Our region’s five councils are apparently closing in on terms of reference for Hawke’s Bay’s ‘performance’ study, with a goal of securing elected leaders’ agreement before Christmas.

Let’s assume that agreement is achieved. Then what?

Funding must be approved and an independent, prestigious study leader must be recruited. Given the inefficiency built into having five councils in the first place, this preparatory work most likely will not be completed until late January. So maybe the study will get underway in February.

Being optimistic, we might move early next year from debating the very existence of the study to discussing and debating the issues it will address.

Proponents of change in governance arrangements will need to establish the actual connections between the substantive issues most people want to address — e.g., an under-performing regional economy, better regional planning and advocacy, advancing the disadvantaged, saving time and money in the public sector — and the ways in which progress on those issues is impeded by present governance arrangements.

Unless and until those connections are made and understood, it’s premature to get fixated upon or hysterical about any given reorganisation scheme. Defining the problem must precede designing a solution.

In the recent election, Stuart Nash sought to capitalise on many Napier voters’ current fear of ‘amalgamation’ (whatever that might actually mean to people at this point) by tagging Chris Tremain as an advocate of ‘amalgamation’.

Since his victory, Tremain has sought to clarify his position, writing in HB Today:

“What I have been advocating for is one clear strategic plan for our region with the backing of all our councils (including the regional council). I want to help lead an inspired province which drives business growth and jobs while protecting our environment. We have too many shared assets both man-made (the port, roads, the airport etc) and natural (the Tuki Tuki and the Tutaekuri etc) to be working in different silos for different goals.

Does this mean council amalgamation. It might, it might not! I’m certainly not fixated with total amalgamation as the only alternative. It’s more likely to mean a unique solution for the Bay which still ensures we have strong representation  for each of our cities, rural towns and hinterland. One option may be for our Mayors and Deputy’s to be automatically appointed to the Regional Council ensuring alignment of thinking behind the implementation of a regional plan.”

He supports the study process and  says that any proposed changes recommended by it “would need to be strongly debated and would always be put to a referendum.”

His “one option” as stated briefly above should be taken as that … one option. Others will no doubt be advanced as various individuals and interests step forward during the study process to articulate their views of the problems or blockages and how current local governance relates to those.

I can’t wait for that stage of the discussion to begin. Of course, I have this quaint notion that the examination of the Bay’s performance belongs to the people, and not to the councils or their study leader. And that therefore the study leader will invite broad public participation in identifying problems and suggesting solutions. Assuming that’s the case, it will be incumbent upon all those individuals and interests who whinge constantly in private about the foibles and shortcomings of local government to front up and help inform and influence the study.

The model here is the open and participatory HPUDS policy development process, not the private council ‘workshop’.

I’d start the debate by noting that the Regional Council resolution that’s become the starting point for councils’ general agreement was passed back on 21 September (and Hastings Council had endorsed a study prior to that); the study will commence at best in February … five months later.

To some of our elected leaders, that’s light speed. To many of the public, it’s a glacial pace that simply underscores the nature of the problem that must be addressed.

Tom Belford

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7 Comments

  1. Goodness sake Tom, start reporting the full story. You know Tremain came out and said that favors, and would advocate for, amalgamating Napier and Hastings councils. If you want to be taken seriously, then at least report the truth. If tremain has flip-flopped ion this, then he can come out and say that, but don't let him rewrite history. In a recent letter to the editor in HB Today he disingenuously implied that he lived in Napier city council area when in fact he lives in the Hastings district council rating area. Start holding people to account for their stances; as you have promised to do.

  2. One must remember most of this amalgamation korero was driven from Hastings with Mayor Lawrence Yule seeking

    the "Top Job" No problem, such initiative from Lawrence can be described as simply politics.

    Mostly with politics people do not count.

    Now we have a suggested process on matters concerning Hawkes Bay,- all H.B local authorities are more than happy to cooperate.

    Well done to all, thus leaving no negative scars for future generations of H.B ites to pass down to those not yet born.

  3. I think that the vitriol over the issue of amalgamation is appalling and the divisiveness incomprehensible. My position on amalgamation is well known and one that I have consistently held for over a decade, but we are currently moving towards a study to seek ways of furthering the fortunes of Hawkes Bay, including, as it should, the issue of local governance. This must be, and surely will be, by an indepepndent and suitably qualified person, to which we can all make representation in due course.

    The time has come to suspend the personal attacks and put the polarisation behind us, and certainly to consign the 2011 election campaign to history. Is this going to continue until the 2014 election? Surely Hawkes Bay's bigger than this?

  4. Ewan, elected officials should be held to account for their stance on this important issue. We all know your stance, which is fine, and no one was left in any doubt as to my views, however, Tremain has variously come out for, against and then with qualifications re amalgamation. These are not personal attacks at all, and I have never attacked Chris the man, but attempted to hold him to account for his stance on amalgamation. This is a very important issue for the people of Napier and if the Napier MP isn't prepared to stand up and fight for what the majority of residents in the city want, then what is the point of him being there. Even though he lives in the Hastings District Council area, he needs to remember that he is the MP for Napier, not Hawkes Bay, and i have not seen one study that shows a change in governance model would improve economic outcomes for the people of Napier.

  5. Stuart, you should take your own advice. Listen to what the majority of residents in the city want………..a political landscape from which you are absent

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