In an initial meeting of 2021 that seemed sluggish, with councillors not quite firing on all cylinders, the Regional Council made a modest decision to commit another $10k toward figuring out how economic development should be orchestrated in Hawke’s Bay.
HBRC’s $10k would be its ante to a 5-council pot of $40k.
While the sums are modest, the ongoing review has major import.
According to extensive analysis done to date by consultants (the Giblin Group), our five councils devote just over $10 million in “business support and industry development related services and activities”.
In essence, the Giblin report said these efforts (combined with Business Hawke’s Bay and HB Tourism) were generally doing the right stuff, but not terribly well – confusion over roles, “competitive behaviours”, and – arguably – insufficient resources applied given the scale of the challenge and opportunity.
Nothing surprising in the diplomatically written review, which charitably termed the efforts “sub-scale” with the result that: “This will be limiting the potential value of business, industry and sector development investment for Hawke’s Bay.”
Two councillors – Rick Barker and Neil Kirton – were not satisfied. In so many words, they regard the review thus far as simply suggesting a re-arranging of the deck chairs to hopefully conduct business as usual more efficiently. Both cited climate change as the type of disruption, already on our doorstep, that might make ‘BAU’ growth, however championed by councils, unhelpful, unwise or unachievable.
I think they raised an important point.
Councils should really reflect on what kind of growth HB actually wants, how can it be sustainably pursued (or otherwise not be pursued), what disruptions might lie ahead, and — specifically — how councils’ public money or other interventions might abet prudent long-term growth.
Instead, the councils seem focused merely on whether current BAU activities should be placed in a green bottle versus a paper sack so as to better suck more taxpayer money out of Wellington.
Much more to examine and question here. BayBuzz will tackle the issues in our March/April magazine.