Tariff revolt expected if Tauranga commissioners stay in place

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Tauranga resident Donike Wilkinson refuses to pay her fares until local democracy is restored.

“I know they’re going to charge us penalties,” Wilkinson told Q+A on Sunday, but she says she’ll only pay the rates to an elected council. She hopes that her interest rate revolt will spread.

The city is currently under the control of a panel of four commissioners, led by former National MP Anne Tolley.

They were brought in by local government minister Nanaia Mahuta, after dysfunction and infighting led to the dramatic resignation of former mayor Tenby Powell.

Pressure is mounting for the government to announce a decision on whether elections will return to Tauranga this year, alongside local elections for the rest of the country.

The stated plan has always been for the commissioners to leave at the end of the term, but many residents are unconvinced that will happen – and some hope the commissioners will stay.

Tommy Wilson runs Te Tuinga Whanau Trust, which helps homeless people and poorer families in Tauranga.

He says the previous board never had time to see and understand the social work of his organization, but commissioners have come many times.

“You need to have business acumen balanced with community connectedness to run a $4.3 billion business, and we have that now, so hang in there and avoid the clowns,” Wilson said.

Tauranga is also currently undergoing an extensive development programme, and the governance provided by the Commissioners is seen by many in the business community as vital.

The Visiting Commissioners have recently been endorsed by the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce.

But others in the city see the commissioners as a warning to the rest of the country.

Retired businessman Maurice O’Reily has spent decades in Tauranga and says many he talks to are increasingly concerned about the commissioners.

“When you have democracy and you lose it, you realize what a precious thing it is.”

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