2013 Tauranga Election

Scroll down for the information provided by John Robson for the 2016 Tauranga Election.

Why Stand

"To make a positive difference"

I think the best explanation I can give is to tell you a true story.

I was walking through Soho, in London, with a friend, and we saw two guys ‘bashing’ a third guy, who was on the ground.

I ran across the road, pulled the assailants off, and they fled. The victim, who looked pretty shaken, got to his feet, looked at me, and then fled in the opposite direction.

My friend, who hadn’t moved, asked why I’d intervened. I said because what was happening was wrong. He then asked about the risk. I said I was confident I could handle the situation. Then he commented that the victim didn’t even say thank-you. I said that I didn’t do it for a thank-you – I did it because I could and it was the right thing to do.

He didn’t understand. We are no longer friends.

In this true metaphorical story, the assailants are your Councillors, Tauranga is the victim and I’m standing for the same reasons I intervened in Soho – because what I see happening is just wrong – and I’m confident I can make a positive difference.

And unlike other candidates – I offer a money back guarantee!


Tauranga: The City of Plenty

With the right leadership Tauranga will become the regional capital of the Bay of Plenty - it will literally become The City of Plenty.

Tauranga will have moved away from becoming a victim of developers to becoming a partner - and it will be successfully investing the wealth that well-managed growth brings.

It will have used the wealth to help diversify the economic base of both the city and the region - and it will be known as much for its technological and creative sectors as for its horticulture and pristine beaches and harbour.

Much of this will be a result of its booming tertiary sector - Tauranga will be no longer a city of sunny skies and grey-haired people, but, truly, a home for all ages.

Having previously been a textbook example of a good idea turned bad, Smartgrowth will be living up to its name, new growth forecasts proving much more reliable and the Council's use of the forecasts much smarter.

The infrastructure mistakes of the first decade of the 21st century will have been rectified - Tauranga's most important road, SH29 to SH1, will be four-laned, and the city's wastewater system will be modular - big pipe networks being recognised as high-risk Victorian engineering, inappropriate for earthquake-prone Pacific-rim countries.

The installation of the tsunami warning system on the coast will have become a case-study in local government lateral thinking - community concerns about ugly poles spoiling the coast's visual amenity having been converted to pride in a set of sculptures acting as information way-points on Tauranga's now-famous beach walk.

The creation of a national environmental agency, will have led to the abolition of regional councils - and this, combined with council amalgamations, will have resulted in the transfer of ownership of the port back to the Council - recognising that the revenues from the port should go to the city that bears the costs.

This places Tauranga in the perfect position to partner with Whangarei to benefit from Auckland's decision to relocate their port and reclaim their waterfront.

Local iwi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Pūkenga will all be successfully building on their respective Treaty of Waitangi settlements, and will be active and effective players in the city's economic, social and political life. They will have joined the City Partners programme - and will be co-funders of a bi-lingual signage programme for the city - a New Zealand first.

Tauranga's Matariki festival will be the No.1 festival in New Zealand - a multi-medium, multi-cultural, multi-venue celebration of 'light'.

Tauranga will be a byword for success - a city of wealth and vibrancy - with incomes above the national average and an environmental record second to none.

It will be the number one choice as the best place to live in New Zealand.

And I genuinely believe that this is possible.

But the journey to the Tauranga of the future starts with the Tauranga of today.


  • When it comes to developing and delivering a vision, there is no other candidate as well qualified as John.
  • In his career, he led large, multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural teams solving complex problems for multi-national companies - often the solutions required addressing issues relating to the vision (or lack of it) of the leadership.

Tauranga Today

Tauranga: The City of Debt

Tauranga has a total debt of over $400million - or $10,000 per ratepayer.

Standard & Poors describes Tauranga as having a "very high debt burden", while Larry Mitchell, who produces the annual Local Government League Table, describes our debt as "ultra" high - both see the debt as unsustainable.

And don't believe the excuse that the debt is a product of growth - other, faster growing, local authorities do not have our debt levels.

At the moment, 25% of your rates goes straight to the banks to service the debt.

Now not all debt is bad - but good debt provides a return greater than the cost.

The classic example is a mortgage where the interest you pay means that you don't have to pay rent, you may get a capital gain, and you get security.

The issue with the Council debt is that too much of it is bad debt - it does not provide a return above its cost.

So we are paying interest but rather than getting 'wealthier', we are just getting more indebted.

And we are only surviving by cutting back - letting Matua flood, abandoning the people of Papamoa to tsunami, and breaking our promises to the people of Greerton.

And our Councillors - they are praying that interest rates stay at their current historical lows.

But interest rates are forecast to increase, and when they do, TCC will have no alternative but to significantly increase your rates and slash services.

We need to turn the debt situation round fast - and that process starts with understanding the cause of the problem - which can accurately be described as "poor leadership".


Wrong Decisions

Graham Mourie, the great All Black captain, once said that leadership is not about being popular - it is about making the right decisions.

The rapid growth of Tauranga over the last decade provided an opportunity to create real wealth for Tauranga - but the opportunity was squandered.

Instead, the Mayor and Councillors of Tauranga made a series of wrong decisions - often against expert advice (e.g. Route K), against the wishes of the Community (e.g. the Mount Hot Pools redevelopment), or against common sense (e.g. believing the Smartgrowth population forecasts, not charging developers 'cost of capital').

It is the collective effect of these poor decisions that has created our debt.

Which leads to the next question - why all the wrong decisions?

You will often hear Councillors (and others who have little or no insight) blaming the TCC staff.

But in my considerable experience, whenever organisations or industries are struggling, the problem is almost always the quality of the leadership.

Tauranga is no different.

The problems in Tauranga are simply the result of the fact that the people who put themselves forward, and who were elected to lead the city, are not up to it!

A city, even a very small one like Tauranga, is complex, and successfully leading it requires significantly more than just common sense and good intentions.

A New Zealand Herald article recently noted that "there aren't many jobs where someone with no financial knowledge or experience can walk in off the street and find themselves managing a multi-million-dollar budget. But being a councillor is one of them."

Councillors are not required to have any qualifications or credentials beyond the ability to win an election.

Massey University local government specialist Dr Andy Asquith is quoted as saying "The majority of councillors in New Zealand have trouble putting their shoes on the right feet in the morning. They get elected simply because they are known. It's not unusual for someone to one day be reading the weather on television and the next to be on the local council with no knowledge of what council is about."

Now, while electing leaders that can put the right shoe on the right foot (and the left shoe on the left foot) would be an improvement, I think we need to aim a little higher.

Tauranga needs to elect leaders that have the ability to make the promise of Tauranga a reality.


  • Whether working with the CEOs and Boards of client companies, heading high-powered consultancy teams, or in the role of Executive Director, John has a track record of successful leadership.


Core Qualities

For Tauranga to prosper, it requires that those who lead it have certain core qualities including.

Tauranga needs leaders who are capable of understanding, and successfully operating within, a complex financial and political environment.

Being a good guy (or ‘girl’) is not enough - real competence comes from a combination of intelligence, education and experience.

Competence means being able to meet Graham Mourie's test of making the right decisions.

If the right decision is not popular, leadership requires the courage to fight for it.

And if you make a wrong decision, then leadership requires the courage to admit you are wrong, apologise, and change your position.

Financial Literacy
While it might be seen as part of ‘competence’, I cannot stress enough how important it is that Councillors are financially literate – i.e. they understand money.

Because everything costs – be it a sports field, a museum, a sewage pipeline.

No matter how well-intentioned a Councillor may be, unless they understand money, the quality of their decision making will always be compromised.

This quality embodies independence, honesty, humility and transparency.

Independence means not being beholden to, or prejudiced by, any ‘interest ‘ - be it family or whanau, creed or culture, financial or philosophical, personal or political.

With regard to transparency, I am always wary of those who hide their identity or interests – campaigners should declare their identity – and candidates should declare their interests, and who is funding their campaign.


  • Tauranga City Council has assets of approximately $3.4 billion and had a turnover of approximately $190 million in the year ended June 30, 2013.
  • It employs over 500 people serving over 40,000 ratepayers.


... and answers

In this section I will post my answers to any questions you might have - to ask me a question, e-mail john@clearthink.net or call me on 021 443703 or (07) 579 1427. To see the questions and answers, just scroll down this page.

Tell us about you

I'm 54 year old kiwi, my partner Beth and I have been together 23 years, and we have two children, Carys & Tomos. Beth and I were lucky enough to retire relatively young after successful careers in the public and private sectors respectively. We 'landed' in Tauranga 10 years ago and call Tauranga home.

What do you 'believe', what are your values?

My 'bible' has only one commandment - treat others the way you want to be treated. I personally feel that those who life has been good to should give back. My passion is education - I think that the greatest threat to us all living well is ignorance, and its loyal ally, the closed mind. A good education opens minds and dispels ignorance.

Money Back Guarantee

If I am elected, all salary for the next three years will be placed in a trust. Next election, if re-elected, the trust will pay me all the accumulated salary. If I am not re-elected - then the trust will pay a percentage of its funds to the city - depending on my share of the vote. For example, if I only get half the votes I need to get re-elected, then the trust will pay half its funds to the city. If no-one votes for me, the city gets everything!

How can I help you get elected?

Firstly, thank you. If you would really like to see me on Council, then use your networks - talk, text, tweet, e-mail your endorsement to everyone you know who is eligible to vote. Your endorsement is much more meaningful to voters than a 'pick me' sign, or a banner on a web-site.

Greerton Library

Public libraries are a core function of Councils. I support significantly improved library facilities in Greerton - and I support a budget of approximately $1.8 million (the amount of development contributions available for such a project) to upgrade/replace the current facilities. I support the disposal of adjacent properties bought by TCC for the purpose of playing developer and would use the proceeds to pay down debt. I support part of the savings in interest costs being reallocated to the Library OpEx budget to increase the opening hours of the Greerton library. Increasing opening hours is the most cost effective way of improving access.

Tsunami Sirens

I support the installation of a tsunami warning system as soon as possible. I believe that sirens will be part of any system - and there is nothing to stop the process of siren installation being started immediately.

Growth pays for Growth

I support the principle that growth pays for growth. Therefore I support the full recovery of development costs from developers. While the Mayor and a number of Councillors made the claim that Tauranga "had a policy that growth pays for growth", the truth is that the 'policy' was never properly implemented. The city has been subsidising developers for years and continues to do so. The poor management of development (and developers) is the single biggest source of TCC's debt. It needs to stop.


This website is authorised by John Robson, 22 Sunny Downs Drive, Tauriko, Tauranga, 3110 - e-mail john@clearthink.net or call 021 443703.