12 Lessons I Learned From 1254 Conversations With Tauranga Residents

I recently announced the achievement of my goal of visiting 4291 homes in my run for Tauranga City Council.

I met with 1254 people face-to-face (and left a flyer behind for the remainder).

I’m a meticulous note keeper and recorded the ideas that residents shared with me.

I have analysed what they told me and distilled their thoughts into these 12 lessons.


1. We All Love Tauranga Deeply

  • This probably won’t surprise you because you probably love Tauranga too.
  • I knew I loved Tauranga, but I didn’t realise how deep this passion went with everyone I met
  • Would you get the same response if you sampled any city or town in New Zealand? Perhaps. But do they have the same depth of passion as we do in Tauranga? Perhaps not

2. We Are Engaged At All Levels: Local, National, International

  • We think about our neighbourhoods, we think about our city, we think about our country, we think about the world (Brexit and the USA presidential election were mentioned often)
  • Out of the 1254 people I met face-to-face, only 20 of those were not interested in talking to me about their city, NZ, and the world. That’s 1.6%. A tiny, tiny number.

3. Six Topics We Love To Talk About Most

  1. Why we love this city
  2. Our families
  3. Our ideas for the cities future
  4. How proud we are:
    • To be born and bred here
    • To have lived here for decades
    • To have lived in the same house for decades
    • Whether you’ve lived in your house for 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 10 years, 20 years, 50 years. It’s home.
  5. Daily annoyances such as traffic congestion and parking and things that could be better in our neighbourhoods
  6. The performance of the current council

4. We Want A Council…

  1. That provides great value for money:
    • We talk about downward pressure on rates
    • We talk about how our debt levels make us feel uneasy
    • We talk about consultants getting paid thousands
    • We talk about projects being proposed but never going ahead
    • We hate the thought that our rates dollars are wasted with inefficiencies
  2. That is decisive and gets on with projects that benefit the city
  3. That listens and is willing to change direction based on our feedback
  4. That communicates effectively and keeps us up to date with what’s important
  5. That has diversity in the group and reflects the make-up of the public. Not a council made up entirely of “stale, pale, male’s”

5. We Are A Diverse Bunch

  • We are such a diverse city
    • So many nations are represented here
    • So many languages are spoken
    • So many different food smells!
  • Some people I visited can not speak a word of English but this is their home too
  • Many, many times, I’d turn a corner and see extreme poverty or extreme wealth just a few metres away from each other
  • The 2 biggest groups are our elders and our young families
    • Our elders get together a lot! There are so many groups that meet regularly.
    • Our families are busy

6. We Have Mixed Views On Building A Museum

  • We don’t want a dusty collection of relics sealed behind glass that we might visit only once in a decade
  • We don’t want to pay for it from our rates or by adding on debt to the city. Alternative funding must be sought
  • But we are envious of so many other cities that have a museum of their own
  • And we do like the idea of our unique local stories told via interactive exhibits
  • Perhaps an idea for the way forward is to provide 10 virtual examples of the experiences visitors might have? If we fall in love with those, maybe we could get more support for the construction. Or, we just give up on the idea.

7. We Treasure Our Natural Environment, But…

  • We care deeply about the natural environment. The beauty of nature is one of the big reasons we chose to live here so we don’t want it messed up
  • But many of us do not recycle paper, glass, plastic, metals, or compost because it hurts our pockets to pay extra

8. We Love Playing Sport

  • Young and old, we love playing sport. Indoor, outdoor, in teams or solo, so many of us get involved
  • Sometimes all we need is a patch of grass and a ball, sometimes we need an indoor court, sometimes we need ratepayers to invest a few million dollars into our facilities even though they might not set foot inside themselves

9. We Talk About Transportation. A Lot

  • We are frustrated when our car journey’s coincide with a rush hour
  • We prefer to drive our own cars around (and a lot of the time we are the only occupant)
  • We are not attracted to public transport / buses. They seem inconvenient, expensive, and not much fun
  • We think the roads are increasingly unsafe for cycling

10. Some Of Us Don’t Visit The CBD Much

  • For many of us, the suburban shopping centres serve all our needs
  • Others commute into the CBD every day and are frustrated by congestion and parking. For the heavy users, we don’t like seeing empty shops
  • For the rest of us, we can’t understand all the talk and attention there is about the CBD in the media when it’s just not important to our daily lives, and when the suburban shopping centres have so many advantages
  • The bottom line is, we don’t have a single CBD, we have 5 (and more on the way)

11. We Talk About Parking. A Lot

  • We know in our heads that we have it good compared to the big cities: Auckland and Wellington can be $8 per hour, but we remember the times when we fluked a park right outside the shop we wanted to get to, or those times we got away without feeding the meter. Like a gambler, we long for that high again, but the odds are against us.
  • Maybe it’s a good thing that our roads are getting more congested… The more often we see cyclists riding past whilst we are stuck in traffic, the more often we’ll think “I should have ridden my bike to work today”
  • Technology will help a little bit so get us closer to 100% utilisation. Imagine every car park has a sensor and the empty parks guide your car to them
  • Instead of swinging around the block again and again, try my strategy:
    • Pick a long line of parks
    • Pull over to the side to indicate to other users that you are staying put and that the parks in the line ahead of you are your territory
    • If there are 15 parks within reach from you, and the zone is 60 minutes, statistically you’ll need to wait just 4 minutes for someone to leave (60/15 = 4). Or you could swing around the block for another 8 minutes, your choice
  • Will the situation ever get better? Adding another parking building with 400 spaces will just encourage 400 more people to park there, it doesn’t really change much. How much pain will you put up with before you cycle or bus around instead?

12. We Rely Heavily On Our Gut

When forming our own reaction to a hot topic, we mostly just rely on our gut.

We rely heavily on the media for our information:

  • Sometimes just the sensationalised headline
  • Sometimes just the photo
  • Sometimes just the first paragraph
  • We are not conscious that 20% of what we read might be wrong

Most of us care very much about what is happening in this city, but we don’t have the time or energy to get deep into the source material information.

A precious few of us:

  • Read through the large volumes of council documentation, research and reports
  • Meet with the specialists with expert knowledge to ask their opinion
  • Get well organised and form groups and mobilise them to get involved/protest or voice their concerns en-masse
  • Write submissions to council
  • Propose an alternative course of action
  • Lobby our council representatives for what we believe in

Your Thoughts?

Do you see yourself in some of these statements? What have I missed? Have your say in the thoughts below.

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