We believe the mayoral races and the make-up of the Regional Council are where the action is in this year’s elections.

Damon Harvey action man!

It is leadership indecisiveness that led Damon Harvey to stand for the mayor of Hastings.

The ongoing saga of the Te Mata Peak debacle, Harvey says, is a classic example of where the Hastings District Council (HDC) didn’t put a stake in the ground right at the start, leading it to drag on, divide the community and cost ratepayers $500,000 in the process.

“For the life of me, I still do not understand how that [consent] wasn’t publicly notified … that’s just common sense,” he says. Moreover, he says fellow councillor Baden Barber had completed a report on the District’s outstanding natural landscapes not too long ago. “But no one chose to pull that out of a drawer somewhere and look at it?” Harvey notes this lack of diligence left counsillors blind-sighted, in turn leaving the community in the dark.

Harvey cited the dangerous slip issues at the Cape as yet another example of the HDC’s indecisiveness. “There is an old guard on council,” he says. “And if you look at that old guard, I think there has been slow decision-making for many years and delays in things. So, when I talk about leadership, it’s probably, a collective leadership.”

He cites the fate of the trees in Keirunga Gardens as another issue where HDC has failed to act appropriately. With 205 out of 210 submissions against the razing of the trees, Harvey says: “We should never have gotten, again, into the pickle we are now in,” adding that he hopes a common sense approach is taken to the park and trees are only dealt if and when they are needed to be.

So, how might the District better prosper?

“We need to have a clear view,” says Harvey. “It’s fairly obvious that our planning hasn’t been able to forecast really what has occurred in the last three to five years … this massive explosion in demand on property.” He says with the local economy going so strongly, Council has been caught on the hop.

With Havelock North’s population set to double in ten years, Harvey says thought has to be put into how the village’s already “suffocating” CBD is going to cope. “So I don’t think we have forecasted well enough. And I think that’s what we need to be doing,” he says.

Flaxmere too is a top priority. Speaking about his hometown, Harvey says more attention needs to be paid to its CBD, but Council is really stuck on the fact the shopping centre is privately-owned. “Therefore, we have no control of it. We can’t design the type of retail offering that could be there. It’s more piecemeal.” He says the current shopping centre is not cared for and so the town treats it the same way. Despite this, he will look at some way to tidy it up and see what can be done on the surrounding land.

Returning to the issue of property, Harvey says Hastings district-wide is facing a housing crisis – a crisis he lays solely at the feet of councils past. “Hawke’s Bay has become a place for Auckland and Wellingtonians to move to because in their view, we had relatively affordable housing. We haven’t released land in a timely fashion,” he says. That, coupled with the issue of housing the international seasonal workers, is forcing up the prices.

Then there is water – how to prevent another Havelock North water crisis. Spending $40 million to fix the urban infrastructure should do the trick, but Harvey says what has not been made clear is that part of this spend will be on reservoirs to hold the water, reservoirs built in the urban environment. “Those will be eight plus meters high and they have to go somewhere.”

Which leads to another area he feels the Council could handle much better – communicating with the public, something he believes he understands with his background in journalism and communication. “It’s something I’ve always been challenged with,” he says.

Harvey says he is standing for Hastings mayor because he feels more relevant to the community. He says raising kids in the District puts him in a prime position to understand the challenges of families and see the opportunities for them. “I understand them better than I could if I was much later in life running or being the mayor.”

Jerf van Beek thinking globally, acting locally 

Jerf van Beek started out his farming life in Twyford on a small five-acre plot. It wasn’t even legally his; as a foreigner he needed to seek permission to own land. He got permission eventually, by then he had already ploughed a lot of work into his land – but he didn’t do it alone.

So, when asked why he is standing for the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC), without hesitation he replies: “Because back then they [his neighbours] gave their time and tools, forklifts, ladders, everything to help me out. Some of them I didn’t really know all that well, and this is one way of actually giving back to this community.”

Today van Beek is Kiwi as (receiving citizenship earlier this year) and has come a long way from that initial five acres. For one, he is Horticulture NZ’s National Seasonal Labour Coordinator.

And he is no stranger to the HBRC. As chair of the Twyford Irrigator Group van Beek wrote himself into the history books when the Council granted the group the first ever global consent in New Zealand – an outcome reached after a total water ban was placed on the area. Today, not only is less water being used by the collective, no farmer is without water. This led van Beek to participate in the ongoing TANK talks where his ideas around water usage were further changed by other members. “I’ve learned a lot from it.” 

Right now, when it comes to balancing the environment and the economy, van Beek believes the Council has struck the right balance. However, he believes more emphasis should be put into water storage to future proof the region – water the whole community can benefit from, not just those who can afford to purchase it. “I’m not a privateer in that sense, I believe water shouldn’t be sold and bought. It should be shared.”

He says the region should also look at investing in the areas of horticulture and viticulture – types of farming which have a high yield and high employment for low land use – thus having a small environmental footprint. “If we have the economic wherewithal and we actually are able to look after our community, we can also look after our environment at the same time,” he says.

Although van Beek likes how the Council has set the economic-environmental balance, there are things it could do better. “The HBRC actually doesn’t come across very engagingly with the community. And I think we can do a lot better.” On the climate change front, he says the region needs to become more resilient. “Now is the time we need to make those changes.” Which leads to compliance issues. “We cannot allow bigger players to do the wrong things.”

Using Pan Pac as an example, van Beek says, “That was wrong, [the pipeline] was broken, and they knew it was broken. And still the breaches were occurring.” While the situation seems to have been resolved, he says the Council must act faster before the damage done can no longer be fixed. “I think they need to put their foot down and say, ‘If you breach, then we will come down as a ton of bricks’. And they have been a bit soft over time.”

As an independent candidate, van Beek believes by having somebody who understands both the growing industry and the environment can only benefit Hawke’s Bay. “I live here, I work here, and I’m very much in tune with the environment.” 

Will Foleyfrom farm to (Council) table 

If you had asked Will Foley three years ago whether he would seek out a seat around the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the answer most likely would have been ‘No’.

The former Federated Farmers rep for the region, has come a long way in a short time – from a staunch supporter of the Ruataniwha dam (he still believes the district needs water storage) to a change in his farming practices. A change he credits to becoming a father. 

“Stepping down from Feds I wasn’t necessarily looking for something new to move on to,” he says. “I had done five years, that was enough.” But after a little time out and with the Central Hawke’s Bay incumbent stepping down, he thought now was the right time to take on a new challenge. “I guess to follow more of what I am interested in, which is the environment and the local economy and hopefully, be a constructive voice around the table for not only Central Hawke’s Bay but for all of Hawke’s Bay.”

Today, when Foley farms, his impact on the environment is at the forefront of his decisions – a change he made consciously after his eldest child Archie was diagnosed with autism. Natural therapies and a change in diet became a part of Archie’s treatment, and Foley realised it was not just autism, there were many ailments where a change in diet simply made people feel better.

“That just generates a whole lot of questions itself as to why you make different food choices. Does that impact on your health and if it does, then it makes you question where the food comes from? How’s it produced? And it comes right back to farm level and the environment. So that kind of explains, I guess, a bit of a shift in my views on environment and food production, as opposed to five years ago, three years ago.”

While the environment is an important value to Foley, its needs must be balanced out with what is good for the local economy. “We want to keep thriving and be prosperous so we can afford to care for our environment, but do it in a way we get a good environment and a good economy. If we can do that then everyone is going to be happy with that progress.”

And with the economy thriving then the central issue faced by his district – water – can be tackled. “[The main issue] continues to be water,” he says.

How can this be achieved? Plan Change 6. Foley admits the Plan isn’t perfect, however he says it is certainly better for the environment. “I think it’s probably setting a high benchmark; if we can make that work it will certainly show the rest of the country the way to do it.”

Foley says at present the Regional Council’s shift of focus towards farming and the environment is a good thing – in particular helping farmers with erosion control, riparian planting and fencing off waterways. “They are doing a great job,” he says. Where is the Council is falling down? “You could probably call me biased, but there is not enough focus on urban management of the environment,” he says, adding that the towns need water security as much as the farms do.

Foley says it is easy to look in from the outside and say the HBRC is not hard enough with its compliance enforcement, but without sitting at the table he doesn’t have all the facts and going to court, especially, is a waste of time and resources. “I think we just need to work together better.”

Hinewai Ormsby mother, woman, Māori, teacher 

When Hinewai Ormsby returned home after years away from Napier and saw just how much damage had been done to her ancestral waterways, she had to do something. So she started planting native trees. And she hasn’t stopped. In fact, re-establishing the city’s biodiversity is a part of this tourism operator’s model for her business – Napier Māori Tours

But for this mother of two, greening the Ahuriri Estuary and the Tutaekurī River was just the first step in a long journey to restore the waterways to how she remembers them from her childhood – for her children and grandchildren. The next step? Running for the Regional Council so she doesn’t have to keep being a band-aid solution – on Council she knows she will be in a place to prevent the problems from occurring in the first place.

Recloaking Te Whanganui a Orotū – of which only the Ahuriri Estuary remains – and the Tutaekurī is personal for Ormsby, “It has been an absolute disaster,” she says, adding that her concern goes beyond biodiversity to the cultural. She wants to be able to collect shellfish there as her ancestors once did, keeping alive the traditional food gathering practices of the past.

“I want to protect that as much as I can and preserve it for the future generations and we just haven’t been doing that well. And it is not just about me, but I want to be a voice that can say these are our cultural values. Yes, things have developed over time, I am not that naïve, I know our society has changed … but it shouldn’t be at the sake of ruining out natural environment.”

Ormsby says not only can she bring this cultural understanding to the Regional Council table, her science and teaching experience – from her time at Napier Girls’ High School – will serve her well in this role. “I can easily understand the research and observation done to understand the state of our waterways. But then I also come from a place of ‘how do we use that’ to improve the environment within our powers as Kaitiaki.”

She says change can happen. “Like what we are doing with planting trees.” While many organisations are getting on board, she believes more needs to be done. “Governments need to take the lead, local agencies, businesses – we all have to come to that place of environmental appreciation and acknowledgement. It is our collective mission to leave this world in a better state.”

Ormsby says she is excited with the direction the HBRC is headed in terms of looking after the environment. However, the work being done is seemingly being undone by the soft approach towards those who breach their consents repeatedly.

“I just don’t think it’s managed very well. I don’t think there’s enough consequences in place to say, ‘Actually, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing and this is how you are negatively affecting it’. So there needs to be some sort of consequence to that.” She says this might involve going to court. On the other side, the Council can step in and perhaps assist consent holders to meet their conditions by helping out with waterway fencing and riparian planting.

Ormsby is standing to get her message out about protecting not just Napier’s waterways, but the entire Bay’s. “I want to get my voice out there, my values and hopefully people connect with me and want to see this change for the better for the environment, and that’s what I really want for Napier.”

Martin Williams legal beagle 

“I want to take this chance and be able to make a contribution,” local lawyer Martin Williams says. “To apply the skills and learnings of 25 years of local government resource management law, in achieving some real benefits for the region.”

The 2019 local body election will be the second time Williams has stepped into the race for one of three Napier seats at the Regional Council table. So, what is he standing for? “Two things,” he says simply, “independence and climate change”.

To Williams, independence is where every issue is approached on its merits. “What is the most appropriate and most effective policy response to the issue in front of you. Not what is it that those I perceive voted me in want me to do. So independence in the sense of not being beholden to any particular stakeholder, sector, or interest group.” Williams says he would be there to represent the region, and so he will be looking for the best outcome for the region on any issue in front of him.

He believes his emphasis – climate change – may be a little more interesting. “I don’t think people realise this, but councils aren’t allowed at the moment to tackle climate change; it’s outside their jurisdiction,” he says. What councils can do, and have been doing he says, is adapting to the effects of climate change such as installing new infrastructure and planting hills to make them more resilient. “That’s certainly within council functions at present.”

However, Williams says if the Council put climate change implications at the forefront of every single policy, Hawke’s Bay could be the first carbon neutral region in the country. “It’s about being aspirational.”

He says HBRC’s new environmental focus is a good thing. Referring to past deforestation: “We didn’t understand what we were doing [then]; it is exciting that something is being done to recloak the land. So I’m all for that.”

On the other hand, Williams says the HBRC’s consent compliance approach is not working. “I don’t think the system is right. I don’t think there’s a systematic approach to it.” He cited the example of Dean Aaron Brown whose sewage was being discharged over a freshwater aquifer. Mr Brown refused to stop using his toilet, so the HBRC took him to court.

Williams compared this to the examples of Pan Pac and Napier City Council, who have had serial breaches of their consents. “I mean it’s a disgrace, as Councillor Barker put it, that you couldn’t host the Iron Maori in the Pandora Pond. There is I guess, a lack of proportionality in that. I think a clearer, more consistent approach to enforcement is definitely something that should be a goal for that Council.”

What it all comes down to, Williams says, is he has lived and breathed local government law for two and half decades. “What the other Councillors have got is practical hands-on experience in dealing with the politics of all of that. What I think I bring is the ability to break down complex issues which comes from my legal training, the ability to sort the wheat from the chaff, the ability to distil what the core issues are and find solutions for them.” 

Nichola Nicholson young and green

Celebrant Nichola Nicholson wants to get the people of Napier excited about their environment again. “One challenge I believe not just Napier but the whole of the Hawke’s Bay is facing at the moment, is that part of our local population seems to be disengaged from what’s happening in our environment,” she says.

To re-engage people, Nicholson is ready to represent her city on the Regional Council. “I’m running because I want to create a conversation around the environment and our region that reflects us all and that represents the interests and needs of Hawke’s Bay as a whole,” says Nichola.

So, what does a young, green, woman bring to the table? One word: diversity. 

“I don’t think the Council currently is an accurate representation of the make-up of Hawke’s Bay,” she says. “I bring a youthful, modern voice and a female perspective to the conversation, [a] fresh approach to the Regional Council – something I believe is important for Hawke’s Bay.”

With an environmental management degree, Nicholson has worked in the consents department at the Taranaki Regional Council, on Enviro Schools in Auckland, and ran Green Concepts from 2010-2012 – an environment and carbon consultancy here in Hawke’s Bay. So, the environment is high on Nicholson’s list of priorities. “Without the foundation of a healthy and resilient environment to build from, our communities are economically unable to thrive and provide for us,” she says. 

Her priorities include a diverse, healthy and resilient environment; community representation in decision making; climate action; and water quality, safety and certainty. “By bringing the skills and experience that I possess in the environmental field [I hope] to help make good decisions and inform the governance process.”

Nicholson says while Central Government has set a target to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2050, the Regional Council has taken this even further. “I’m really heartened by the direction that the HBRC is moving in with regards to climate change,” she says. “Its target of being carbon neutral by 2040 is far more ambitious and forward thinking.”

When asked about issues facing Napier, Ahuriri Estuary was the answer.

However, Nicholson takes a lenient stance when asked whether the HBRC was doing its job effectively when it came to compliance and enforcing consent conditions with serial polluters such as Napier City Council, given its impact on the Estuary. 

She says it is always going to be a combination of the carrot (hopefully most of the time) and the stick (only when absolutely necessary). “Situations like these are always disappointing and often complex, but I think a considered approach needs to be taken when it comes to looking at how much is spent and whether the outcome of legal action is worthwhile,” she says.

Right now, Nicholson says Council needs to move forward in a positive direction, engaging people in our communities to be a part of this journey. She says for Hawke’s Bay to continue to grow well into the future, its environment must be front and centre. “The environment is bigger than politics so it’s going to take all of us to come on board and help get a few things on track so our region can thrive.” 


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