Next Wednesday the Regional Council will consider Terms of Reference for the study our five councils have agreed to conduct regarding the region’s economic, social and governance performance.

Given that the Regional Council wrote the resolution upon which these Terms are grounded, approval should be forthcoming.

These Terms were already approved by the Hastings Council before Christmas, and must also be endorsed by the Napier, CHB and Wairoa Councils.

Importantly, the Terms establish that the study will be led by a “highly qualified, respected, independent person” who will assemble a suitably qualified team to assist. Such independence is critical to the credibility of the review process.

Also, the study leader is to put forward a “recommended methodology for the inclusion of community views on aspects of the study.” This is encouraging, but this language is hardly an ironclad commitment for broad community consultation. Hopefully, as councils consider the Terms, their discussions will underscore their commitment to public involvement.

Substantively, the key elements of the Terms are as follows:

“While the study leader will have some scope to shape content, the study should comprise two main parts:

1. Situation analysis and problem identification

This part should include (but not be limited to):

  • an analysis of historic and current economic and social performance.
  • an analysis of demographic, economic and social performance trends and what they might deliver Hawke’s Bay and the current policy and intervention settings.
  • an analysis of current policies, priorities, interventions, legislative requirements and structural settings in or affecting Hawke’s Bay and any apparent gaps, inconsistencies or policy clashes.
  • an identification and analysis of significant inhibitors to prosperity that affect Hawke’s Bay. Significant inhibitors include barriers to success or opportunities not being fully capitalised on at the present time (for example our current failure as a community to unleash to full potential of a significant proportion of our young people).

2. Solutions – How should prosperity inhibitors be addressed to ensure a prosperous future?

This part should include an identification of changes, initiatives and priorities that should be pursued in order to improve the future social and economic performance of the Hawke’s Bay region. The scope of the study is not proscribed from looking at particular sectors or solutions. The study should include relevant comparative analysis of the efforts of other provincial regions (nationally, and internationally where relevant) to be competitive in the modern and future global economic environments.

It is expected that recommendations will be made that will affect and need to be considered by government, the business and not-for-profit/community sectors, iwi and hapu groups and local government. Recommended solutions should be accompanied by an analysis of the likely benefits, with evidence to support them, and an assessment of the costs and negative impacts of change.”

As we read these Terms, we understand the words “structural settings” (italicized above) to reference that the study will indeed examine the region’s present governance arrangements, and the degree to which those impede or advance the Bay’s performance and deliver optimum value. That was certainly the intention when the Regional Council passed its original motion (see BayBuzz report on the resolution passed). Again, this commitment should be re-emphasized when Regional Councillors discuss the matter next Wednesday.

Assuming the Regional Council stands by its word next week, that leaves three more councils to act. Their actions aren’t likely to be completed before the end of February.

My, how time flies in Hawke’s Bay local government.

Tom Belford

P.S. The complete Terms of Reference can be read in this HBRC Agenda document for next Wednesday’s meeting.

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