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?!
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.