Matt Chat: Can the Commissioners rebuild trust with the business community?

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce recently held the first public event with the Tauranga City Council commissioners, as a way for our business community to connect to these important figures. 

Our CEO Matt Cowley reflects on the event and his impression of the four commissioners. 

It’s no surprise that if a council proposes to put up their commercial rates by 30 percent, you get the attention from the business community. 

There was a sell-out audience of business leaders at the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce breakfast event with the Tauranga City Council Commissioners.

I speak to lots of businesses, but even I wasn’t completely sure on the mood of the room and whether there would be push back on rate increases. 

However, the audience wanted to dig deeper than the rates bill to find out whether the council organisation was worth investing in and whether stronger governance would make a difference. 

The Commissioners were free and frank answering questions, showing they are not covering up issues that have plagued Tauranga City Council over the past decade. 

For example, Tauranga City Council is proposing its biggest and most complex capital works programme over the next few years. Recent history suggests the current organisation would not be able to deliver it. 

The Commissioners acknowledged that council staff do not currently have the capacity or capability to deliver it, which is why they are proposing to increase staff resourcing and get the right talent in to deliver the projects. 

The audience members I spoke with afterwards said it was refreshing to have a genuine conversation with the governors of Tauranga City Council. 

If the wider community can rebuild trust with the Council, it will be through the Commissioners’ leadership.

Anne Tolley speaks while commissioners listen on

However, I am personally disappointed to hear that no real progress has been made to explore new financing options to fund local infrastructure. 

The three local council CEOs have had a year to assess new financing options when SmartGrowth finalised the Urban Form and Transport Initiative framework, but the councils’ proposed 10-year plans still rely on the status quo of rates and council debt. 

While this column shares my personal views, Tauranga Chamber of Commerce will champion for the councils to modernise how they support businesses and residents, who are facing significant financial challenges to develop fair and reasonable payment options of council fees overtime. 

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