NOT business as usual

In February, A Better Hawke’s Bay formally submitted its reorganisation proposal – recommending one council for all of Hawke’s Bay – to the Local Government Commission.

This action set in motion a process that within the year will officially present to Hawke’s Bay voters a fundamental choice about our future governance — status quo and muddling along versus unified leadership behind a more compelling vision for the Bay.

At this point, it’s hard to predict exactly when that choice will land in our laps. It might be prudent to assume that our local body elections in October will be ‘business as usual’, in that candidates will be standing once again for the seats that now exist in our region’s five councils. And there are plenty of them – 49 councillors and four mayors.

Those unsatisfied with ‘business as usual’ are already discussing new candidates who will stand — possibly as a ticket — as advocates of unification.

Tom Belford

Not too far after the October election, a referendum on the reorganisation plan will occur, given that both sides on the issue are committed to making that happen and giving all voters a voice.

But choices about governance are not the only political dynamic gathering force.

At the same time, there’s increasing disenchantment with the region’s handling of environmental issues — most notably (but not limited to) the unaddressed environmental impacts of a $600 million dam in Central Hawke’s Bay, fracking, and more broadly, the impacts of major oil and gas development in the region.

Surrounding those resource issues is the perhaps even mightier emotional concern over precisely who is going to wind up owning and exploiting the Bay’s – the public’s – precious natural assets and the production from those assets.

And concern over where the unbridled zeal for growth at all costs is taking Hawke’s Bay. What will the Bay look and feel like in the future?

Attach the word ‘Jobs’ to any proposal in Hawke’s Bay, however zany and unproven, and the Chamber of Commerce crowd and the politicians clamber aboard … unthinkingly, uncritically.

Sure, we need more and well-paying jobs in Hawke’s Bay. In their opinion articles in this edition, voices like Rod Oram, Russel Norman, and David Trubridge assert that there are smarter ways to attain prosperity – for all sectors – ways that don’t ruin the environment that so many in the Bay treasure and enjoy (and our economic engine, after all) … and that don’t reduce us to indentured servants hawking cheap commodities.

Now there’s an issue – a choice – for 2013!

And so, just as with amalgamation, advocates of a clean, safe and economy-sustaining environmental future for Hawke’s Bay are also surfacing candidates.

Bring these two forces together, both wanting — above all else — change of direction, and one might suggest 2013 does not look like an especially propitious election year for incumbents … especially those on the Regional Council.
For Hawke’s Bay incumbents, the clock is already ticking. A ‘business as usual’ local election in 2013 will be anything but business as usual.

P.S. By now you’ve noticed, no more free copies of BayBuzz magazine. Thank you for subscribing, or purchasing a copy at one of our supporting stores. We will occasionally deliver sample copies as part of our subscription drive.

But make no mistake … no more freebies!

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