“Life is a bit like a golf ball…”
With elections looming I was keen to know more about Mayor Greg Brownless who has been rather quiet on many matters since being elected, so invited him for a chat which I could share with readers.
Brownless is quite the gentleman. At ease chatting about many issues in an open and friendly manner, perhaps putting him head and shoulders above many other Councilors.
He has the experience of a long standing councillor, ran his own funeral business, now Legacy Funerals, and is a reputed thespian. No doubt these all contribute to his open and confident manner.
Brownless says key issues here are housing and transport. Increasing numbers of people want to move to here and Government want cheaper housing, but until the roading issues are sorted, building more houses is putting the cart before the horse.
Brownless reiterates Council is responsible only for local roads. Government, through NZTA, for state highways. Transport pinch points are on state highways and that work has stalled he says. The northern arterial was about to go out to tender but is now deferred. Brownless’s line is that this and other similar projects must go ahead.
Infrastructure for Housing
Brownless says that infrastructure for brownfield housing developments (intensification in existing urban areas) is much cheaper. Infrastructure for green-field development (beyond existing urban areas) is difficult and it costs. It costs a lot more, and existing ratepayers have to front for that cost.
Brownless said we finally need to embrace public transport. Council is required to provide infrastructure for this but says the problems with rollout of Regional Council’s new bus service is not lack of infrastructure but it’s routes and frequency.
Can You Make Buses More Appealing?
“We are trialling bus lanes in Links Ave, just a trial; it may or may not work. Looking at bus lanes in other places, but there are also people in those places who do not want bus lanes because it will take away parking.”
Urban Policy Expertise
I asked if he believed Council had sufficient expertise among elected members and executive leadership team to make quality decisions about public transport, roading, housing development and infrastructure. For public transport, transport, or roads perhaps we are a bit understaffed he said. For housing and housing infrastructure, we are just waiting for Government to do its bit on the roads and highways it owns, we can then press on with the housing developments. But we do have people who tell me every day they don’t want any more houses. It’s a bit unfair when they have just arrived here themselves.
Adverse Effects Arising from the Port
Brownless agrees that the Port imposes many adverse effects on the City. These will be covered by Consents issued by Regional Council, which owns a major chunk of the Port.
They will say they deal with these issues just like they deal with everyone else he says. Brownless reiterates that Government owns the highways to the Port. The only thing we could do is ban heavy vehicles from our roads like Cameron Road but they generally aren’t going there anyway. There is an argument Regional Council should be contributing more to this area to solve problems created by the Port. It would require people to take a more active interest in what the Regional Council does. It does seem crazy to have two councils in the city, one of which people don’t know much about he says.
Has Brownless Succeeded as Mayor?
Campaigning in the last election, Brownless advocated for:
- Using rates efficiently to get better value for money and achieve results
- Getting Council spending and staffing levels under control
- Looking for a sensible traffic congestion solution
- Retaining direct ownership of our assets including water
- Support for heritage, sport & arts at an affordable cost
- Encouraging recycling to help our environment
- More open decision-making
The majority of current Councillors have previously stood against Brownless for Mayor. Does Brownless enjoy the support of his Council? Perhaps they are not a cohesive unit after all? Against this difficult backdrop has the Mayor been able to deliver on the goals he described in the 2016 election?
Our Mayor is well acquainted with local body politics, and well able to converse and display confidence.
My impression is that Brownless does not have a passion for any particular goals for the city, but sees himself rather as the elder statesman chairing the meeting. From what is evident to the public, and from our chat I worry that Brownless wants to please all of the people all of the time. This is perhaps not the style of leadership which is and has been needed for more than the current term to address the issues which are threatening the quality of life residents wish to enjoy.
I hope that in this year’s election for mayor the field will not be cluttered as it has been with a large number of ‘also-rans’. That a small number of quality candidates, including Brownless, will campaign by outlining clearly to voters what their goals are, and how they will achieve these.
It will be important for the future of Tauranga that candidates for mayor are well understood, and that residents do take the time to consider these and what they want for the City, and then to exercise their vote.
-By Tommy Kaipai