HB Regional Council staff delivered another review of the Tukituki situation this week.

While providing a nice summary of the staff’s point of view on the current policy framework and water management activities, it fell far short of delivering the “action plan” that had been requested by Councillors Kirton, Gilbertson and Remmerswaal two months ago.

The report described laudable programs the Council has underway to curb pollution run-off and streambank erosion, encourage more efficient irrigation practices, mitigate wind erosion and the like. And it identified some “knowledge gaps” staff would like to research (the extent of these “gaps” outside of staff is debatable).

But as Councillor Kirton complained, it did not offer a set of strategies or alternatives for accelerating or intensifying Tuki clean-up, with their staffing or funding implications, which Councillors subsequently could put before the public for input, debate and potential endorsement.

The original request from Councillors was as plain as an algae mat at Horseshoe Bend. To the extent the staff complied at all, their response was: we need to study the situation more.

Some Councillors wondered aloud as to whether the report could be dressed up to satisfy the public, stressing the good work underway. Well, maybe. You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time … but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

Those amongst the public who are intently following the Tuki issue aren’t fooled. And we won’t let others be. Until Councillor Kirton gets what he asked for two months ago, and again on Wednesday the 16th, we won’t be satisfied. Sorry.

During the HBRC discussion, a very pertinent point was raised by Councillor Scott and reinforced by CEO Newman. Both observed that HBRC was responsible for all the major catchments in Hawke’s Bay, not just the Tuki. The implication being that it was unwise or inappropriate to give a special level of attention to the Tuki, the squeaky wheel, as compared to all or other rivers.

Now many of us would argue that in fact all the catchments do deserve such attention, because there is nothing more fundamental to the economic and environmental sustainability of Hawke’s Bay than protecting its water. That’s your job, folks!

Moreover, Councillors need to realize that their handling of the Tuki has become a bellwether issue. It has become in the eyes of many in the community THE litmus test of the priorities, values, political responsiveness and indeed competence of this Council.

If they get this matter right, high-fives all around … and many of us would be content to retreat to our snugs, having much more confidence in the Council’s overall approach to its stewardship role.

On the other hand, get it wrong … and what’s the public to conclude?!

Tom

P.S. Councillors McGregor and Rose made sincere comments about engaging the public in productive dialogue on the Tuki issue. That would be much easier if Council staff operated with a wee bit more integrity. A pointed question was asked about the status of HBRC-promised peer review of information to be supplied by outside critics (specifically, the HB Environmental Water Group). Staff led Councillors to believe that the Group had been unresponsive. In fact, three staff members in the room, plus the Chairman, had received written communication from the Group on the matter … first sent March 25th and so far ignored. And you wonder why HBRC credibility on water issues is zilch?!

P.P.S. Go here to make your views known to Chairman McIntyre.

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7 Comments

  1. Protecting Hawkes Bay’s water, Tom? “That’s your job, folks”. Who are you pointing the figure at? The Regional Council or the pubic? If it’s the former (which I’m sure it is) you’re absolutely wrong! The Council is responsible for monitoring, policing, and leadership, and must be held accountable for such. That’s democracy. But when it comes to actually improving our water, as with all dimensions of the environment, and with the sacrifices, modifications of practice, innovation and hard work involved, it’s the people. Pointing the finger outwards is easy, inwards not so easy.

    If Bay Buzz wants to make a difference to the state of the Tukituki maybe you should uphold good practice and encourage tree-planting initiatives and so on.

    Cheers

    Ewan McGregor

  2. Friday 18 April

    Gidday BB,

    Interesting insight on how a sleepy self satisfied local body operates.

    Interesting also because it provides a no hold barred critique of how the well paid well protected ‘expert’ staff in these organisations control their employer.

    • In Napier we have even tighter control exercised by staff over the elected Council due to several factors:

    • The CEO had a long/difficult experience at the hands of a previous hostile mayor and has learned to overcome intelligent leadership.

    • Working/controlling Barbara and this ‘nice’ crew of Councillors must appear to be a big joke in comparison

    • In Napier everything possible is wrapped and protected from the public gaze under such masks as ‘commercially sensitive’

    • The culture at NCC is that ‘Napier is perfect, in every way we are the best in NZ’ all that remains for the CEO and staff to do is to get Councillors to support that naval gazing nonsense.

    • Support for this conceit (it is too naive to be arrogant) takes the form of not rocking the boat, and not contesting difficult questions, not going public, ie negative administration.

    Napier City could benefit from any independent review such as your take on the HBRC.

    Best regards/Brian Duggan

  3. I read with interest , HBRC Councillor Ewan McGregors comments on the state of the TukiTuki River, "the Council is responsible for monitoring, policing and leadership , must be held accountable for such." So, the real question, who is responsible for fixing the state of the river and all the damage that has been done over the past years and who over these years has been monitoring it? Prehaps what we are lacking as a region is the leadership , who recognises the problem and then sets in train a plan to solve it. Rather than duck shove the issue , prehaps the best way would be to address it with some real resolve.

  4. Could I use this opportunity to remind all readers that if they want to express their concern about anything to the HDC, the HBRC or the NCC, then now's the time as they have all invited your submissions on their ANNUAL PLAN.

    Whether you're an individual or a group, this is the time to tell the council what you are feeling about any issue they are involved in or you think they should be involved in and to ask them specific questions which they must answer.

    You can find these Plans on councils' websites, but even if your issue is not in the Plan, you can still tell councillors what you think on city issues you care about. The deadlines vary but are mid or late May.

    And Brian: I take on board your comments but stand proud as the only NCC member (in fact the only Councillor across the region? – correct me if I'm wrong) who voted against the rate-payer funded Judicial review of the sacking of the DHB. We had no mandate to spend public money on something that was not part of our core business and that we are very unlikely to "win". I hope people who agree with me will tell their councils this.

    So, there are independent voices in the councils, but change takes time – and numbers – to take effect..

    In the meantime, you can actively support change by making submissions to the Annual Plan. It's an opportunity not to be missed.

  5. Congratulations Maxine it was a brave stand for you to take and as we all now know, yours was the correct assesment in a confused emotionally charged moment!

    When I wrote the above I thought of you as a free thinker amongst the 'following flock" and wondered if I was being too picky. Clearly you have a great future ahead of you – if you can tough it out.

  6. Just to throw a spanner in the works…and probably my comment might not be regarded as important…however, I haven't once come across any views/opinions/comments by a Maori or non Maori with regard to the local hapu who whakapapa to the Tukituki river.

  7. Louise – could you provide a translation for – "regard to the local hapu who whakapapa to the Tukituki river" – might just as well be Latin for all the sense it makes to me. NB i have no intention of learning Maori, i will leave that to the 'Feel Good Bunch'.

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