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RDRR CAMPAIGN LAUNCH SPEECH, Reynold Macpherson, Mayoral Candidate


Reynold Macpherson, Mayoral Candidate

Springfield Golf Club, Monday 8 Aug 6.30-8.30 pm

E nga mana, e nga waka, e nga hau e wha, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa. Thank you for bringing your mana to this meeting, representing the diversity of our community, for coming from all parts of the Rotorua District.

I recognize all club members and its leadership, especially President Paul Fox. All local residents, welcome. The members, associates and friends of the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers (RDRR), and our endorsed candidates; Mark Gould, John Chetty, Brendan Davis, Robert Lee and Rawiri Tekowhai. Nau mai, kake mai, haere mai.

Please allow me now to introduce myself, indicate the skill set a mayor must have in the current situation, and then to indicate briefly how we will fix council and fix rotorua.


I was born and raised on a dairy farm near Kaitaia. I have two maunga. Creag Dubh in Badenoch, in the Highlands of Scotland where Clan Macpherson was given its lands by King Robert the Bruce. My other maunga is Aniwaniwa that overlooks Awanui.

When my father was a toddler, his mother left our family, and my grandfather married again into Ngai Takoto. My father was raised by our kuia, in an extended family that also has many of Dalmatian and Dutch ancestry. We are all shades of brown; no reira, he whanau tahi tatau. We are all one family.

I was educated at Kaitaia College and at four universities, and now believe strongly in particular values

  1. Empirical rationalism; the view that regards research and reason as the chief sources and tests of trustworthy knowledge. My first degree was in mathematics and management, and two of my four higher degrees were achieved purely by research.
  2. Interculturalism; valuing the capacity to understand and respect cultural diversity, and to search for the common ground to build our future on.
  3. Manaakitanga; respecting other’s mana as being more important than your own, and therefore, as Rawiri stressed, caring for others before self.
  4. The truth, defined as trustworthy knowledge. Kaitaia College’s motto is ‘Seek and Defend the Truth’. Especially against the currently powerful who ‘spin’ the truth and punish whistleblowers to stay in power.

I learned leadership the hard way. I served Tumatauenga in the New Zealand Army, in the Black Watch of the 51st Highlanders in Scotland, and as a Company Commander in the Parachute Regiment. I served under NATO in Europe, with 1 Para in Cyprus on United Nations peace-keeping duties, and later, with NZ Aid in post-conflict reconstruction in East Timor. Which explains why I reject race-based politics, champion democracy and insist on freedom of speech.

My professional life has also always been about providing leadership and improving knowledge through research about the leadership of teams, organizations and large systems. I was professor of professional and organizational development at the University of Auckland for five years before being invited here to Rotorua to fix Waiariki. In three years, with an excellent corporate team and innovative team leadership, we reconstructed all business plans, settled Waiariki’s debts of about one million, and then invested a million-dollar profit back into the School of Nursing.

My next challenge was as Foundation Chancellor and CEO of Abu Dhabi University. A private university, it returns 20 per cent on equity every year. Since then, my international consultancies have all been about fixing organisations and large systems. For example, in 1989, I was in Wellington for six months advising Prime Minister David Lange’s Picot Taskforce which reviewed the administration of New Zealand’s school system and resulted in Tomorrow’s Schools. In effect, I am a doctor of organisations.

It that enough on me? Good.

In passing, I must say that the best organisational move I ever made was to marry Nicki, the love of my life, and to have four children and six grandchildren, so far. Being a family man, and knowing our whakapapa, gives my life real meaning.

Nicki and I will continue to live in Rotorua. If elected mayor I need to be available 24/7 to manage emergencies.


The Local Government Act requires a mayor able to lead “democratic and effective local government that recognizes the diversity of New Zealand communities.” Our Council has tried twice to set aside democracy in favour of co-governance, made a series of bad decisions that are NOT in the public interest, and ignored the diversity of our community by primarily serving one set of interests. That’s got to stop.

The same Act gives a legal framework and powers for local authorities to

  1. Decide which activities they will undertake, and how they will undertake them
  2. Remain accountable to their communities, and
  3. Promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of their communities, taking a sustainable development approach.


IT FOLLOWS THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL IN A MAYOR’S SKILL SET is to provide the intellectual leadership of the elected members of Council so they can serve the people in four ways

  1. Respond to the mandates they have been given by the people,
  2. Appreciate the situation they find themselves in, not ‘situate their appreciation’
  3. Update the long-term vision of the Council, and then
  4. Revise Council’s strategies and plans in a turbulent context to serve our diverse people.


This will require ‘deep change’. By ‘deep change’ I mean an overhaul of Council’s purposes in context, its policy making and implementation structures, its corporate services, its management systems and it’s service priorities. The choice we offer is between more-of-the-same or deep change.

We need a mayor that can stop Council policy making being highjacked by those who wish to ‘co-govern’ along with senior Council staff.

To achieve deep change we will need a mayor who has a proven track record of enabling team analysis of big ideas, especially ideas about WHAT IS RIGHT FOR OUR FUTURE, and WHAT STRATEGIES WILL BE ESSENTIAL, TO SERVE THE NEEDS OF OUR DIVERSE PEOPLE.


We need a mayor with a strong sense of moral rightness to stop Council from trying to get around the law and avoiding accountability to our community. It is unfortunate that Robert’s private judicial review was cancelled by the High Court because it focused on how Council predetermined decisions in secret Elected Members’ Workshops about representation. Worse, the workshops included unelected people and tried to rig the elections in favour of co-governance.


However, just as the High Court cancelled the judicial review, the Ombudsman announced a review of Elected Members’ Workshops, with Rotorua Lakes Council top of the list. As one door closed on reform another door opened.


As things stand right now, our Council can combine an unwise proposal, like co-governance or selling reserves, with sending a Local Bill to Parliament to get around current law. If the High Court extends Parliamentary Privilege to a council proposing a Local Bill, then it will be giving it immunity from judicial review. This would neutralize the requirement in the Local Government Act that a council remain accountable to its community.


And more fundamentally, how can it be legal and wise for the elected members of Council to select one stakeholder group to nominate unelected people to share their power, responsibilities, and exclusive authority in law to provide local government?


Back in 2015, RDRR got legal advice from Andrew Butler, New Zealand’s leading expert in public administration law. He advised that the Te Arawa Partnership Agreement did not satisfy the terms of the Local Government Act.


A few months ago I asked Council again for the legal standing of the Partnership Agreement to be clarified, but the question was dismissed. We now need a mayor committed to upholding the law in local government.


This is not a criticism of Te Tatau o Te Arawa. In my professional opinion, Te Tatau is doing a fine job of clarifying the interests of Te Arawa to Council, which is not easy given the internal diversity of Te Arawa’s whanau, hapu and iwi.


The point is that our mayor must be a champion for democracy and law to ensure that Te Tatau, and all other legitimate stakeholders, like the Chamber of Commerce, like Ratepayers, like Sports Clubs, and so on, all have the same capacity to advise elected members, prior to them alone making policy decisions.


Some legitimate stakeholders have long been overlooked. For example, I am informed that about 25 per cent of our community has some form of disability. In my view the Rotorua Access Group should be invited to help develop a disability policy and an implementation plan, for elected members to consider, and to have continuing access to a Council Wellbeing Sub Committee to ensure public accountability against national and international obligations.


The other serious result of running down Council’s accountability to our community is that learning by elected members on Council has virtually stopped. Too many of them simply know what is right. Some think it fine to interrupt members of the public at Hearings. Most are now incapable of developing a fresh and shared vision that really accommodates diverse perspectives in a dramatically different context.


I understand that some believe that nine repeats of one year’s experience on one council under one mayor intent on introducing co-governance is sufficient preparation for leading the moral and legal turnround of a failing council. Hold on. Deep change has to be led by a person with decades of specialist experience in organizational reform. Otherwise, it won’t happen.


I also understand that some believe that working part-time for the best part of a year inside the Council’s planning team is an adequate preparation to lead deep change. No. Such an experience is really an induction into the myths and legends, the culture, the assumptions, and the priorities of senior Council officials. Why would you expect such an experience to create commitment to  open government, authentic consultations with all stakeholder groups, genuine engagement protocols, and result in seriously revised strategies and priorities?


Deep change is also needed in a rapidly changing context. We must expect more pandemic variants, inflation, supply chain problems, rising interest rates, and so on. My prediction is that Council under no-real-change leadership will muddle on, trapped in the legal fictions and in the myths created by the current Council. Do we really need more-of-the-same or deep change?


THE SECOND MAIN TOOL IN A MAYOR’S SKILL SET is therefore political and cultural leadership in the realm of people. As Brendan has pointed out, we need a Council that responds to the peoples’ needs as they see them. Similarly, a mayor must be able to appreciate the diverse perspectives and unique talents of each elected member as they negotiate a local government of unity.


The key questions here are WHAT IS THE COMMON GROUND BETWEEN DIVERSE PEOPLE, and HOW CAN IT BE EXTENDED with research and fresh learning AND IMPLEMENTED through incremental improvements to Council’s performance?


If an incoming mayor has no knowledge or experience of alternatives to the political and cultural norms that they were socialized into on Council, or in Parliament, they will be trapped by current assumptions, structures, habits, and priorities.


In my professional view, Council now needs a fresh vision, a new pragmatic organizational structure with public service aims, and a learning culture. Whether Three Waters functions go to Hamilton, or get reorganized as suggested by the 31 councils that formed the Communities 4 Local Democracy, Rotorua’s Council will have a golden opportunity to reflect, review, rescale, restructure and reboot as a public-service organization. The choice is more-of-the-same or deep change.


Council also needs to better integrate the political and cultural leadership of governance and management, without fudging the difference between them. Let’s be clear; governance is about policy making, management is about policy implementation.


Therefore, Rotorua needs the incoming mayor and whoever serves as CEO to work very closely together to implement new administrative policy, most especially to fix three problems

  1. Replace the expensively litigious relationship with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council with a cooperative and respectful approach intended to protect our environment, mitigate climate change and improve bus services, as Mark rightly emphasizes.
  2. ‘Close the gap’ between elected members and expert officials by expecting them to improve service delivery through subcommittees of Council, chaired by elected members of council, to both implement policy and suggest improvements to policy in their service areas.
  3. Replace the toxic working environment below corporate level using a new human resource management and development strategy. We must value and improve the work satisfaction and productivity of council staff in all delivery teams.


THE THIRD MAIN TOOL IN A MAYOR’S SKILL SET is about providing expert oversight of policy implementation that is to be managed by the person in the CEO’s chair. This is to make sure that delivery teams are well organised and report effectively, so that Council’s programmes and projects are evaluated systematically to clarify actual outcomes and generate improvements.


This approach should apply at all levels. For example, ALL elected members on Council should be involved in the appointment and in the annual performance review of their sole appointee, the CEO, and nobody else.




These questions should be asked and answered publicly to inform the people, to improve plans and delivery, and to boost trust in Council. Value for money needs to be demonstrated.


in sum, please elect a mayor that has proven ability in three areas;

  1. provide intellectual and strategic leadership in the realm of big ideas, with legal integrity and moral probity,
  2. provide political and cultural leadership in the realm of people, to obtain a local government of unity and consensus over priorities, and
  3. provide informed oversight of the management and evaluation services coordinated by the CEO – to ensure that productivity is continuously being improved and Council has a public service and learning culture.




My point of difference, as a mayoral candidate, is expertise in fixing sick organisations.


RDRR’s point of difference is that we see Council as a big part of the problems that Rotorua is facing, and in need of deep change.


Although each RDRR candidate in our team has a unique area of expertise, and are very independent thinkers, we share a passion to restore effective and democratic decision-making, restore accountability to our diverse people, and as Rawiri and Brendan stress, boost well-being in social, cultural, economic and environmental terms.


Our start point is authentic consultations. Unlike any other candidates or groups promoting a candidate, we have already held nine rural meetings to listen to the people. We have identified an outstanding independent prospect for Rural Councillor; Karen Barker. We met hundreds at the Home and Lifestyle Show. Our latest pamphlet invites city folk to nine more meetings in August and September to provide detail, in addition to the ‘Meet the Candidates’ events that are organized by others. And what are we hearing during these consultations?


People feel POWERLESS AGAINST A COUNCIL THAT TRIED TWICE TO REPLACE OUR DEMOCRACY WITH CO-GOVERNANCE. It is bizarre that our Council had to be blocked and told that equal suffrage (one person, one vote, one value) is a human right in New Zealand, and that discriminating against non-Māori citizens is unacceptable.


People feel POWERLESS AGAINST COUNCIL’S RATES RISES. The 50 per cent increases in rates in the last nine years has outstripped increases in benefits. About one in three people in our community are dependent on benefits. So, unaffordable rates rises add to the misery of the poorest of our people while also endangering the survival of businesses. Instead, Council’s financial strategy must include austerity measures, such as income diversification, cost compression and debt retirement.


People feel POWERLESS AGAINST A COUNCIL THAT WON’T CUT IT’S COSTS, WASTES PRECIOUS RESOURCES, AND HAS RUN UP DEBT TO JUST UNDER $300 MILLION. In successive Long-Term and Annual Plan consultations, RDRR has proposed fresh financial strategies to resolve these problems. Why? We don’t want people to despair and leave. We want people to be largely self-determining, to plan for their future prosperity, and to invest in local businesses, create jobs and revitalize Tutanekai as the successful spine of Rotorua.


People feel POWERLESS AGAINST A COUNCIL INTENT ON GROWING A HOMELESS INDUSTRY. It has damaged the reputation of Rotorua as a safe place for tourists and for locals. John is rightly concerned that Covid and the new homeless industry has destabilized the tourism industry and is now retarding its recovery. In addition, house values and law and order have been undermined.


Cabinet Committee Papers reported in May and June that the Rotorua Homeless Model has developed triage and wrap-round service provision in Ngāti Whakaue’s Hub, aka Te Pokapū, opposite the Police Headquarters. They reported that Rotorua’s Council has struggled to coordinate MSD, MHUD and Kainga Ora, and together, they have spent millions on benefits and contracts, but all without the systematic evaluation of outcomes. Without clear objectives and outcomes data, the model grew like Topsy. It appears that MSD, MHUD and Kainga Ora suffer from the same poor-quality policy making and implementation processes that our Council uses.


Like Restore Rotorua, RDRR regards the Rotorua Homeless Model as an experiment that has failed. It should be dismantled by reversing all components. Insist that MSD stop the inflow. Encourage visiting homeless to return home. Enforce our District Plan to stop motels being used for emergency accommodation. Insist that ex-MSD motels refit and rebrand as tourism accommodation, or lose their resource consent. Openly encourage public and private housing development projects without favour, and apart from consenting, letting the housing market operate more freely. And apart from the Wrigley Road Reserve proposal in Fordlands, which appears to have community backing, take the sale of reserves off the table.


Finally, club members and the citizens of Springfield HAVE FELT POWERLESS AGAINST A COUNCIL THAT HAS REFUSED TO EXTEND THE GOLF CLUB’S LEASE FROM 2027. RDRR decided at its last AGM to support the lease being extended. It has since called for consultations between the Club and Council because the two agendas, extending the lease and stormwater retention, are not mutually exclusive.


Last Thursday I heard Council officials admit for the first time publicly; ‘the lease extension and stormwater retention are not mutually exclusive’. But, and it is a huge but, they insist that finding a stormwater solution has to be achieved before of the golf club lease extension can be considered.


Wrong. The possible engineering options should be consulted simultaneously with President Paul and the club leaders to find common ground. Why? Because we need a socially, culturally and environmentally friendly engineering decision that will preserve this taonga FOR OUR MOKOS.


Finally, to me, it is wonderful that this theme of POWERLESSNESS AGAINST THE COUNCIL IS TRANSLATING INTO POSITIVE POLITICAL PUSHBACK. More and more people are realizing that we can’t really fix any of these problems, and other problems, without first fixing Council, and we can’t fix Council without you empowering a team to TAKE BACK CONTROL.


So this is the practical solution we offer – if you TAKE BACK CONTROL by electing our candidates, and others we will recommend, WE’LL FIX COUNCIL AND WE’LL FIX ROTORUA.


No reira e hoa ma, therefore my friends, kia ora tatau, thank you all.