I have no legs but I can and will always dream. As a child who doctors said would spend the rest of my life in a home and not live past the age of 20, I have gone on to live a fulfilling life for over 40 years since my accident. Everything I have achieved in my life was because I had dared to dream.
Great leaders have big dreams. They have a vision of possibilities and they are excited by what could be. Leaders like Lincoln, Gorbachev, Gandhi, Thatcher and Mandela changed their nation. Dreamers like Bell, Edison, Ford, Wright, Disney, Berners-Lee and Jobs changed the world.
It has become apparent to me in the past year that Tauranga's leadership lacks a dream. As a Council, we have a clear view of the present and we have embraced it but I think we have failed for a long time to have a compelling vision of the future.
It is so easy to be drawn into the finer details of our work that we forget to take a step back to look at the big picture. The past 12 months have certainly been tumultuous with Rena's grounding and our CEO Ken's sudden passing in the midst of a Council-wide restructuring. These things are important but I think we sometimes overlook that of more importance is our responsibility to work on our city.
In New Zealand, we accept mediocrity too readily. We have failed to be internationally competitive, perhaps because we have been too comfortable in our own little piece of paradise. In School Certificate, our kids consistently failed to reach the bar so we didn't just lower it, we removed it altogether. Kiwis are laid-back and we are often too quick to say, "It's ok."
I believe that Tauranga has been "OK" and comfortable for long enough. We must start dreaming to be the fine city that we can be. We have a Ten-Year Plan but what is the dream we are planning for?
A vision for our city has to start at the top, from the Mayor and CEO, no different from any of the world's most successful companies; Apple, Coca Cola, BP, Toyota or McDonald's. There should be a clear and articulate goal of where we want to go and what we want to become. It is a long-term, sustainable, quantifiable but evolving vision understood and embraced by the present and future leaders of Tauranga and it eventually becomes a common goal, an identity or brand if you like, that we as residents believe in and can be proud of.
I am a dreamer and I always encourage others to keep dreaming. More importantly, I urge them not to become dream takers. Too many Kiwis believe that their dreams are an impossibility and say the same about the dreams of others. I have met many dream takers in my life but choose to stay away from them. And look how far I have come.
As you would expect, I talk about this constantly with my colleagues and the Mayor. I have challenged them to tell me what they think Tauranga's identity is and what they want it to be. I have asked of their vision for our city in 5, 10 or 20 years. Will we be New Zealand's 4th largest city? What does our CBD look like? What about The Mount? Would our children and grandchildren want to live no where else but here? How business-friendly is Tauranga to investors? How renowned are we as an international tourist destination?
I often look at Singapore as a great example. It is pretty amazing that in less than 30 years, Singapore grew from being a Third World country to one of Asia's most developed nations despite its small population, limited land space and no natural resources, not even their own water supply. Here is one of the world's freest, most innovative, competitive and business-friendly economies. Over 10,000 multi-national companies from practically every sector are based in Singapore, a country just over 4 times the size of Tauranga in land space.
All because one man dared to dream.
So I will continue urging the Mayor and my fellow Councillors to dream. I urge Tauranga's current and future leaders to develop a vision for our city and I look forward to the appointment of our new CEO because he or she must have a dream for Tauranga too.