Tauranga’s first elected council since 2019 will have an extended term of four years, which is being heralded as a “great result” for the city.

An election will be held on July 20 where a mayor and nine councillors will be chosen, replacing the current commission.

This council will stay in place until the 2028 local elections, giving them a four-year term. Standard electoral terms are three years, and no other elected council in New Zealand has had an extended term.

Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said holding an election in Tauranga in October 2025 in line with the rest of the country would have required the election of two councils in 15 months.

“The commission’s view was that this was too short a timeframe for a council to make substantial progress with its work programme.

“The short turnaround between elections could potentially deter some candidates from seeking election this year, because they would have to go through the campaigning process, with the time commitment and costs that requires, twice in 15 months.”

The commission recommended the previous Minister of Local Government, Kieran McAnulty, that the 2025 election in Tauranga be deferred until 2028, said Tolley.

This was adopted, and the decision was gazetted in August last year.

Local Government New Zealand president Sam Broughton said it was a “great result for Tauranga” to have an elected council that would be there for four years.

A four-year term provided stability and certainty for the delivery of projects, said Broughton.

Local Government New Zealand president Sam Broughton said a four year term doubles a council's productive years.

“Being able to bring in the appropriate staff and to partner with other public and private sectors becomes a lot easier over four years.

“In three years, we basically have a year of settling, a year of doing some great mahi and a year of unsettling again, as you move towards an election.

“A four-year term doubles the amount of productive years.”

Broughton wants the Government to shift all local government terms to four years ahead of the October 2025 election.

The longer local government term could be a trial for the central government terms to be four years too, which would be a good move, he said.

“Moving the local government space is easier because the threshold for change is lower.”

Extending local government terms required a law change, but central government would involve a referendum and other things, said Broughton.

Asked if Tauranga would be a good test case, Broughton replied: “I don’t want it to be a test. I want it to be the norm for local government.

“It shows that the government has an appetite to have four-year terms for local government.”

Tolley also supported a four-year term for central and local government because it provided the time needed to “get stuff done”.

Their thoughts are mirrored by the Future for Local Government review that suggested four-year council terms as one of its 17 recommendations.

A panel spent two years reviewing the state of local government by speaking with councils, central government, iwi leaders and the public around Aotearoa.

It suggested a radical overhaul was needed to ensure local government adapted and met the needs of communities for the next 30 years.

A Department of Internal Affairs spokesperson said the postponement of the 2025 election allowed the council elected in July time to build governance stability while also engaging meaningfully with the community and the council’s strategy and long-term planning.

“Interventions in democratically elected councils are rare, and the transitions back are unique.

“The department is not aware of another elected council that has served longer than a three-year term.”

Simeon Brown in November 2023 (file image).

Local Democracy Reporting asked Local Government Minister Simeon Brown his thoughts on the four-year term.

Brown responded: “Restoring democracy in Tauranga is a priority for me as Minister of Local Government.”

By Alisha Evans, Local Democracy Reporter

Local Democracy Reporting is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

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