The unelected head of Tauranga wants the city’s next MP to push for progress with some infrastructural projects.
We speak of Anne Tolley, the former National Government Minister who chairs the commission which was appointed to govern Tauranga after Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta sacked the democratically elected – but vexingly dysfunctional – city council.
News of the commission’s developmental priorities reached Point of Order via a robustly expressed press statement from the ACT Party’s candidate in the Tauranga byelection, Cameron Luxton..
But the press statement whetted our appetite to delve deeper into the commission’s wishlist – or demands – because Cameron Luxton colourfully reminds us of the fate that befell Marie Antoinette.
“Being appointed a highly paid commissioner by Labour, has gone to former National MP Anne Tolley’s head,” the press statement said.
“The people of Tauranga are having an election. The right to choose who speaks for us is our democratic birth right, but nobody told Anne Tolley, Tauranga’s Marie Antoinette.
“It’s time Tauranga gave her the same treatment. The power has gone to her head, and we say off with it.”
So – journalists last week were exercised by the Māori Party’s allegations of racism and hate speech in Tauranga.
Today the guillotine (metaphorically, we trust) has been trundled into considerations.
Mind you, there is some mixing of metaphors. On the one hand, Tolley is likened to Marie Antoinette but she also is described as a tzar in Luxton’s press statement.
But what prompted Luxton to call for a head chopping?
After noting that the unelected “mayor” has released advice on Tauranga’s priorities for by-election candidates, he splutters:
“Wait a minute. The priorities are set by the voters, not the unelected career politician from Ohope.
“She goes on to say that the candidates are ‘out of touch.’ Really? How out of touch is someone who got put on a $320,000 salary by the Labour Government for two terms without asking for a single vote?”
Luxton then tells us Tolley had “tried to haul me in for a tune up”.
“She wrote to me saying ‘my fellow Commissioners and I would like to invite you to our offices for a briefing.’ In other words, before you run you have to make friends with the unelected commissioners.
“If you don’t go, they tell you they are ‘out of touch.’
“Tauranga gets this because nobody stands up to it. Labour appointed Tolley as the tzar of Tauranga. National bred her political career. Tauranga needs a distinctive voice to represent it and call time on dictatorship squeezing out democracy.”
Point of Order found the Tauranga Council has set out its concerns in a press statement which identifies three key infrastructure priorities it wants to be top of mind for candidates at the byelection.
Commission chair Anne Tolley says:
“Industry, business groups and the Western Bay of Plenty’s councils all agree that these projects are pivotal for the region, simply because they will have the biggest impact on our economy and residents over the next decade and beyond.
“The election candidates will all have their own policies to put before the electorate, but we would like them to also think about short-to-medium-term actions which will help us address the city’s chronic housing shortage, improve our transport links into and through the city and get goods moving efficiently through the port.”
Tolley then says some of the early commentary from by-election candidates has been “out of touch” with the real needs of the constituency.
“This is an opportunity to discuss and promote actions which will have huge long-term benefits for Tauranga, so let’s keep our electoral conversations grounded and focused on real world solutions to real world issues.”
Tolley has been embroiled previously in a furore sparked by “out of touch” accusations.
“Racism” came into considerations, too.
In 2014, when Tolley was East Coast MP and Police Minister, she said she had been insulted by Green Party claims that she was out of touch.
She said her role as an electorate MP included meetings with constituents who were among the poorest in the country.
“I’m actually insulted to be lectured about how out of touch I am with average New Zealand by a list MP who has no constituents, lives in a castle and comes to the House in $2000 designer jackets and tells me I’m out of touch,” Tolley said.
Asked about Tolley’s comments, Turei said:
“I’m shocked that the National Party would attack me and my home and my appearance. I think it is a racist attack,” she said.
“I think they seem to think it is all right for them to wear perfectly good suits for their professional job but that a Māori woman from a working-class background is not entitled to do the same. I think it is pure racism.”
The candidates running in the Tauranga byelection were confirmed on Tuesday.
They are: Allan Cawood for ONE Party, Christopher Coker for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, the New Nation’s Andrew Hollis, Labour’s Jan Tinetti, National’s Sam Uffindell, ACT’s Cameron Luxton, New Conservative’s Helen Houghton, and NZ Outdoors & Freedom Party’s Sue Grey.
Yvette Lamare, Peter Wakeman, Tony Corbett and Gordon Dickson are standing as independent candidates.