The Hastings Council has just conducted a commendable series of “pre-consults” as it prepares its next ten year plan (LTCCP) for the district. Voices from throughout the community, representing the entire spectrum of organised interests in the district, have had the opportunity to review a meaty publication, Planning for a Sustainable Future, that raises all sorts of potential aspirations, challenges and issues, and to discuss those matters in moderated sessions with the CEO and senior staff.
In addition, every ratepayer has received (in their latest rates invoices) an abbreviated version of the publication with a survey, which, although much condensed, does a decent job of surfacing basic issues and inviting easy response. Apparently about 400 ratepayers have returned the survey … far more people than are likely to make formal submissions when the LTCCP is released for official consultation next March.
Should we have a “glass half empty” or a “glass half full” attitude about that level of response? Personally, I’d be happier if many more ratepayers responded. But, certainly the Council cannot be faulted for its process. You can lead a horse to water, but …!
Here’s the vision statement the Council has trial ballooned for the Hastings community:
Great living, for a sustainable future … We will progress as town and country together and sustain our natural resources, retain our valued lifestyle and heritage, and build a strong economy and community founded on innovation and partnering for success. Hastings District will be the premier land-based productive region of the South Pacific.
As with most vision statements, one is tempted to dismiss the words as easy and fashionable rhetoric … it’s concrete policies and actions that count. And at the end of the day, that’s true.
Yet I note that at least the Hastings wordsmiths are comfortable with the concept and word “sustainability” … and words do matter. At the Regional Council, supposedly our premier environmental protection agency, that S-word is banned from their vision statement. Every time Liz Remmerwaal even mentions the S-word in a Council meeting, she is chastised by Councillors Scott and von Dadelszen. To them, no need for the S-word, since “sustainability” is as all-encompassing as the air. Unfortunately, as easily forgotten too!
Sure, just sticking the S-word in some brochures does not mean the Hastings Council (Councillors or staff) have metamorphised overnight into a cult of stark raving environmentalists. They’re still doing some really nutty things that belie the rhetoric. But the rhetoric will have the effect of lifting certain expectations, and legitimising certain principles, and over time it will become increasingly difficult to dodge or thwart the practical implications.
For example, the Hastings Council’s new planning documents emphasize over and over two particular issues — protecting the district’s productive soils, and conservation-oriented water management.
Couple just these two issues with the vision statement’s aspiration to be the “premier land-based productive region of the South Pacific” and you can’t escape the choices ahead.
If merely to protect and nurture our land-based economy, the Hastings Council should be absolutely zealous about protecting (even enhancing) our finite soil and water resources. Not some of the time. Not just “within our jurisdiction.” Not casually. Not only when it’s convenient. Rather, fanatically!
The Hastings Council should champion the protection of our soil and water as single-mindedly as Saudi Arabia protects its oil!
The final ten year plan — and the policies and actions flowing from it — should reflect this singular priority. And whenever there’s doubt, Council should err on the side of protection. If this is the thrust of the ten-year plan when finally adopted, Hastings District will be well-served.
But that plan will still need a champion. Not a “balancer” or equivocator. [What do you “balance,” after all, against the imperative to protect the natural assets that undergird the district’s economy?] Not what Americans call a “sunshine patriot.” A champion of protection, full stop.
Is that a role Mayor Yule will embrace by the time the plan is adopted, half-way through his term? He’s got the words down; but will his actions match? Not clear today … stay tuned!