'A significant break down in trust' - Damning report looks into culture at Tauranga City Council

A scathing report into the hostility that exists between Tauranga City councillors has just been made public.

Tauranga City Council. Source: 1 NEWS

The report follows a decision from the council to appoint a review and observer team in response to a Department of Internal affairs request.

It’s a bruising 19 page read, where the team observed a “significant break down in trust” a tendency to address political differences, and attacking people rather than the issue.

“The current suite of behaviours and the apparent lack of collective responsibility to deal with them is a major impediment to re-building trust and confidence in the council and a major distraction from the very serious business of governing Tauranga," the report states.

“If as much effort was devoted to actual governance responsibilities and finding ways to work together as has been given to what has been described to the Team as point scoring, code of conduct complaints and the re-litigation of issues through both social and print media, the council would be making far better progress.

“The Team has little confidence in the ability of the council to change without assistance."

It goes on to say the there’s a “strong impression” that the contest for the mayoralty did not end, and “it continues”.

It notes the current council, in its first term, has dealt with two code of conduct complaints, with one ongoing.

“Few councils would deal with even one complaint during a three-year term.

“To have three complaints in the first year of the current term is most unusual.

“This is even more remarkable when it is considered that there are few practical sanctions available to the council if a code of conduct complaint is upheld.

“The fact that there have been three suggests that there is something wrong with the behaviour of councillors – but also something missing from the normal interpersonal relationships and engagement that moderate behaviour and seek constructive solutions to poor behaviour,” it says.

Furthermore the Finance and Risk Committee says there’s an acute risk to health, well-being and safety of staff.

The report adds the current political environment from councillors is putting pressure on all staff, including the Chief Executive.

It says nearly 80 per cent of the executive leadership time is spent supporting the council, and fears it could lead to the “executive leadership team reconsidering their position”.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including changes in behaviour, training, revised protocol for elected members, a more effective better resourced office of the mayor and streamlining meetings.

Possible solutions also include removing the council and appointing commissioners, continuing with the review and observer team, council to carry on by itself, or request a crown manager.

The report strongly recommends the council request the Local Government Minister to help council address behaviour and the “underlying growth and development issues”.

Click here to read the full report.