In early December BayBuzz published this article calling for “Water Champions” in the Bay.
MP’s Craig Foss and Chris Tremain, for now, are out front in the race to claim this distinction.
On Thursday, Foss and Tremain announced that they had spent the day as guests of the HB Regional Council on a field trip to examine water quality and management issues affecting the Tukituki and Ngaruroro Rivers. For the two MP’s. this was a follow-up to earlier visits to the Mohaka and the Tukituki, the latter sponsored by the Hawke’s Bay Environmental Water Group.
Based on those visits, the MP’s expressed concerns about Bay water quality and have pressed the Regional Council to get more pro-active on water quality issues. As importantly, their involvement has helped legitimize complaints that citizen advocates have raised, only to be brushed off in the past.
Also, in December, Regional Councillors Liz Remmerswaal, Ewan McGregor and Tim Gilbertson got a commitment from HBRC staff to prepare a status report on the Tukituki, due in February.
Meantime, Ewan McGregor, writing in Hawke’s Bay Today, expressed concerns about water quality in the Bay, and offered to host a water summit to examine the issues. This was a welcome departure from his election period stance, where he said water quality in the Tukituki was good enough.
Throughout this period, beginning during the elections, BayBuzz has agitated around these issues.
Now, in January, there are signs that the Regional Council is feeling the heat, and reaching out to the voices that have been sounding the water alarms. Chairman Rex McIntyre, CEO Andrew Newman, and Council staff have met with those concerned, like the Hawke’s Bay Environmental Water Group, myself and others, and have made some reassuring moves and gestures.
But we’re still quite early in this game … actually, we’re just at pre-season scrimmaging.
It remains to be seen how much of this new receptivity and sympathy on the part of certain elected officials is simply political posturing … versus determined commitment to secure substantial changes that better protect the Bay’s water resources.
For now, we’re prepared to credit MP’s Foss and Tremain with taking the playing field. By contrast, the Labour MP’s haven’t yet stuck their toes into the Bay’s water issues.
We’re prepared to credit Councillors Remmerswaal, McGregor and Gilbertson for helping force the issue before some sleepy colleagues. They too have taken the playing field, while other Councillors are still ironing their shorts.
And we’re prepared to credit HBRC leadership with opening its ears to the critics, while we wait for gestures to translate into actions.
Meantime, Hastings District Councillors, as BayBuzz noted a few days ago, haven’t even left the locker room, even as their constituents fill the stands. (Mayor Yule did email his overall agreement with our “Water Champions” article.)
In February, as Councillors return to public business, it’s “game on” and we’ll begin to see who is in the “Water Champions” competition for real.