HB Today reported over the weekend that the HB Regional Council has decided to keep secret the 161 submissions that have been made as part of its Tukituki Choices ‘consultation’ until after its October 31st meeting to decide how to proceed with Tukituki matters, including the $600 million CHB dam.

According to HBT, apparently quoting a Regional Council source, the submissions will be kept secret until after Councillors have made their decision … “Out of respect for the people who have commented” and to allow Councillors to give “genuine consideration” to comments without any “external pressure”!!

God forbid that elected Councillors might be pressured by constituents … otherwise known as democracy. No doubt our Councillors have spent the Labour weekend holed up in their bunkers poring over the submissions, untainted by better informed but clamoring citizens.

As between arrogant, petrified or just dumb, I’ll go for … petrified.

Let’s call a spade a spade. There’s ONE reason elected officials keep things secret … FEAR.

Mostly fear of embarrassment. Fear of being seen NOT asking the tough questions. Fear of being seen not even knowing what the tough questions are! Fear of discovering that their $8 million ‘feasibility study’ in fact might not hold water.

It’s abundantly clear … the decisions that must be made about managing the Tukituki catchment are simply ‘beyond the pay grade’ of this cast of Councillors.

Maybe that’s why they are in such a rush to pass the buck to a Board of Inquiry and a bunch of bank advisers from Australia.

I’ve read (and will publish*) some of the most challenging submissions that have been made on Tukituki Choices. They raise such fundamental questions as to challenge the credibility of the entire undertaking HBRC has made to sell its plan.

If the HBRC were to publish these submissions tomorrow morning — Tuesday — and everyone in Hawke’s Bay could realise their implications, see how different aspects of the scheme have been challenged by different knowledgeable submitters, see all the unanswered questions, I suspect quite a hue and cry would arise from the public.

Maybe even from the hitherto silent ‘city fathers’ who are themselves standing around like deer stuck in the headlights instead of scrutinizing a monumental $600 million regional investment. If even a few of the squad of ‘experienced corporate directors’ who populate this region took a serious look at the feasibility study and considered the questions submitters have raised, this process would pause.

All of the Tukituki submissions should be posted on the HBRC website … now! And the questions they raise should be answered before the HBRC makes further decisions of any kind on whether to proceed.

Perhaps all the questions can be answered satisfactorily in due course. But these submissions, when added up, are beginning to suggest otherwise. The HBRC claimed on its website that it wanted “informed submissions” on the Tukituki issues. Well they got more informed submissions than they bargained for … and now they’re stuck with them. Best to keep them secret!

Turns out the submitters are better informed than the Councillors.


Tom Belford

*If you have a Tukituki submission that you’d like published, just forward to me (Tom@baybuzz.co.nz) and we’ll put it on the BayBuzz website.

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  1. I agree, the submissions should be posted online for all to see.However, many do not have pc so recommend the local free papers should publish them. Democracy requires an informed citizenry.

  2. Personally I find it highly disresectful and offensive that the council has decided to withhold my submission until after 31 October. I wonder who made this decision?

    My guess is that we only have to look at the top of the council staff tree becuase, like you, the submissions I have read asked perceptive enogh questions to bring the whole water storage scheme into disrepute and some senior council staff seem to have such fragile egos that that cannot allow such criticism to be made public.

    I have emailed a copy of my submission as suggested.

  3. Typical! Absolute arrogance, along with total disrespect for democracy! And next year the supposed peoples elected represetitives will be thick skinned enough to come grovelling to you for your vote- by promising to represent YOU!

    Time for a change next year can’t come soon enough.

  4. ‘Out of respect for the people who have commented’ and to allow Councillors to give ‘genuine consideration’ to comments without any ‘external pressure.’

    How does that work?

    ‘Respect’ – surely everyone accepted their submission would be made public. Every other submission process has that expectation, which means HBRC is being the opposite – disrespectful of submitters right to be heard publicly.

    ‘External pressure’ – does this means that some of the submitters are high profile HB folk questioning the dodgy calculations and assumptions?

    Hopefully CEO Newman has had Councillors beating on his door demanding that their constituents be ‘respected’ and they don’t feel under ‘pressure’ if submissions are made public.

    If this submission process came under the RMA or Local Government Act it would be illegal to suppress the opinions of residents and ratepayers – yeah – those folk HBRC are supposed to serve and represent.

  5. I expected to see my submission, along with all others, on 16 October.

    I did not ask, and have no expectation, that the HBRC will do anything ‘out of respect’ for me….. it has never been their style! As for withholding public submissions so councillors can give ‘genuine consideration without any external pressure’ – sorry! That’s what councillors are elected (and paid) to do…. listen to what their constituents have to say!

    ‘Secret’ in itself is not a surprise – everything about this project has been ‘secret’ and drip fed in such a way that the information cannot be used in any useful way by a thinking public.

    The fact that the latest ‘secret’ was announced alongside the news that Hawkes Bay’s recreational water quality is among the foulest nationally, should not just be ringing bells, but sounding sirens akin to a civil emergency!

    We must surely be at a point of legal challenge on process.

  6. The dam scheme is now a dead duck. I’ve spoken to several prominent rural types and they are all saying pretty much the same thing – the assumptions are unsound, the risks are too high, economic uncertainty makes investment at anticipated levels unlikely…or they just say it’s plain bonkers.

    Outside of dairying, not much stacks up financially. Even for dairying, check out the troubled Patoka conversions for sale on trademe – conversion costs were too high, production too low. These were smart commercial people playing with their own money – what do you reckon about councillors being smarter?

    The HBRC are right to have looked at the opportunity. There is room for serious development in CHB; on the right scale, at the right time. I’m pretty sure we’re on the precipice of a big back-peddling PR phase, probably including a supplementary evaluation which will take a long time to produce and raise many concerns…that let this grandiose scheme die as quietly as possible.

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