When I started writing for BayBuzz, I was brought on as a counterpoint, a lioness who wasn’t afraid to roar. Until now I’ve been basking in “everything under the sun” purring and enjoying myself and playing a bit of cat and mouse with editor Tom Cat.  But the stakes are getting higher now, and as the elections approach I’ve been told to sharpen my claws.

My prey is waiting, and yes I’m ready to pounce. But before I go in for the kill, I will seek out those who will feed me the longest – and then those to make a meal of…

Unlike many of my fellow feline friends, when it’s time for action I won’t play games and taunt you, I will execute my vote with precision – clean and quick – no mercy.

The thing about local body elections is generally the calibre of candidates is not that tasty. So, as cats do, I will spare those who will give me and my family what we want and befriend them. And the rest I will devour (unfortunately it won’t be a five course degustation with sublime wine, because most of those who need to go are so long in the tooth they’ll really only be good for jelly-meat!).

As you know my coat is black and white – no grey. For me the regional divide has and will continue to be the single greatest thing stopping our region from economic and community growth – it’s what has cost us more in lack of progress than anything else.

So let’s get right to the point, anyone who is not in favour of amalgamation is on notice – you are dead-meat.

The only thing that has saved your skin so far is that enough politicking and positioning has been done to virtually remove amalgamation as an election issue. Having accomplished this, you are all quite happy, once you have retained or gained a seat, to start talking about it (if that’s what the people want).

I, like many, will make sure you do because it is what we want. And you need to realise that the next time we cast our vote, it will be for a single regional authority.

What I struggle to understand is the short-sightedness, and what I see as nothing less than self-important political egos of mainly Napier politicians unwilling to embrace Hastings District for a greater Hawke’s Bay.

Good on you, wanting to protect your patch, and your seat by assuring constituents that you will be their voice, that they will still be represented if we have one council. Of course they will have representation, but what I can promise them is that under one council they will get more – not less – because a better flavor of candidate will stand … those who are prepared to speak up embrace change and take our region to a new level.

But before you take this too personally, I will put it into context.

I speak from twenty years experience. Local body politics has been part of my working life since I left school. As a budding cadet reporter for the CHB Mail, I covered council meetings week after week, and would spend my nights writing up stories on sewerage, water, roading and community assets.

Back then there were two councils – one in Waipukurau and one in Waipawa – and a bridge between the two parochial towns. Two decades on, under one Central Hawke’s Bay Council, the  bridge has literally gone. And to me the new road on State Highway 1, which I drive occasionally,  shows how far we have, and have not, come.

Today the issues debated around the council table have not changed since I was 17. For me, walking into a council chamber and listening to the wise is like going back in time. So forgive me for twitching my tail.

What’s worse is you can walk into both councils and hear exactly the same debate – just different people, who occasionally pipe up with: “I wonder what Napier (or Hastings) is doing about it?”  It’s farcical.

Surely Hastings and Napier can learn from their CHB counterparts, who not surprisingly support joining forces, having already experienced the benefits of two towns – one council. Apart from deciding where the council chambers would be (a consolation for Waipawa), I can’t remember anything else that really caused heated debate.

This is not about sharing services, reducing rates and overheads. We all know that the cost of living and working will go up not down. This is about creating and leading a brighter, bolder and more sustainable future, embracing a regional strategy for stronger, healthier and safer communities.

Unless we change, Napier and Hastings will continue on the road to isolation.

Ironically to make a difference we are going to have to build a bridge, not take one down.

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2 Comments

  1. Anna, great article. I think you summed it up in this statement.

    " the regional divide has and will continue to be the single greatest thing stopping our region from economic and community growth – it’s what has cost us more in lack of progress than anything else"

    Couldn't agree more

  2. sigh. good argument in support of the amalgamations (not just in CHB) that have already happened (20 years ago), because yes, they made perfect sense. no argument in support of doing more of it – because you don't have to have a unitary regional council to cooperate and address issues on a regional basis, you just have to work positively together. if they can't do that as is, carrying the detail of local knowledge with them, how do you expect them to do it as one, with increased spatial/community diversity and lack of individual specific knowledge creating natural stumbling blocks at the table?

    oh, right: hire more consultants. sigh.

    democracy is about empowering communities, not making them effectively voiceless by corporatising them. it is not the structure that needs to change, but the performance of those elected to be their community's voices. the campaign that should be waged is to encourage those voices to come together as a choir, whenever possible – not to reduce them to disjointed solo fragments that make even the avante garde shudder.

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