Tauranga civic and business leaders to continue focus on innovation

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has admitted that levels of investment in Tauranga aren’t where they should be, but says the city’s “calling card” to government should be innovation and a willingness to “do things differently”.

Robertson faced questions from current and former officials in the city this week, and came up against claims that Tauranga is “decades” behind the likes of Hamilton and has been “stopped in its tracks” in terms of infrastructure.

Former Mayor Tenby Powell, who resigned in late 2020 before a four-person commission was appointed to replace elected councillors, quizzed the minister on central government’s relationship with the Bay of Plenty city, while others voiced their frustration at a perceived lack of infrastructure spend.

During his exchange with Robertson, Powell said: “Speaking as the mayor who handed the city over to the commissioners, we haven’t had the spend here that we require. Hamilton is not just years but decades ahead of us.”

“I think the relationship is fine. One thing I acknowledge about Tauranga is its enthusiasm for doing things a little bit differently. This is when I think about the kind of funding and financing tools that might be available for developments.

“This is a community that understands road pricing, which many other communities in New Zealand do not. So maybe that should be the basis of our future relationship – that this is a community that is actually prepared to try something different and to be innovative.

“Maybe that could be the calling card that Tauranga leaves with government.”

While Robertson admitted he did not see the problem in “quite the same way” as Powell, he willingly admitted that Tauranga is a city that deserves more attention from government.

“Tauranga is a large, growing city in an incredibly productive region,” he said, “and of course every government should pay attention to you in that regard. I’m feeling pretty good about our relationship.”

Another audience member pointed to continual congestion on the region’s roads. “You’re creating more traffic and pushing roading out into provincial areas by not having that spend,” he said. “That infrastructure is needed now, not in five years’ time.”

“I hear you and I sense your frustration,” said Roberston. “If we had been investing at the levels we should have been 10-15 years ago, we wouldn’t have the extent of the problem that we’ve got now.

“Is it fast enough for everybody? Of course it’s not, but we’ve put money in, and we’re working on how we build partnerships with councils and with iwi. The best time to plant a tree would have been 20-30 years ago, but the second-best time is today and that’s what we’re doing.”

 


In response to Powell’s question regarding the relationship between the city’s authorities and central government, Roberston added: “I’ve been more engaged with Tauranga than I have with many other cities in New Zealand.

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