New trick in Rotorua politics

Phil Campbell

A new group in Rotorua has a strong ring of coincidence about it.

Evolve Rotorua, a mix of lawyers, politicos and plain folks it seems, plans only positive things for Rotorua. It sees itself as an advocacy group.

This sort of feel-good assault should be seen for what it is – a push to retain the current mayoralty and the current majority order. Not to say nice things about current projects – like the imminent Lakefront changes at $40 million split between ratepayers and taxpayers.

Some years ago, a group from the left-wing of Rotorua politics organised a push against the mayor of the day, Grahame Hall. He survived as his popularity was among the highest by national standards. The group sunk without trace.

Rotorua has little truck with organised political groups in local body politics.

The vocal Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers group can attest to that. It has hardly won a political trick in close to six years of existence, apart from two councillors Raj Kumar and Peter Bentley.

Evolve Rotorua, a picket fence of toothy newspaper front page smiles, claims it’s not politically aligned. Why mention it?

The likely reason is that two of its members are intrinsically Labour in their thinking – lawyer and Winter Olympian Ben Sandford stood for Labour in the last general elections and Ryan Gray is seeking council popularity. Strictly nonpolitical? Tui hoarding on the way.

It’s playing a risky game, for the public could read that in supporting the current order favouring high profile projects risk sinking Steve Chadwick’s mayoralty. Chadwick is said to favour anything promoting Rotorua.

Rotorua citizenry should look forward to the day these political fledglings push for much needed infrastructure some of which have been apparently shelved for the moment.

The group says it hopes to attract funding and investment to community projects. Lakefront development, a sports hub and housing needs along with a technology hub have been targeted.

Nor did it want to create a ‘them and us’ mentality with RDRR which has been around for two local body elections. While its damnation of every project has polarised sections of Rotorua, RDRR has offered little as an alternative. Yet it has made valid points.

The $40 million Lakefront improvement is one issue that could swing this year’s elections, the Hemo Gorge statue less likely, since it will have been installed and debate likely forgotten by October 12, polling day.

The RDRR presses on.

Writing from afar, its treasurer Reynold Macpherson the mayoral candidate has presented an unflattering portrait of sitting councillor Tania Tapsell, aged 26, the youngest councillor seeking a third term. It details her political life in some detail, yet touches on personal issues. That she has friends – gasp! – in Destiny (Church presumably).

Some of us have Muslim friends, pals in B’hai Bri’nith, Jehovah Witnesses, Roman Catholic, Exclusive Brethren, (is there an Inclusive Brethren?) and so on, so what’s the beef?

One recent RDRR council prospect, Gina Mohi, who later withdrew her candidacy, was strident in Tania Tapsell’s defence. She referred to “lots of personal attacks, negativity and whining”.

Mike McVicker, a long-term councillor defeated at the last elections and who was a founding member of a group that morphed into RDRR, said he was disappointed at “again personally attacking” Tapsell. “Tania is an articulate young lady who has a future in politics”.

Rather than being a member of Chadwick’s so call power bloc, McVicker said he remembered Tapsell railing against the disastrous Mudtopia proposal.

RDRR adherent and councillor Raj Kumar was more to the point: “I support Tania … I hope she continues with her vision to make Rotorua a better place”.

We asked Reynold Macpherson whether he would run the rule over remaining councillors, including two of his corral, one of whom is under suspicion for leaking confidential information to the site over the Hemo Gorge cost overruns.

The culprit or sculprit has not been found. It is unlikely he will be, given the complex and varied methods of communication these days.

Macpherson refused to comment, instead saying he would only respond to “journalists and publishing houses that are signatories to the Press Council principles.” Rotorua Now does belong.

ER for all its good intention needs to maintain momentum if it is to survive.

Tit-for-tat letters to newspapers and trolling social media sites are a start.

It doesn’t seem a malevolent nest.

Despite its stated intention it looks as if Rotorua will oversee a ding doing battle – RDRR well-heeled with ding on one side, ER (how it sounds like a Tv hospital soap) applying the dong on the other.


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