Local elected officials looking for relief in the Government’s budget can’t be happy at this point.

Our mayors issued the requisite joint media release, the tone of which was somewhere between despondent and fingers-crossed. All they did was restate HB’s overwhelming needs, as if the Government hasn’t heard those many times already.

They found nothing to hang on to at this juncture. Nor could HB’s two National MPs. Their media release talked ‘macro’ only … the tax cut will make everything better and, yes, we’ll spend on law & order and infrastructure. They didn’t identify a single win for HB. Maybe they’ll have that in coming days.

Our region has an un-fundable $700 million gap just to fix cyclone damaged roads. The Government budget allocates $330 million over two years for recovery work on “local roads”, with $609m over three years for State Highway repairs … to be shared by all storm-affected councils across the North Island. The latest word is that HB will get a paltry $91m of this, presumably requiring local matching funds.

Flood resilience? Shane Jones spoke of $200 million, and $101 million of that is already committed to other regions. The HB Regional Council is still two months away from presenting its flood protection strategy and cost, and that number, like road repair, will be unfundable from local rates.

A Regional Infrastructure Fund (RIF) will commit $1.2 billion over three years. 

Fundable projects can be ‘Resilience’ Infrastructure: projects that enhance a region’s ability to withstand and adapt to stresses and shock, such as flood protection works and energy security; or ‘Enabling’ Infrastructure: projects that support broader economic outcomes, such as increasing productivity in regional economies.

Assessment criteria will be announced in June, with applications opening in July. Most projects are expected to be in the $1m to $50m range, with “flexibility” to consider larger projects.

Capturing any of this will require strenuous lobbying. Presumably our elected officials, led by the HB Regional Recovery Agency, will be looking to sink their teeth in. Version 2 of the RRA’s recovery plan is nearing completion.

Outside the ‘big money’, various smaller bits and pieces might come HB’s way if we capture a share — $28 million to support households still displaced by flooding, $16 million to support councils’ capacity to do their recovery and mediation planning. And $10 million is earmarked for HB for remaining sediment and debris clean-up.

A new Waste Levy (a set of uniform charges on waste going into landfills) is being imposed that will raise $1.2 billion nationally — $598 million will be allocated to local governments. Presumably HB will get in line for some of that, which can be used to support local waste minimisation projects.

Finally, yet to be deciphered are any amounts allocated to HB needs in the big health and education budgets. For example, with $103 million additional to support health infrastructure, where will that go? $31 million is dedicated to increased security at hospital emergency departments, but HB is not on the list of facilities receiving that support. All the support announced for mental health counselling is strangely earmarked for one organisation, Gumboot Friday.

BayBuzz will keep combing through the budget detail to keep you informed. Meantime, enjoy your tax relief, if you notice it.

HBRC Chair Hinewai Ormsby best sums up the watchful waiting  posture of our region’s leaders:

“A key piece of the puzzle which feeds into every aspect of our recovery in Hawke’s Bay revolves around resilience – whether it be in the environment, economy, whānau and community well-being, the primary sector or the region’s infrastructure.“

We are really keen to understand how this Budget will support the regions like ours to become more resilient to future severe weather events like what we experienced during Cyclone Gabrielle.”

Amen!

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