Chris Tremain recently ran a message in HB Today which many of you might have missed. I urge you to download and read it here.
It’s an important contribution to the discussion about amalgamation — local governance reform, if you prefer.
Tremain is keeping his powder dry on amalgamation per se … in the sense of merging all the region’s councils. But what he argues for strongly is “one provincial vision”, which might or might not be best advanced by different governance arrangements than we currently have.
He says: “In a nutshell there are two questions to ask. Firstly: Is there any benefit in having a regional strategic plan which we all support? And secondly: Is there a regional governance structure that would better accommodate the implementation of that plan?”
His ‘open letter’ in the ad concludes: “All I ask is that we don’t bury our heads in the sand without having the debate. Personally I believe that there really is a bigger picture out there for our province just waiting to be grabbed.”
Tremain’s advert then goes on to list 21 initiatives that he believes Hawke’s Bay should be considering, effectively raising the question of whether these are the kinds of projects that require us to consider alternative governance.
I think he’s framing the issue properly. Yes, cost savings and operational efficiencies would be great to achieve through governance reform. And any ‘study’ of amalgamation should identify those possibilities. But the real payoff — one worth looking for — relates to better outcomes for the entire region.
And it’s not just putting one’s head in the sand, it’s downright irresponsible for any councillor to not support examining that possibility.