The irony was not lost in the fact that the chanting of hundreds of local ratepayers outside could be heard while Jordan Williams and Kim Williams delivered our message to the unelected Commissioners.
The media coverage speaks for itself
Bay of Plenty Times: Tauranga Ratepayers' Alliance protest starts walk to council
Bay of Plenty Times: Tauranga Ratepayers' Alliance protest against 22pc rates rises achieves 'great' turnout
Bay of Plenty Times: Green light for 15pc rates rise as Tauranga City approves controversial Long-term Plan
Sunlive: Protestors descend on Tauranga Council
Sunlive: Commissioner reacts to ratepayer protests
Meanwhile the Council's sockpuppets are in spin mode
The crowds that joined us yesterday are quite the contrast to groups like the Chamber of Commerce who are calling for the Commissioner's terms to be extended!
The Chamber's CEO, Matt Cowley, told RNZ that a return to democracy would be 'risky'. See Radio NZ coverage: Tauranga leaders concerned about plans to reinstate councillors in 2022
Of course Mr Cowley did not disclose that the Chambers largest funder is none other than the Council Commissioners he is defending! In fact when we approached Mr Cowley to ask why he wasn't backing democracy, he said elections are a just a 'small part' of local democracy. Weird. We thought being able kick out local leaders the very essence of democracy...
The thing is, we'd much rather have ratbag politicians who we can get rid of, than ratbag Commissioners and officials who report to Wellington and we cannot fire!
You may have seen in the media last week that we exposed previously secret legal advice suggesting Nanaia Mahuta acted unlawfully when she sacked the City Council and appointed Commissioners.
Your support made our efforts to reveal this possible. But our work isn't done.
On Monday 26 July, the Tauranga City Council will release its finalised Long Term Plan. We are sad to report that despite the huge opposition, Anne Tolley still plans on huge rate increases: 17% for residential and 33% for commercial next year alone, impacting every household and business in Tauranga.
Hundreds of people have attended meetings over the past few months and made their voices very clear: they simply cannot afford these proposed rate hikes.
All Tauranga ratepayers and residents are now encouraged to join the protest on Monday 26 July, and take the message directly to Council.
Join your neighbours to show the Council you are rightly concerned, and to demand fairer rates, less waste and more transparency.
Monday 26 July
Strand Carpark (4 Dive Crescent)
RSVP preferred - click here
Park and Ride buses will be operating from 11.30 AM at Sulphur Point Carpark
The Tauranga Ratepayers' Alliance is releasing a legal opinion from one of the country’s top law firms, obtained under the Official Information Act, which suggests that Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta acted unlawfully when she sacked the City Council and appointed Commissioners.
The appointment in February cancelled elections scheduled in March for a new Mayor and Councillors, removing the right of Tauranga residents to choose their own leaders. An independent review of the Minister's decision by law firm Russell McVeagh, released under the Official Information Act to the Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance, "identified several issues with the Minister's decision from a public law perspective" including:
• that the Minister failed to adequately consider lesser alternatives, such as the appointment of a Crown Manager, and as such "does not meet the statutory requirement in the [Local Government Act 2002]." Should the issue proceed to Court, Russell McVeagh has suggested: "a court would likely expect a robust assessment of lesser interventions to have been first undertaken;
• the information provided by the Department of Internal Affairs to the Minister was arguably "incorrect, misleading or insufficient for the purpose of making the decision that a Commission should be appointed;" and
• strong criticism of the recommendation by Peter Winder, chair of the Review and Observer Team, that a Commission be appointed because he did not inform the Council nor allow Councillors the opportunity to respond to it, as required under his terms of reference. Russell McVeagh found this breach "could potentially impact on the integrity and validity of the Minister's Decision" and could result in Winder's recommendation being "set aside by a court on natural justice grounds."
The advice is being released by the Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance and is available at www.taurangaratepayers.nz/legal_advice.
In reaction to the release of the legal analysis Tauranga Ratepayers' Alliance spokeswoman Dawn Kiddie says, "this analysis provides a chilling insight into the casual way the Minister stripped our community of democracy. The release of the advice will be embarrassing for Wellington. It shows how vulnerable the Commissioners are to legal challenge. But the way to fix this is easy: Tauranga should be returned to democracy with fresh elections held."
The Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance is urging the Commission to stop the spin and come clean on its proposed rates hike. Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesperson Kim Williams said:
“The Commission’s claim that they are proposing to increase rates by only ‘one dollar per day’ or ‘two bottles of milk per week’ is misleading at best.”
“Tauranga City Council’s Long-term Plan summary document conveniently leaves out the proposed 30% increase in water rates – an additional $118 per year for the average user. It also neglects to mention the increase to user-fees by an average of 17% which would add a further $100 per year to a resident’s cost of living.”
“That’s an increase of $612 or 172 bottles of two-litre milk per year for a typical household; half of ratepayers will be paying more than that and some significantly more.”
“Tauranga average residential rates are already among the highest in the country. Now, commercial ratepayers are facing a massive rates increase of between 27% and 41%. It won’t just be a question of milk bottles for them; they’re looking at the cost of a whole farm.”
“We need an honest conversation about what the Commissioner’s proposals are going to cost Tauranga families. Undercooking the figures, or deliberately skipping over the measures the Council wants to take to reach deeper into our pockets, does informed debate a disservice. The Commissioners appear too willing to act like politicians, rather than a-political bureaucrats we’re paying them the big bucks for.”
The Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance is exposing plans that will see the cost of consultants and contractors employed by Tauranga City Council skyrocket from $16.5 million last year to $23.3 million this year. Commenting on the information – released to the Ratepayers’ Alliance under official information law – Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesman Matthew Gill said:
“This is yet another burden on ratepayers who are already footing the huge increase in Council staff salaries from $66.3 to $80.5 million this year.”
“It was particularly misleading of Commissioner Stephen Selwood to earlier defend skyrocketing Council staff salaries by suggesting this would avoid contractor costs when, at the very same time, he and his colleagues were approving a massive increase in contractor and consultant costs in the draft budget.”
“Residents expected that Commissioners would work toward a more effective and efficient Council, but instead the opposite is happening. We’re witnessing a blowout in both the size of the Council bureaucracy and the consultants that make a living from it.”
Tauranga ratepayers have come together to form a City-wide voice to champion a better deal and more transparency for Tauranga ratepayers. The Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance launches today.
We are a combined initiative of local residents, chairs and former chairs of Ratepayers’ Associations, civic leaders, and local members of the Taxpayers’ Union, who have formed the new Ratepayers’ Alliance in response to the appointment of unelected commissioners in place of elected councillors.
Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesperson Dawn Kiddie says, “There is growing discontent with decisions taken by Commissioners that ratepayers feel they have no control over, such as increasing staff salaries from $66 million to $80 million next year. The Ratepayers’ Alliance will stand up against Tauranga City Council’s wasteful spending, poor financial management, and the unprecedented rates increase.”
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Co-founder Jordan Williams says, “Over the last few months the Taxpayers' Union has been approached by numerous local Tauranga supporters calling for a dedicated voice for fiscal prudence, and transparency. Without recourse to elections to kick the decision-makers out, a strong voice for ratepayers is more important than ever.”
If you are a Tauranga resident or ratepayer, you are encouraged to join for free at www.taurangaratepayers.nz, or at the launch event on Wednesday 26 May at Club Mount Maunganui from 5.30pm, with keynote speaker Simon Bridges and MC Peter Williams.
“Nanaia Mahuta and Anne Tolly have an expensive and unconstrained spending agenda for Tauranga. We need to take back control of our city – with numbers, a strong voice, and organisation,” says Kim Williams, a member of the Steering Group.