Here is an important opening contribution to the debate Hawke’s Bay will have over amalgamation.

In a post published last week on Backing the Bay, Chris Tremain makes a very useful distinction between merging cities and merging political leadership. Two different things as he sees it. Strikes me as a helpful way to frame the issues.

Here is his full article …

Amalgamation…too hot to handle, or too important to miss?

The debate over amalgamation is sure to feature strongly in coming months. It’s important that you know exactly where I stand on this issue as its one that will be hotly debated. Personally I believe amalgamation of our councils, not our cities, would bring gains to our province. Over the coming months I’ll be arguing for this, but not at all costs. Napier people have genuine concerns and I would not be supportive of any final change unless these issues could be fairly dealt with. In addition the proposal from Lawrence Yule requires majority support from Napier so unless the argument can be carried his proposal will not suceed.

Amalgamation in Hawkes Bay is not being driven by central Government. Under the current proposal a mandate needs to be achieved in Hawkes Bay before any legislation would be drafted (if needed). There is no Government agenda for amalgamation across the country albeit the cabinet has said it will support councils that wish to proceed down this track

The pro’s for the community are simple – one clearly articulated vision for building our awesome province, it’s unique cities and individual towns, supported by one council. This is not about merging the two cities, it’s about merging leadership. This allows clarity around key initiatives to support one vision together with an understanding of the development, environmental and rate payer service priorities across the province. For instance there would not have been two separate sewerage systems developed for the two cities. With one system there would have been genuine savings for all, including the environment.

There’s already plenty of good examples in the Bay. Sport HB has a governance structure from across the Bay and delivers seamless services throughout the province. The HB Regional Council has representation from across the Bay and provides services to all. EIT provides services across the Bay, without any loss of identity to the cities.

The concerns regarding identity are solved by strong representation from each city and town on the council. Remember the aim is not to combine the cities, just the councils. And there are already plenty of examples. Taradale and Havelock, despite much protestation at the time, are now amalgamated into Napier and Hastings. Haumoana and Te Awanga have their own unique identities within the Hastings District Council. Right now people who live in Whirinaki pay rates to Hastings but consider themselves Napier citizens.

The concern about different debt levels between the two cities is real. But this can be handled fairly through differential rating.

The world is changing. When it comes to tourism or marketing the province, size does matter. As a province we would still be less than a 1/5 of the size of an amalgamated Auckland and 1/2 the size of an amalgamated Wellington.  Fact is that if we are to get our fair share of central government funding we need to be united and to clearly articulate a vision for the future of our awesome province.

Chris Tremain

Join the Conversation


  1. Thanks Chris for clearly and unemotionally articulating what amalgamation would actually deliver for the region. As the President of Havelock North Business Association we are speaking to the equivalent Associations in Hastings, Taradale and Ahuriri as we understand to support our business members we need to work together. Hawke’s Bay is attracting global thinking business owners and we need to create an environment where they can grow a business. This also applies of course to the rest of us – we live and do business here because we want the lifestyle. One voice and one layer of bureaucracy helps everyone – business provides jobs. Two other sucesucessful amalgamations to mention are Hawke’s Bay Today and the Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce

  2. Well presented Chris, another thought, as per Norway, is to retain the identity of both cities with a brief to promote,and encourage wards. Wards draw and encourage creative communities , and reduce crime and incarceration.
    Wise leadership in all European Countries i recently visited are all for identity, to support one another.
    And big business agrees and promotes .

  3. On the question of Size (last time I looked) an amalgamated Napier/Hastings would create a local authority population 5th in size in NZ (behind Hamilton but ahead of Dunedin, Tauranga). Currently hastings is 12th and Napier 17th. Whether we like it or not size does matter in some things at least.

    Personally I am sick of being overgoverned and undervisioned. On the second point it is probably time that enterprise stood up more………..

  4. Well said Graeme! There is such a lack of education and understanding of what amalgamation means. You only have to look at a recent poll done in HB Today where most people interpreted that Napier and Hastings would lose their identities. This will not happen in a million years – the cities and suburbs within will always remain intact.

    It's great to see a Napier MP and local identity stating his opinion – we need more influencers in Napier to be doing the same!

  5. Well put Chris Tremain. Thank you!

    We are one region that is economically and socially quite well integrated but we are not as well organised as we could be.

    Our region is a common interest. We compete nationally for central government attention, for industry and tourists, medical practitioners, investment, etc.

    Hawke’s Bay could harmonise and act better as a single region. This is not happening on a cohesive basis or consistently well. This is partially due to old competitive rivalries and dual Councils. I moved here in 1995 and the rivalry is hard to understand. It is holding the region of Hawke's Bay back.

    It is long time to bury the hatchet and for us unite the cities for the benefit of our children.

    Napier-Hastings should not be competing cities. Our twin cities ought to work better as one and look outwardly instead to compete better in rest of Australasia and the world.

    Notwithstanding economic boom and except the wine industry, we have seen little in the way of new industry for Hawke’s Bay and mostly modest existing industry investment – so not much expansion 1995-2010.

    Napier is an island Council but Napier is not an island. Napier and its workforce and its rates base, and amenities, would not exist if it were not for the region's social and economic resources.

    Napier is not an autonomous city and nor is Hawke's Bay in New Zealand, or New Zealand in the world.

    There would be no substantial seaport at Napier nor a good regional airport, if it were not for Hastings too, the satellite towns, farms, forests and hinterland of Hawke's Bay.

    Careful and well-considered, and appropriately structured, and well led (a lot of ifs), amalgamation of our twin-city Councils is a long-term regional progress no-brainer. Come on the Napier!

    Pat Turley [I love Hawke’s Bay and Napier]

  6. From a tourism industry perspective, and personally as a long time Napier resident who supported amalgamation the last time it was proposed, I cannot disagree with any of the comments above, or with Chris's well considered article. One layer of governance does not an identity lose!

    The only way to address the doom and gloom and faltering performance across different sectors in our region is by working together much more effectively.

    That is certainly the goal of HB Wine Country Tourism Association in its current proposal to HB Regional Council for an inclusive, well-functioning, industry-led, joint venture Regional Tourism Organisation for the economic benefit of the whole HB region. More visitors means more new money coming in, more jobs, a better return on existing capital investment plus opportunities for new investment, and a stronger regional economy.

    Greg Murphy comes from Havelock North but we all proudly claim him as a champion from Hawke’s Bay. Why can’t we have one council championing us all?

    Forget separatism – bring on unity … and don’t be afraid to cross a bridge or two.

  7. It’s just as well we did not have one waste water plant for Napier & Hastings because the hastings one is an expensive disaster that does nothing to remove solids from the waste water. In fact it’s only 1/3rd of a treatment system. Looking at the levels of debt of Napier & Hastings one could not help but not want anything to do with Hastings.
    But we do need some fresh blood to replace senior managers who have been in the NCC for too long.

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