From Good to Great!

I didn’t move to Hawke’s Bay with my family to launch and edit a magazine. Nor to stand for local office. I came expecting I could maintain a ‘virtual’ consulting career (while dialing back from 78rpm to maybe 45rpm), step up my piano skills and learn to catch fish.

What went ‘wrong’?!

Well, on arriving, we learnt that we couldn’t get broadband at our rural home. One thing led to another … BayBuzz was born, and here I am, standing for the Regional Council.

If you’ve read BayBuzz for any length of time, the concerns that lead me to stand are probably clear. What might not be so obvious is that ‘my’ concerns come from listening to you.

Tom Belford

As editor of BayBuzz magazine, people approach me daily about their hopes and worries for Hawke’s Bay.

What I hear is concern that Hawke’s Bay is at a fork in the road. The choices we make in the next few years about our water, about the risks we take (or don’t) regarding dams and oil/gas development, protecting ratepayer wallets and assets, maintaining infrastructure, lifting social wellbeing and growing sustainably, will define Hawke’s Bay for decades.

Many express hopes about the future, sharing their ideas for improving our region on all fronts – environmental, social and economic – to ensure Hawke’s Bay is a truly special place where our children and grandchildren will return and thrive.

But they worry that the Regional Council won’t get it right.

You and I know Hawke’s Bay holds huge potential. We can go from good to great! And our Regional Council has a leadership role to play in that.

However, our opportunities are jeopardised by outmoded thinking, lack of imagination, and limited perspective on the part of our present councillors. Shortcomings that are compounded when staffs actually drive the agenda, control the options and manipulate the information, leading elected councillors by the nose.

And, while personally I’ve spent hundreds of hours – more than most people – immersed in the workings of this council, I’m not the only one to hold this view. This council has squandered its ‘public trust account’ turning its core constituencies – growers, cautious ratepayers, environmentalists, and Māori – into opponents.
Reflecting on all this, here’s where I stand…

I’m committed to rebuilding trust and confidence in the Regional Council. That requires a new team of councillors.
If elected, together we will ‘re-boot’ this council.

I believe councillors should be servants of you the people, not the council staff. I’m skeptical of staff-driven agendas … and their big projects that offer nothing but blue sky promises with under-stated costs and no risks … and
their devotion to the same old encrusted and rigid ways of doing things.

I believe it pays to listen first. We have deep talent and worldly-wise experience in our community that could inform council decision-making for the better, if given authentic opportunities to contribute. To be blunt, there are plenty of smart, experienced hands in Hawke’s Bay who know a helluva lot about what makes the world (including the Bay) tick; all wisdom doesn’t reside in council bureaucracies.

I know that a better future for you in Hawke’s Bay requires building our region’s economy around a sustainable environment, not pitting one against the other in a false trade-off. In its ‘economy versus environment’ thinking, this petrified Regional Council is twenty years behind the times.

We’ll improve our social and economic condition only if we protect and nurture our natural environment … valuable for its own sake, but also for the primary production it supports, and for its contribution to a lifestyle and reputation that attracts visitors, businesses, foreign markets and investors.

I believe that a better future for Hawke’s Bay requires diversifying our region’s economy and making it more resilient, building on strengths we already demonstrate with spectacular companies operating outside the primary sector, even as we strive to generate more value from our land and water.

Let’s go there. With the support of Hastings Constituency voters, I hope to join a refreshed Regional Council team – with more experience, energy, imagination, and open minds – to lift Hawke’s Bay from good to great.

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