Tapsell launches Rotorua mayoral bid

By Contributor

Rotorua mayoral candidate Tania Tapsell (left) and council candidate Sandra Kai Fong. Photo: Local Democracy Reporting/ Rotorua Daily Post - Andrew Warner

By Felix Desmarais, Local Democracy Reporter

Rotorua mayoral candidate Tania Tapsell says she will choose Sandra Kai Fong as deputy mayor if both are elected to the city council in the October local election.

Tapsell officially launched her mayoral bid on Friday night, and said Kai Fong was an "outstanding councillor" and it would be her "absolute pleasure" to appoint her to the role, should both be elected.

"There's no certainty in politics … we need people to vote us in first."

In her introduction at the campaign launch Kai Fong said Tapsell was "the most experienced" mayoral candidate.

About 200 people attended the event, and Tapsell said the election could not "come soon enough".

"We need to get Rotorua back on track and we need to do this fast."

Community safety top priority

Rotorua needed someone who could be effective "from day one".

"I can give you the advantage of being a mayor who has nine years' experience in local government to fight for Rotorua."

She said community safety would be her top priority, with communities facing high levels of "crime, drug abuse, theft and vandalism".

Tapsell said she was committed to making $1.5 million per year available for more CCTV cameras and staff to monitor them to enable crime prevention, as well as more patrols on Fenton Street and the inner city and funding for community-led safety programmes.

"We must restore Rotorua's reputation as a safe destination, a home of choice to live, to work and to raise your family."

Council funding commitments must be passed by a majority vote of the council.

Destination marketing

The allocated funding for community safety in Rotorua Lakes Council's 2021-2031 Long-Term Plan was $1.13m.

Tapsell also said she would lobby for increased government funding for Rotorua police; "to deal with the increase in issues of a broken emergency housing system".

She promised to invest in destination marketing and made a commitment to completing a Rotorua development strategy.

Tapsell entered the race for the Rotorua mayoralty with a promise to focus on stopping "the spend" in May.

She said she would lead a review and refresh of council operations.

Asked by Local Democracy Reporting if this included the council's seven deputy chief executive roles, Tapsell said it was important to look at what would be put in place if they were removed but she would "certainly be looking at it" if the review found they were not necessary.

Six candidates

In her speech she also took aim at Vision 2030, a strategic framework first developed in 2013 when incumbent Steve Chadwick became mayor, and Tapsell was first elected as a councillor, at age 21.

"We can't push ahead with a plan that was made at a time when the world was prospering. We are on the edge of economic recession and we must be prudent with our spending."

Tapsell was the National Party candidate for East Coast in the 2020 general election but lost to Labour's Kiri Allan.

Five other people have thrown their hat in for the mayoral seat in this year's election: Kalaadevi Ananda, Raj Kumar, Reynold Macpherson, Ben Sandford and Fletcher Tabuteau.

Chadwick confirmed in June 2021 she would not run again, following nine years in the role.

Resident Shelly Elvin was at the launch and said she had not yet made up her mind about who to vote for, but saw "a lot of promise" in Tapsell.

Elvin said she wanted to find out what Tapsell had to say and "where she plans to move the direction of the city at the moment".

'Very powerful'

She believed the biggest issues facing Rotorua were infrastructure, the housing shortage and emergency housing, as well as how to respond when tourists returned to Rotorua in bigger numbers.

Former mayor Grahame Hall also attended, and said he was also not yet sure who he would vote for.

He wanted to listen to all candidates before deciding, but said Tapsell's performance was "very powerful".

"I just want the city to come right and return to what it used to be."

The election, a postal ballot, will be on October 8.

Tapsell's take on the hot topics of the Rotorua local body elections

Tapsell covered off her position on some of Rotorua's most discussed topics.

Reserves proposal: "I would like to see the reserves remain the same … it is very clear from the feedback of this community that they want it to stay."

Three Waters: Strongly against.

Rotorua Museum: "We do need to reassess, share openly the challenges, and then check with and listen to our community on whether to proceed, and at what cost you would be happy with."

Māori wards: "While other councils may have needed them, we didn't."

Westbrook Sport Precinct / Springfield Golf Course: "I support the golf course remaining and have no intention to change it."

Environment: Better flood collection, introduction of organic waste collection, and an upgrade to the waste water treatment plant.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air