New mayor Tenby Powell talks about what‘s next

Tenby Powell, newly elected mayor of Tauranga city. Photo: Daniel Hines.

SunLive caught up with Tauranga’s newly-elected mayor Tenby Powell on Sunday afternoon, and asked him some of the big ‘why’ and ‘what’s next’ questions.

“This idea to be Tauranga’s mayor formulated in 2016,” says Tenby.

“I was doing some work here for the University of Waikato, chairing Waikato Link, the University’s commercialization company. I was also here doing some other business work, and got a sense that the city needed to have a very different approach to not only business which is the attracting of private sector investment into the city, but I was worried about some of the messages that I was getting around the lack of community engagement.

“As a consequence I started to look quite hard at what was happening, became increasingly concerned and developed this idea that if it continued like this, I might actually run for mayor.”

The 2016 elections came along, with Greg Brownless being voted in as the new mayor.

“I thought ‘this is going to be good, it’s a new council, a different mayor, maybe things will look up’,” says Tenby. “My view though, is that the city’s gone backwards. It’s gone backwards almost a decade in the last three years, which is fundamentally why I ran.

“I have been keeping a very close eye on it. I’ve got a lot of networks entrenched here that are pre-existing. And I think that’s been proven by the four thousand plus margin.”

Tenby was voted in with the preliminary results announced on Sunday afternoon giving him 16,940 votes, well clear of Greg with 12,286 votes. In third place for the mayoralty was previous deputy mayor Kelvin Clout with 8,487 votes.

“So it was all around that. I truly believe and I’ve said this very publicly on numerous occasions, that Tauranga is a strategically important city for New Zealand, because of its port and because of its growth trajectory,” says Tenby.

“It’s a challenging city topographically; it’s our fifth largest city in New Zealand, and the fourth smallest land size, the topography of which is extremely challenging. That doesn't mean to say that we've got to continue spreading. The urban spread is going to just exacerbate the already frustrating traffic challenges that we have here and it's not going to help housing necessarily.

“We've got to go up in the city and I've said that for a long time. And I know that the plan has incorporated intensification of Te Papa. I know the plan has included medium-rise development in the inner city but what I've said consistently during my campaign - where is the execution of those plans because some of the plans are actually very good. It’s now time to execute and have a team that can assist that council and the private sector to execute them and actually get stuff done.”

Tenby will be meeting Tauranga City Council Chief Executive Marty Grenfell on Monday.

“To my knowledge, I think I’m also meeting with Garry Webber and Doug Leeder on Monday,” says Tenby.

Tenby has previously established relationships across the Bay of Plenty region, including with Steve Chadwick, who was been voted in again as mayor for the Rotorua Lakes Council.

“I got a very nice message from Steve yesterday and we’ve been trading texts today. I’m really looking forward to working with Stevie. She brings a wealth of experience, obviously central government, prior to becoming the mayor of Rotorua.

“One of my key platforms in my speeches that I’ve talked about has been greater regional co-operation.

“And that includes Whakatane, Rotorua and Hamilton. I'm really keen to work with the key surrounding cities, to make sure that we do coordinate.”

Judy Turner, the previous deputy mayor of Whakatane District has won the mayoralty there.

“The logistics going to the port are mostly from the east,” says Tenby.

“I also have good existing central government relationships that I hope to re-establish in my new role to benefit Tauranga as a strategically important New Zealand city. So the other part of that whole concept of greater regional cooperation is growing that relationship with central government so that we can facilitate the funds that I believe Tauranga misses out on.”

Tenby has his focus on ensuring Tauranga city benefits and reach its potential through the opportunities that the Provincial Growth Fund – PGF can offer.

“We’re a strategically important city both for NZTA and PGF. I believe we should be getting a lot more of it than we do. Our share is quite limited in a sense of the size of our city.”

The Tauranga community has recently been demanding NZTA provide a pedestrian and cycle underpass as part of the Bay Link re-construction project.

“I'll be very vocal on that. I was a bit harsh about them during the election campaign, but it’s now about saying how do we work collaboratively with government? We’ve got to have that underpass. I said at that meeting with the NZTA officials, that there's got to be a way of either remediating the current one or including it in the project. We’ve got to have it.”

He’s determined to ensure that the essentials are taken care of.

“Things like that are a ‘must have’, not a ‘nice to have’.  Fixing the Mount track is a ‘must have’ not a ‘nice to have’.”

There’s going to, by necessity, time required as a new council spent on orientation, learning how Council works, embedding in the new councillors and getting things underway, but we asked Tenby for the top five key tasks he wants to focus on over the next 18 months.  

“Obviously the first, really important and critical thing is to establish a positive working relationship with my fellow councillors, apportioning the committees to various people that have the skill sets to do it,” says Tenby.

“I'm a very values and beliefs-based person, and organizations and their cultures rely on values and beliefs. I would love to think that we can develop a common and shared set of values and beliefs. That’s going to be really important.

“This is all part of and leading into assisting the change at Tauranga City Council. I believe it's got every opportunity to be a higher performing entity than what it currently is.

“As I’ve said, I believe Tauranga City Council needs to be a customer service-oriented organization. Customers of course being residents.

“Number two on my list is to start developing these relationships with central government, so we’re getting the right funding to solve the problems, which is number three – the roading problems – making sure we’ve got housing developments that are planned. From a work sequencing point of view, planned with infrastructure first and housing second.”

Tenby sees that a critical part of infrastructure and housing development would be an intensification of the Tauranga CBD and Te Papa peninsula.

“And then, there's a whole lot of things that can be done, I believe. We've got to fix the Mount track. We need some early ‘wins’ and fixing the Mount track is an obvious one.

“And of course, I've been pretty vocal about our homeless community here. I worry about it. It's growing. I was going to say it's a growth industry, - of course I don't mean it like that but it's growing in numbers and therefore the people that are supporting it are growing. I worry that Tauranga has more NGOs [non-government-organisations] than any city in New Zealand that focus on homelessness.

“I have said to many of the wonderful people who look after our homeless – ‘can we find a way of working together?’  Now, it’s not going to be easy for all sorts of reasons, but I think we do have to find a way of working together to solve this problem.

“One of the obvious solutions to people who are homeless is to find them a house for them to live in. We just need to find ways of developing housing for people.

“No one in New Zealand should be on the streets or in cars. I know that we're not going to solve that to the 100 per cent point, but I would like to think that we can get central government support and work collaboratively with those people who have expert knowledge in this area to really make some inroads into the problem we’ve got here in Tauranga. This is a key issue for me.

“Passing a bylaw to sweep the homeless out of the city is not a plan. It's time for a plan. I'm going to be working really hard to ensure that we have a plan.”

Another area that Tenby wants to focus on is the environment.

“A lot of our economics comes from the environment, both the land and the sea and we've got to find ways of ensuring that we are better protecting it.

“I'm not saying that we're not protecting it at the moment, but I think we can do much better and doing the five months that I was campaigning, I met a number of incredibly knowledgeable people on environmental issues that affect the Western Bay of Plenty.  I'm really looking forward to working with them more closely on that.

He values the arts sector, saying that he holds it to heart, particularly after he and his wife Sharon experienced some of Tauranga’s artistic performances and shows over the last few months while campaigning.

“One example is that I was overwhelmed by Tarnished Frocks & Divas, as was Sharon. Absolutely overwhelmed. It is one of the top productions I’ve seen in the world. Having seen wonderful things like Les Mis in Sydney and various versions of Faust - this is up there with those internationally-recognized productions.

“I will be fighting very hard to ensure that what happened to WOW, where Wellington bought it from Nelson, for example, never happens to Tarnished Frocks & Divas. We have got to give greater support to the arts sector. The arts is all part of being a key New Zealand city.

“We've also got to cherish our history. We need to find a way of showcasing that history. We’ve got to support our arts and our culture to a level that I think we can do much better than we currently do.

“Our history here is very rich and it’s untold. Being able to get along well together - and you would have heard me talk about the fact that I believe that we need to bring the community and the communities together, which clearly includes iwi,  - iwi are a special part of New Zealand and a very special part of Tauranga and I think we need to embrace that. There's lots that we can learn from each other.

“But in terms of the history, it is really very significant - from the landings and then General Cameron's military assaults that ended up with the withdrawal down to Gate Pa and so forth. These are things that we should be cherishing. I know some of its not great. I understand that. General Cameron was a tyrant really, but it was what it was and I think it's very important that we don't visit today's generation on the actions and behaviours of our forebears, but we do as a consequence of that, recognize it. And we do some healing.

“Part of it is recognising the history and recording it accurately.”

Tauranga’s rich history and geography is also potentially beckoning as untapped tourism.

“There’s so many things that we could do here in Tauranga,” says Tenby. “Sitting back on our laurels because we have a world-class surf beach is not a tourism plan.

“Look at Rotorua for example. Once they had boiling mud and lakes, now they’ve got zorbing and swooping and luging and all those wonderful things.

“Stevie told me they get something like 76 million dollars per annum out of mountain biking in the redwood forest alone.

“Where are these plans for Tauranga? So, I'm really looking forward to working with Kristen Dunne and her team at Tourism BOP to really establish some practical outcomes.”

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@Told You

Posted on 15-10-2019 13:02 | By morepork

The Mount base track is dear to most us and it is shameful that we have been waiting over 2 years to have it repaired. I see there is talk of a $3 million "permanent" repair and, given that we are dealing with unpredictable forces of Nature here, I’m not so sure that is a wise choice. I think they could use things like Bailey bridges and military engineering to effect repairs that would be quick to make and safe to use, based on the assumption that there WILL be future collapses of the track. A more flexible and innovative approach is called for I think.


Posted on 14-10-2019 22:15 | By Ross T

The day Tenby Powell reigns in the spending at Tourism Bay of Plenty, and all that money to economic development agencies and other council favorites, is the day I’ll make him mayor for life. I suspect big spending and that can only come from big rates. But let’s give him a chance. We should know by early next year how his leadership will improve a council that has been pretty average.

Reality vs spin

Posted on 14-10-2019 22:11 | By Ross T

The reality is Mr Powell failed to get elected in Auckland in about 2010. Claims to be a true local, yet news emerges Saturday that he hasn’t sold the $20 million Auckland mansion yet and moved here only a few months ago. Great promoter though and if that proves true it will be great for Tauranga. More reality is that the only thing that’ll reverse the Downtown decline is when Farmers comes back. I’m happy the old council allowed that private development. I agree it all comes down to leadership and at least Tenby’s obvious strength there gives him the chance to get the new council away from its divided votes and bickering. If he is a great leader. Let’s give him a year or so and check his success. A bit worried about the rates though if he does all those things.


Posted on 14-10-2019 15:23 | By Told you

It will be interesting to see just how long it will be before the track is repaired,it’s only been two and half years since the damage occurred,so lets see how proactive this new council is.


Posted on 14-10-2019 14:34 | By grobertson

I agree with all your comments. You’ve mentioned most of the current issues. I totally agree we need to build up. And reading, let’s have a team on our, the residents side. Let’s all stand together to support our new Mayor & Councillors. And they will support us in return.

I liked this.

Posted on 14-10-2019 13:47 | By morepork

It’s a sensible opening statement and the goals stated are achievable. Good to see some positivity balanced with realism... Go Tenby!

Lots of grand promises

Posted on 14-10-2019 13:39 | By nerak

but words are cheap. Priorities appear slightly off piste? Will be interesting to see if hob knobbing with govt. officials works for this city... I also expected a halt on rate rises, not more of the same. Ratepayers, we need to hold any TCC staffer accountable, and that includes the about-to-be-mayor.

Heres hoping

Posted on 14-10-2019 12:35 | By Potofstu

Congratulations now how about hit the ground running and try and fix up our once vibrant city centre and not leave it as a urinal for the “homeless”.possiby Utilising the train tracks which pass through tga mataphihi and mount as link for tourists and locals alike too enjoy both entertainment districts

Sounds like positive change

Posted on 14-10-2019 12:05 | By Spots on

Except I dunno why the boomers are so determined they need to keep the underpass, light controlled crossings work fine across town and the $50million cost to keep it seems like a waste.

Have some positive thoughts guys

Posted on 14-10-2019 09:49 | By Positively Tauranga

Congratulations Tenby - a leader with an excellent track record, enthusiastic interest in our city and a positive vision for our future. So far most of the comments have been negative - these will do nothing to inspire us. Negative begets negative. I’m an investor in the CBD and have been horrified to date by incompetent council actions and inactions, so I say hooray to the new team - don’t sweat the small stuff.

Welcome Tenby

Posted on 14-10-2019 08:07 | By WestieMum

Now to get your hands dirty! I’m pleased to see the comment about Council and their (lack of) customer service. It appears for anyone trying to do some thing simple like home renovations as and when budget can afford (yes me), that TCC make it as hard as possible, and every pathetic extension is an excuse to pay more $$. So now we have a half finished house. Cheers for that. CBD if fast becoming a ghost town, shop after shop closes each week. How about encouraging more developments like Farmers, but at an affordable level for the average Taurangian to live and work in the CBD, wouldn’t that help with the traffic woes too? Roll up your sleeves Tenby, this city and it’s inhabitants are impatient and we need action. Soon.

Way to go Tauranga!

Posted on 14-10-2019 01:18 | By MarkFive

A new CEO and new Mayor. Looks like a possible end of the entrenched ‘club’ that has failed Tauranga for so long. You are right Tenby… almost ten years worth of decline brought about by poor decisions, diabolical execution, and unaccountable mismanagement. Lost opportunities and wasteful expense being the norm. Clearly many agree with your standpoint. Happy too, that you see room for CCOs’ to improve. Perfect example being TBOP who burn through vast sums of annual ratepayer funding producing the same self-serving marketing report boasting ever-increasing visitor numbers. However, for the time, effort and millions spent, Tauranga has realised little in the form of new tourism infrastructure, attractions or activities, and… has actually gone backwards in its tourism offerings with many local operators and business start-ups feeling hindered and even alienated by this organisation. As you say, there is much to sort and early wins are needed.

So far so good

Posted on 14-10-2019 00:52 | By BLS

Is good to hear some positive things coming from Tenby around his key focus points for the region. Hopefully this will translate to action. Good luck to him.

Sounds Like

Posted on 13-10-2019 21:11 | By R1Squid

Blah blah blah - nothing new. Oh well, the voters reap what the sow, and sadly we will also suffer under a ’Baby Boomer’ Mayor. Too bad the young are so reluctant to be heard in this City - means they don’t really care for their own future.


Posted on 13-10-2019 21:06 | By Slim Shady

Top of the agenda, fixing the Mount track. Seriously? Not a clue.

Tenby, wish you well

Posted on 13-10-2019 19:33 | By Frostbite

Tenby you will have a hard fight in this ultra ultra-conservative city. The bay is more than a Mountain and a beach Tauranga lacks sophistication Tauranga needs to celebrate its past (museum) Welcome new people and make sure their experience is good so that stay invest and change the city More cycle paths to ease congestion and make a healthy happy population that is not wedded to the car. The avenues from 1 to 10 need to be intensified for living the car dealers need to go Quality 3 level townhouses. New retail to service this intensification Farmer’s new complex on Elizabeth is just the start of a new kind of city Let’s get on and grow up to be proud Bay of Plenty show the rest on how to live a quality life.

Mayoral comments

Posted on 13-10-2019 18:20 | By

Mr Powell Some of what you espouse is valid but please remember that there is NO " i "in team, of which you are one member and we the voters expect that every team members’ contributions must be listened to....

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