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Responses to Six Questions from Rotorua Green Drinks and Forest & Bird Rotorua

Tuesday 23 August, 2022, 5.00 – 7.30 pm, Dutch Club


Kia ora tatau. Raised in Kaitaia in a multicultural family with British, Māori, Dalmation and Dutch ancestors. He whanau tahi tatau – We are one family together.

Trained as a teacher. Graduated in mathematics and management. Postgraduate degrees and PhD in organizational science. Leadership roles in military, educational and research organisations.

Professor of professional and organisational development at Auckland University. As Waiariki’s CEO, we settled $1 million debt and then made a profit of $1 million that was re-invested. Started up Abu Dhabi University. Three Ministerial commissions to fix large systems. International consultancies. Helped with post-conflict reconstruction in Timor Leste.

So, my point of difference, as mayoral candidate, is expertise in fixing organisations.

I helped start Rotorua District Resident and Ratepayers to restore democratic and effective decision-making, retire debt, boost business and jobs, and help our community to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change. We have a vision of a prosperous and intercultural community.

But Rotorua people feel increasingly powerless against Council’s bad decisions, such as trying to rig local elections in favour of co-governance, building a homeless industry that is preventing the recovery of tourism, repurposing our precious green spaces, initially supporting Three Waters, wasting rates, charging increasingly unaffordable rates and funding ‘progress’ with debt.

So, the solution we offer is for you to take back control by electing RDRR candidates. Our point of difference is that we support ‘deep change’ to Council itself. We’ll fix Council. We’ll fix Rotorua.


  1. Climate Change

What steps do you think the Council should be taking in the next term to respond to climate change, for both mitigation and adaptation? How will you ensure any new policies always place the effects on the natural environment as a top priority?

Council’s current ‘Climate Action Plan 2021,’ correctly aims to position Rotorua as a resilient community in a low carbon economy. Its adaptation strategies are consistent with this policy. Its mitigation strategies are also consistent with that aim with some exceptions, such as encroaching on our dearly beloved green spaces (selling reserves, Springfield Golf Course), and using exaggerated population growth projections instead of user demand when scaling public bus services.

Next term Council should offer an inclusive climate-change policy development process that gives stakeholders authentic engagement, monitors international investments and outcomes (especially from the US Inflation Reduction Act), and helps implement national solutions that protect our natural environment.

Finally, following recent advice from the IPCC, I would encourage more integrated national and local policy making that treats the Emissions Trading Scheme as part of a policy mix rather than as the primary policy response. There is much more to be done.

  • Road Transport

Road transport is responsible for most of Rotorua’s emissions. What will you push for in terms of transport policy in council, particularly with regard to emissions reductions?

I support the Emissions Reduction Plan from the Ministry of the Environment. It recommends four transport targets intended to achieve a 41% reduction in transport emissions by 2035 from 2019 levels.

I support the Government’s plan announced in January last year, along with $50 million, to encourage zero emissions public transport buses from 2025, and to have the entire public transport bus fleet decarbonised by 2035.

Finally, the Government announced the new Sustainable Public Transport Framework eight days ago. It will allow councils to own bus services and customise them to meet their communities’ needs.

So, I would push hard for policy research to evaluate and project demand and plan network efficiencies, prior to elected members of Council making long-term public investment decisions. I imagine a far more responsive and efficient system of EV buses of different sizes and hydrogen-fueled heavy transport.

  • Waste Minimisation

What do you think should be done to put into practice “Reduce and Reuse ahead of Recycling” in Rotorua? What council incentives should there be for individuals and organisations to reduce waste?

Reduce the amount of waste and repurpose waste to make a quicker contribution to cutting greenhouse gases than recycling – which often adds an expensive remanufacturing loop, and takes extra time, which we don’t have.

Another helpful strategy is to encourage individuals and organisations to move from a linear economy, which has a take, make, dispose approach with energy from finite sources, to a circular economy, which has a make, use, return cycle with energy from renewable sources.

As for individuals, Council should employ ethical mass persuasion methods that use credible authority, logic and emotion to encourage everyone in our community to adopt more healthy and more environmentally responsible behaviours. For example, think of the deep and beneficial outcomes achieved by changing attitudes to smoking.

Finally, regarding organisations, Council should encourage them to save money through more efficient use of raw materials, packaging and technology, through cutting their waste disposal costs, and through cheaper and simpler compliance with environmental legislation.

  • Three Waters

What is your position on the Three Waters Reform Programme?  Please justify your answer.

I oppose the proposed Three Waters Reform. It is resented by most of RDRR’s members, especially by rural members who purchased their own freshwater infrastructure. 10 per cent compensation for ratepayer-funded infrastructure is regarded by many as theft. 

The proposal to set up four massive bureaucracies to take over the assets, debt and management of the Three Waters, with co-governance, is wasteful, and will probably prove dysfunctional because of its complexity.

There are proven alternative models available. One example, Waka Kotahi, NZTA, maintains and develops our national roading network, within a budget ceiling and with centrally managed financing. It also negotiates and customizes, district by district, the maintenance and development of local roads.

That seems to be a far more sophisticated, a far more responsive, and a far less bureaucratic way of being organised, with productivity and local accountability in mind. It would get a better bang for the buck.

In my professional view, we do not need these four large entities at supra-regional level to manage our Three Waters. After our tractor-led protest, our Council voted 10-1 against supporting Three Waters and now we should join over 30 councils in the Communities 4 Local Democracy group.

  • ‘Wood First’ Policy

The Scion innovation building Te Whare Nui o Tuteata is an amazing example of the use of timber in construction. However, we are not seeing a lot of progress in using wood in most new builds locally. What would you do to better implement the Wood First Policy that the council adopted in 2014?

The first step is to understand why the Council’s policy process failed. The philosophical justification for the policy is still sound because Rotorua is at the centre of New Zealand’s sustainably grown and renewable wood crops.

However, the strategies chosen for advancing the policy proved inadequate. Political support nationally and the cultural change required for implementation did not eventuate. Consequently, effective management and evaluation of the policy’s Action Plan failed. It was a policy process failure.

The next step is to learn from other more successful policy processes used in context elsewhere. For example, British Columbia’s Wood First Act 2009, required the use of wood as the primary building material in all new provincially funded buildings.

In the years since there has been an increasing awareness of the need to turn from fossil fuel energy to renewables to meet global needs, and to the benefits of wood as a renewable, carbon sequestering structural resource.

So, I would push for sophisticated policy research to identify the extent to which BC’s wood first policy contributed to the recovery of its forest industry, and the role of other factors, such as demand from the US housing market and emerging markets in Asia. The costs of this research should be shared with potential beneficiaries. The policy research methodology should be developed in partnership with Scion’s experts so that our community can trust the findings.

  • Urban Trees

What policies would you like to introduce to see the planting of many more trees, indigenous or exotic, in our district?

I suggest rigorous policy research by our Council in collaboration with all stakeholders and experts. Such research could start with Denis Hocking’s question: What is the right tree in the right place?

His five sub questions were: What is the purpose of tree planting? Over what time scale? What are the characteristics of local eco-systems? How are local conditions likely to be affected by climate change? And more generally, do the general benefits of trees justify an embrace of exotics and a neglect of indigenous species or vice versa?

So, lets customise urban tree planting according to purpose. Planting for wood production and carbon sequestration is unlikely to be appropriate. Planting for ecological reasons wouldfavourindigenous trees and shrubs that support our native bird species. If planting for shelter and shade, thenshort-term versus long-term considerations should come into play, perhaps starting with exotics to usher in indigenous species. If planting for amenity and interest in private urban environments, personal taste must be respected.

Finally, I like the idea of all landowners being provided with free, independent and expert advice on biodiversity, and seeing native birds coming back to town.

 Kia ora tatau.