Mayor Yule stopped by the Regional Council meeting on Wednesday to float an interesting idea … one that might have broad and radical implications.

Basically, he suggested that the Regional Council take full funding responsibility — and with it, commensurate governance control — for Hawke’s Bay, Inc., the agency charged with promoting economic development and tourism for the Bay. Currently, the $1.2 million in HB Inc funding is divided equally among the Napier, Hastings and Regional Councils, with a very small tip thrown in by CHB.

Under the Mayor’s scheme, with full funding provided by HBRC (i.e., all ratepayers throughout the Bay), the territorial councils would eliminate their contributions entirely and take their rates down appropriately. In theory, ratepayers wind up with no change in their overall rate burden.

The benefit for all of us would be that an activity that should be strategised and implemented for the greater good of the entire region would actually be paid for and supervised by a regionally accountable body — the Regional Council. The business and tourism development activities of HB Inc would be prioritised in terms of how they benefitted the whole region, not just Napier or Hastings — or should all parties candidly admit … Napier versus Hastings!

This approach is so logical as to call into question why our elected leaders have failed to move in this direction earlier.

Indeed, in his presentation, Mayor Yule commented that the same model might be applied to other entities, like Sport Hawke’s Bay, and perhaps even to funding and operation of major infrastructure assets.

And of course, there’s the danger in this precedent. Danger to our territorial Councils!

Before we know it, from this first modest step, ratepayers might discover that much of what matters to quality of life in the Bay should indeed be planned, funded and implemented — all more effectively and efficiently — on a regional basis.

What an awakening that will be … for politicians and ratepayers alike!

The logic of this approach is compelling. And it reduces the Napier and Hastings Councils to doing the strictly local things they do best, like allocating parking spaces and pedestrian benches, at presumably substantially lower cost to the ratepayer.

The National Government has made noises about streamlining and consolidating regional and local government. Maybe Mayor Yule, in his position as President of Local Government NZ, already sees the handwriting on the wall.

What a radical and dangerous idea he has floated … things that really matter to the long term growth and vitality of the Bay should be handled regionally. Wow, what a shocker!

Tom

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