At the Regional Council’s last meeting in December, we received a progress report on the dam project from our holding company, HBRIC.
It reminded me of this Dilbert cartoon …
If there isn’t any progress, use a larger font!
It worked at HBRC in December. Sufficient Councillors responded with the ‘slow clap’.
The next meeting of HBRC is Wednesday.
We’re supposed to get a regular monthly update from HBRIC on its activities. Not on the agenda. Apparently we get one when they feel like it.
We were told (at the December meeting) to expect a report of significant progress over the coming month in getting farmers to sign water user agreements. As one HBRIC director noted … farmers do work over the holidays. No such report is on the agenda.
We were told (at the December meeting) that it would cost about $250,000 a month (excluding HBRIC CEO Andrew Newman’s salary) to continue the dam project after 31 March (when current funding ends). But HBRIC directors suggested that un-named other parties with an interest in the scheme would be recruited to, as they said, “share the pain”. No report on the Wednesday agenda on funding either.
As usual, HBRIC’s gone silent.
Before arriving on the Council I supported the creation of HBRIC, with the proviso that strong accountability provisions be incorporated into the relevant establishment and governing documents. That never happened.
And now, about 16 months into my elected term, I’ve found HBRIC to be consistently and fiercely resistant to genuine transparency and public accountability. I and some of my colleagues have scratched and clawed for the few scraps of information we have received about the dam project. On occasion we’ve received information only after it’s been shared elsewhere. We’ve been ‘granted’ private briefings with note-taking barred. Most discussions occur in workshops and public-excluded sessions.
Without accountability, what we now have is an HBRIC team preparing to ask us to throw good money after bad. A project that is twisting in the wind. A punch drunk HBRIC/HBRC team committed to an environmental ‘strategy’ for the Tukituki that has been knocked down twice, but still raring to go for another round.
Moreover, there’s not been the slightest hint that ‘oversight’ by HBRIC has added one iota of benefit to the governance of HBRIC’s one and only existing asset … Napier Port. HBRIC has added zero commercial acumen to an already capable Port Board. If anything, when serious problems arose last harvest season with Port logistics, HBRIC was imply an irrelevant layer interposed between Council and the Port team.
As presently envisioned, if the dam were to proceed, a separate company would be set up, like the Port, to run the scheme. And just like the Port, one further layer away from accountability. Even worse, if this dam company were to be infected with the same leadership and operational style as HBRIC, the public might as well forget about that company ever being called to account.
All that HBRIC has accomplished — both as supervisor of the Port Board and as manager of the dam project — is obfuscation. If HBRIC has any constituency in Hawke’s Bay outside its existing directors, a gaggle of Regional Councillors and its CEO, I’ve yet to discover them.
Yet on Wednesday Regional Councillors are being asked to approve a process for replacing the ‘transition board’ of HBRIC with a permanent board. In other words, a candidate selection process.
Based on what I’ve witnessed as a Councillor, I’m not inclined to endorse a candidate selection process. What we should be considering is the dis-establishment of HBRIC.
Of course, my view will be a minority view. So I guess I will need to console myself that maybe what is being approved Wednesday is actually a de-selection process.