Politics 2013 is already getting quite complicated for the casual bystander. A stunning retirement in Napier. Continuing meltdown at the Regional Council. Boundary realignment in Hastings. Wairoa and CHB – everyone, for that matter – dancing around the amalgamation issue.

A big chunk of the population seems to think that reorganisation doesn’t matter, especially if the same folks get re-elected.

Another big chunk says it doesn’t matter who gets elected, ‘they’re all the same’ anyway (which generally seems to translate to: oblivious to ratepayers or uninspiring). So many of that group, about 56% of all HB electors in 2010, don’t bother voting at all).

Here’s one view of the Hawke’s Bay political landscape, circa May.


Napier has been in a deep political stupor, given the dominance of Mayor Arnott, apart from the occasional anti-amalgamation burp from Councillor Dalton and the ‘will he or won’t he’ mayoral flirtations of Stuart Nash. With Nash re-declaring his parliamentary ambitions, we had all settled down for a long winter’s nap.

But then the Mayor dropped ice cubes down everyone’s back by announcing her electoral retirement. And now candidates are proliferating.

As I write, Councillor and previous mayoral candidate Michelle Pyke (4,476 votes to Arnott’s 13,515 in 2010) and Councillor John Cocking have indicated an intention to stand for mayor. Lawyer and Business Hawke’s Bay chairman Stuart McLauchlan is considering the run. And Councillor Dalton can’t be far behind, no doubt claiming ‘public clamour’ to do so.

Many Napier business leaders stoutly criticise the Arnott/CEO Taylor regime behind closed doors, and both Cocking and Dalton would be perceived as representing ‘business as usual’. If McLauchlan enters the race, he would be the most likely favourite of the business community.

While there are many unhappy with ‘business as usual’ in Napier local government, that discontent does not necessarily translate into support for reorganisation. McLauchlan, as a founding member of pro-amalgamation A Better Hawke’s Bay, would need to overcome amalgamation resistance.

In a scenario where there might be several candidates vying for 20,000 or so votes – Cocking and Dalton (business as usual), Pyke (protest vote), and McLauchlan (‘fresh face’ but pro-amalgamation) voice – who might win?

I haven’t a clue, but the winner – lucky indeed to win 40% of the votes – may have little or no clear mandate.


The big non-surprise in Hastings is that Lawrence Yule is standing for a fifth term as mayor. Talk about playing it safe! In my book, a missed opportunity to shed his Hastings focus and baggage, and instead of assigning CBD parking spaces, articulate the regional vision he insists must inspire amalgamation.

So the only issue in Hastings is who gets to lose to Yule. For whatever reason, Councillor Simon Nixon is determined to prove he can lose three times, instead of graciously passing the baton to Councillor Wayne Bradshaw, who might prove equally un-electable, but as an independent voice and community do-er deserves a clean shot at the post.

Collapsing of the presently separate Havelock North and Hastings wards into one ward throws seven incumbents (Councillor Margaret Twigg not standing) into one pot, vying for eight seats in an area that holds 58% of the entire district’s population. If they compete for council seats, this will present a challenge to Councillors Bradshaw and Henderson, who previously ran in a much smaller Havelock North ward.

The unknown variable in Hastings in 2013 will be the fluoride ballot measure. There’s no doubt that a fervent constituency wants fluoride removed from Hastings drinking water, and they will turn out their vote. For many of those voters, candidates’ positions on the referendum will be defining – i.e., they will vote against pro-fluoride candidates. How many of these ‘anti-fluoridistas’ are there?!

I suspect some interested party will commission a professional survey on this issue before election time!

Regional Council

During the last campaign, Regional Councillors Kevin Rose and Christine Scott declared their 2010 races to be their final ones. Watch for memory loss in both cases. Councillor Liz Remmerswaal has indicated she will not stand again. Councillor Tim Gilbertson has been coy about his re-election plans, sometimes suggesting that two new children might be enough to keep him busy.

But most likely, we’re looking at 8 out of 9 regional councillors seeking re-election.

Those incumbent councillors will probably face the toughest challenges of any races in Hawke’s Bay in 2013. Here is a group embarrassed most recently by:

  • A leaky roof on its headquarters building, costing $2 million to repair;
  • Dead dogs after exposure to the Tukituki, with hazardous health (human & animal) warnings posted along the river;
  • Still polluting poo ponds in Waipukurau and Waipawa;
  • A deteriorating relationship with the region’s primary iwi, Ngãti Kahungunu;
  • Directors of its holding company seeking major increases in fees, on the back of ‘recommendations’ not reviewed by HBRC’s chief financial officer (despite his signature appearing on the recommendation memo);
  • A webcasting system that fails to record the meeting where the directors’ fees debacle occurs.

All on top of public alarm at the council’s speed, lack of informed consultation and – given the above circumstances – perhaps competence to manage its $600 million dam scheme.

A number of challengers are tipped to stand against the HBRC incumbents – myself, Pauline Elliott of Transparent Hawke’s Bay, Chris Perley (former HBRC employee specializing in land use), and Paul Bailey of the Green Party. All of these are outspoken critics of the HBRC’s handling of the dam process. No doubt other contenders will put themselves forward.

Amalgamation adds a twist

Cross-cutting all the more council-specific issues and personality politics in the region is the issue of amalgamation.

Polling conducted by A Better Hawke’s Bay (ABHB) indicates that voter majorities in Napier, Hastings, CHB and Wairoa favor some form of reorganisation. But until the Local Government Commission (LGC) puts forward a ‘preferred alternative’ (to the status quo) around the end of June, it is difficult to gauge where the public might stand, or how their views might shift as candidates and lobby groups like ABHB and DAD (Dedicated and Democratic HB) make their cases.

Importantly, although the ABHB ‘One Council’ proposal has been accepted by the LGC as a starting point, it is only the starting point. Other alternatives will be considered by the Commission, including the ‘Super-sized’ Regional Council, extending from Wairoa to the Wairarapa, that sprang un-researched from the head of HBRC Chairman Fenton Wilson, if it survives final HBRC consideration.

The Hastings Council has offered an alternative based on the ABHB plan, but with two more councillors representing rural areas around Hastings and Napier. Its plan (18 councillors in total), endorsing ABHB’s recommendation of two seats for CHB and Wairoa, is an attempt to strengthen the case for rural representation, given the importance of the region’s farming economy.

Anti-amalgamation forces centered in Napier have yet to propose an alternative. With a majority of CHB councillors favouring some form of reorganisation, Mayor Peter Butler says he will personally propose that the LGC retain the status quo. The Wairoa Council may propose simply that they be left out of any amalgamation. These and any other parties must have acted by 3 May.

By July, the LGC will eventually proffer whatever plan it deems best for initial public consultation in Hawke’s Bay. Then the gloves will come off! The public will debate the LGC’s preferred alternative, then by early September the LGC will notify its official recommendation, and the debate will carry on through the election campaign window.

Surely, each candidate in Hawke’s Bay in 2013 will be expected to have a view on amalgamation – the LGC’s preferred alternative versus the status quo. Which raises the prospect of candidate tickets.

Candidate tickets

At least two groups have been discussing formation of candidate tickets for 2013 – A Better Hawke’s Bay, focused on amalgamation; and Fresh Thinking, defined by a statement of core values.

If an ABHB ticket emerges, its candidates will be united by their pro-amalgamation stance, whatever else they individually espouse. Presumably, such candidates would be recruited to some extent for each council.

Fresh Thinking has embraced more of a ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’ approach. This group has developed a one-page manifesto, framed around values like sustainability, resilience, inter-generational responsibility, openness, diversity, equity, and integrity. Candidates who embrace these values would be suitable ‘Fresh Thinking’ candidates.
The difficulty with this approach is that it may be virtually impossible to find a candidate – including every incumbent officeholder in Hawke’s Bay – who does not profess to share these values. The one thing a ticket must do is clearly differentiate its candidates from ‘the others’.

That said, Fresh Thinking will prove valuable if it can marshal and target resources – people power for door-knocking, signage, social media buzz, money – in support of at least some candidates.

Apart from these two groups, those candidates especially focused on environmental issues will most likely pool resources and outreach efforts as well. They will advance a common message that more specifically points out the failures and misdirection of the Regional Council and its incumbents.

More clarity around who is standing will soon emerge. In the next edition of BayBuzz, we’ll tackle the questions: Is change seriously in the air? Can it be delivered by the same faces getting re-elected again?

For more information:

A Better Hawke’s Bay

Fresh Thinking HB:


Join the Conversation


  1. Thanks for the analysis Tom. I wish to clarify that whilst I was the Green Party candidate in the 2011 general election I won’t be standing on behalf of the Green Party for Regional Council.

    I’m disappointed that amalgamation is being seen as a local body election issue because at the end of the day this decision rests with the LGC and hopefully the polling of voters (looking forward to working with you JJH on getting enough signatures on a petition). Whether or not a candidate supports the LGC proposal should have no bearing on how you vote.

    As you have pointed out there are far more important and far reaching issues to contend with in regards to the Regional Council.

  2. Interesting that you’ve labelled me as the ‘protest vote’? Protesting against what in particular? The fact is the core of my supporters are people who feel unrepresented (ie, don’t see anyone on council that reflects their lives), unheard (ie, ignored when they do speak up) and unsupported (ie, when they do try to engage). The fact is I’ve not had the most comfortable background (ie, raised 3 sons as a sole parent & did my time on the DPB), worked extremely hard for many years (voluntarily) in the Napier and Hastings communities and have continued to do so since being elected in 2010. It’s also a fact that I relinquished my independent income in 2011 because the needs-driven, client-centred work I was doing (transitioning sole parents into the workforce) demands one’s full attention and time – as does being a City Councillor. It’s not all cups-of-tea and pleasantries – it’s also about responding to citizens’ needs/wishes, representing citizens’ views (even if they’re not the same as my own) and also accepting that you are but one of 13 when it comes to decisions – it’s called democracy. That’s also why I am one of the founding members of DaD HB – to preserve our LOCAL democracy. If I represent the ‘protest vote’ then so be it, for there are far more people in our region who feel disenfranchised by local/national politics and they see my presence at the NCC as offering them some hope that a ‘real person’ (ie, someone like them) can make a difference – not perform miracles by themselves but at least contribute to the discussions and decisionmaking.

  3. Michelle,
    For the reasons you mention — “The fact is the core of my supporters are people who feel unrepresented (ie, don’t see anyone on council that reflects their lives), unheard (ie, ignored when they do speak up) and unsupported (ie, when they do try to engage)” — I say to anyone attracting the ‘protest’ vote … good on ya.
    In Napier, it’s the status quo that needs a shake-up.

  4. Paul,
    Does that mean you’ll be standing for Regional Council, but ‘storing’ your Green Party costume in the closet for that election?

  5. Thanks Tom. I’ve heard from colleague Bill Dalton that Wairoa was a resounding “NO” to the amalgamation proposition last night – not really a surprise but I acknowledge the trepidation you and your amalgamationist team must’ve felt going into that debate :-) I’m in Wairoa quite regularly and the ‘pulse’ is strong there – always has been, always will be.

  6. Michelle never fails to amuse. Like a hungry trout leaping for a fat blowfly you can always rely on her to come up with a self serving litany to demonstrate her ability to represent the those she claims are unrepresented.
    Well I fall into that category and seek her assistance and answers to the following questions which are a concern to all ratepayers.
    As no one seems to represent those seeking a straight forward answer I am confident Michelle can- with aplomb.
    1) Now that HB Today has confirmed the cost of $2 million for the commercial gamble with the 2 second hand buses that Michelle voted for, could she kindly advise the cost of the buses landed in NZ and the additional cost of bringing them up to standard so they could trundle along our streets in direct competition to the HBRC buses and those run by private enterprise. More importantly can she advise the annual cost of the service contract and the projected income in the first year ( one of course assumes that such an investment was subject to intense scrutiny by Mr Dalton and his committee– but one can never know unless advised).
    2) As no one represents nor listens to the concerns of Westshore residents can Michelle please advise the latest cost for the offshore structure which was originally planned to be built 6 years ago at a cost of $3 million. Has this cost nearly doubled through the continual bickering between the NCC and the HBRC and when is it now due to commence ? Additionally, can she please advise the quantum of legal and consultants fees incurred in this unseemly inter council dispute. Finally, could she please advise the long suffering ratepayers of the additional costs incurred in beach re nourishment over this period for that part of the beach affected.
    3) Running a $60 million buisness , which is the NCC , is both challenging and requires total transparency. With the well publicized retirement of Mayor Arnott, ( the public face of the NCC) could Michelle enlighten us as to whether the village gossip is correct when it says that the CEO is also retiring and with 4 months leave due may be leaving close to the time that the Mayor departs.
    Sitting back in Key West, viewing another wonderful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico I look forward to Michelle’s advice to the 3 very important topics that I as an unrepresented member would wish to be answered.
    Providing a timely and forthright response is forthcoming to all 3 questions then I see no reason why I should not support Michelle in the upcoming elections.

  7. John Harrison, my former neighbor … “good day” re Westshore representation. To encourage voter support at the last elections Cr (for years) Mark Herbert was adamant he was worth voting for as the “end all, and be all councillor for Westshore. If my memory serves me well, Mark was against a monthly meeting (as brilliant WARD Councillor Maxine Boag) to meet with his or her constituency.

  8. Pat, you have forgotten that a councillor is elected to represent ALL of the electorate– not just a ward.
    If Maxine is so ” brilliant”, then perhaps she can assist her friend Michelle in answering these vexatious questions. Questions, that her collegues run a mile from.
    With a very large Mojito in hand I have seen another wonderful sunset over the Gulf.
    I trust full and frank,answers will be forthcoming prior to another one tomorrow.
    Perhaps Pat you can give them a ” hurry up” in my absence!

  9. Being the well trained, compliant councillor, that Michelle’s become. I’ll wager JJ will see endless sunsets……from all over the world,well before he gets any sort of straight answers from Cr Pyke or Maxine. And just to think the battle we had, to get rid of the LATE’s, for the very reason they were in direct “unfair” competition with the private sector (being forever subsidised with huge amounts of iratepayers money!

  10. Here we go again: Napier’s never-ending battle between a rock and a hard place. With local body elections coming up and so little talent showing itself, Is it any wonder voter numbers have been falling off the scale for the last decade?

    Michelle what have you done to successfully represent these struggling, unrepresented masses in you sole term as councillor? Because there hasn’t been much attention (media or otherwise) to anything you may have achieved. State houses for the poor have been demolished, millions of public dollars spent on two unroadworthy lemons for rich tourists, which Napier ratepayers will continue to carry the financial burden of for years and disaffected, talented youth still leave the region in their droves. But all we hear from NCC is the word of Mayor Barbara and CEO Neil, that everything’s fine and you’re all one big, happy family.
    Forgive us if we don’t believe them.
    Did the Lotto winner you wrote a letter to, offering support and advice, in the Napier Mail some time ago ever get back to you? I particularly liked the part you wrote about “May I respectfully suggest that this couple leave their current paid employment so two unemployed people may enjoy the financial benefit of working.”
    And how about Napier’s youth? Weren’t you involved in trying to get “The State of It” (or something similar) resurrected – how did that work out? I see, as of June, we’ll be able buy clothes, TV’s and dishwashers from the site it used to occupy. Unless Farmers significantly boosts their student workforce, I don’t see it becoming a “youth venue” any time soon.

    And John, yes we know you’re rich and influential. You don’t have to go on about your Bentley, international jet-setting and very large mojitos, while the biggest proportion of Napier people who, thanks to Hawke’s Bay’s recent horrific economic performance, would struggle to afford a mojito, never mind a Bentley. That’s not “Tall Poppy Syndrome”, by the way, that’s empathising with your constituents. Can we expect to see your name on the ballot papers in October?

    I don’t agree with A Better Hawke’s Bay’s amalgamation proposal – too much power is already in the hands of those with too little gumption, but if the status quo continues for much longer, Hawke’s Bay will fail completely.

    I may have been Bay Buzz’s “Man About Town” many years ago, but now I feel particularly like “Piggy in the Middle”

  11. Your email reminds me of “The Life of Riley John, with your Mojito in hand watching the sunset over the gulf.
    A reward for a good business man , that all taxpayers deserve to keep our rates affordable
    Crs Maxine Boag and Michelle Pyke are able to speak for themselves, but are very valuable Crs who provide our city council “with a caring skin” for the many not born (like ourselves ) with parents who love their children, but parennting, and life skills required
    Many whanau in Napier are still effected by the pangs of urbanization.
    Reticently I attended a conference at Port of SpainTrinidad. Their Tourist trade was suffering from crime and dislocation, bad press with few solutions The international conference, with police and prison endorsement, agreed on “WARDS ” as one of many solutions
    Greed, and the drug trade had taken over from caring and understanding ones own neighbor
    Take a bow, Maxine and Michelle, as far as our city of Napier is concerned you both are excellent “connectors”

  12. Pat, if these two women are such great ” connectors ” then surely they can connect with my queries and reply.
    If it is too difficult then answer the 3 questions one at a time over the coming week.
    I hope at least one will be answered before sunset tonight !
    But, knowing the councillors involved I will not be holding my breath, only another huge Mojito.

  13. Yet another glorious sunset and no reply from the two great ” connectors”.
    Dave Bosley is right — there may be hundreds more before any response to any of the 3 simple questions proffered.
    So much for representing the unrepresented !

  14. Perhaps another huge Mojito (and a chaser) could unbalance your understanding that not just the wealthy hold all the solutions towards community well being,
    Baybuzz”former Man about town” Andrew Frame is no fool, as far a you are concerned J.H. and good to read on Baybuzz Andrew reminded Michelle to :stick to the values she was elected to represent. You certainly stick to your values John

  15. Councillor Pyke and Boag got onto NCC as a result of the amount of work they have done for various sectors of the community. Not due to the size of their billboards or Biceps.
    Anyone with half an eye on local media, couldn’t help but be aware of the amount of work, councillor Boag has been involved with lately, addressing the ludicrous rental housing situation in Maraenui, fighting the sale of synthetic cannabis in the dairies, fighting for retention of the ward system and producing a very good community newspaper. I seem to recall that one or both of the said councillors have also recently traveled with the Mayor to promote our city in China.
    It comes as no surprise to me that there has been no response from them to the cheap shots from the bleachers. JJH, why don’t you address your questions to the Mayor or her deputy?

  16. Alan, if you understood the questions you would be indubitably aware that they are not “cheap shots”, but very expensive shots.
    It is not every day an aspiring mayoral candidate has the temerity to remind all and sundry that she (alone?) represents the unrepresented.
    Well I happen to fall into that category but after a week of awaiting for an acknowledgment to my queries I can only assume her self laudatory remarks are simply self serving.
    Andrew Frame obviously knows more of Michelle’s attributes than I do but he is clearly mistaken in assuming I have some ” influence”. If that was the case then surely a response would have been forthcoming by now.
    Clearly, I am both bereft of influence while at the same time being condemned to stay in the ” unrepresented” pool of ratepayers who can never get a timely or truthful response from our highly paid part time employees.

  17. Tom,
    This was an issue I gave a serious amount of thought to before deciding that indeed the Green Party hat gets stored in the closet during the duration of the campaign, and around the council table if I’m elected. Whilst this won’t stop me following Green Party principles (ecological wisdom, social responsibility, appropriate decision making, and non-violence) I don’t believe that local representives should be taking instruction from Wellington.

  18. I wish to say that Neil Taylor deserves all the very best for his well earned retirement.
    During my 9 years on council we had an excellent and productive relationship.
    With one of the three questions put to Michelle 3 weeks ago now answered, perhaps she could respond to the remaining 2.
    Or is that expecting too much from the unrepresented in our community ?

  19. John, to get any answers from Michelle,me thinks you are expecting too much. More so when Michelle claims she is so, so busy with her Council work she had to jack in her day job! So much for her becoming mayor!
    Heavens forbid-even if not in agreement-least Mrs Arnott had the courtessy to answer-reply!

    Nothing like the vast majority of all previous mayors of this fair city that managed to carry out their mayoral duties whilst successfully running their own business too.

    Sincerely David Bosley

  20. My apology for lateness but I don’t spend a lot of time online and even less on this forum – thankyou Allan Burke, for so eloquently illustrating why I don’t (“It comes as no surprise to me that there has been no response from them to the cheap shots from the bleachers. JJH,”). As for my perceived lack of presence in the media – out of my control what the media choose to publish. So to answer the wealthy man swanning around the world having a great time (good on you JJH, perhaps you’ll consider becoming a great philanthropist with all your spare time now?..No?..):-

    (1) The Deco Discoverer buses: as per open agenda, Council Meeting 15 May 2013;

    Investigation/feasibility $91,611.27;
    Contract admin (internal)/other costs $62,866.50;
    Consultancy/engineering (external) $113,968.50;
    HB Industries/shipping $675,116.09;
    Kiwi Bus Builders Ltd $165,124.57;
    Roading Costs $22,393.71;
    Legal $2,175.00
    TOTAL: $1,133,255.64
    BUDGETED: $1,500,000
    UNDER BUDGET: $366,744.36.

    As JJH well knows, the contract to operate the service is subject to commercial sensitivity;

    (2) I’ve always said that HBRC & Port of Napier should be investigating & paying for sustainable hard engineering options (in the water) in order to stem the rate of erosion & that NCC’s responsibility is for the land, ie, not the sea. Both HBRC and NCC have had the funding benefit of it’s leasehold land portfolios (only Napier money, from Napier people, for the benefit of Napier city only originally, in law) since the last local govt reforms when the HBRC was created. As 100% shareholder of the Port of Napier Ltd the HBRC is doubly-obliged – and yet the ratepayers of all of HB, being the ultimate shareholders of PONL, aren’t making it a ‘business issue’ (ie, applying vocal pressure) to either organisation. Perhaps also, JJH explain how might I, as one new councillor in 2010, somehow magically change the current situation?;
    (3) events have overtaken the question but either way, I don’t peddle in rumour and gossip, no matter how reliable the source may be – let alone on Bay Buzz!

    In summary to the other comments that’ve been made; media presence alone is no gauge of community benefit or leadership. Walking away from my contract (and income) was due to the nature of the work it entailed – human services, sometimes with multiple issues, and as it was a responsive service it was difficult to balance those commitments with my council and community commitments. Consequently I don’t spend a lot of time online, I’m far too busy in the real world, listening to all kinds of people and working at strengthening community resilience as well as trying to help resolve Council-specific issues. I’m also travelling to Gisborne regularly to visit my unwell father – and I always stop in Wairoa, for a coffee and a korero, not at media-publicised events that may produce a photo-op for me or DaD HB (although I usually wear the DaD HB t-shirt & it does start conversatons).

  21. JJH you had your shot [based on looking after yourself and neighbours in Westshore worried about erosion] the only positive study done [by ASR] was for some reason ignored by both the NCC and HBRC. I acknowledge that getting that study done was due to you.
    But to see you bad mouthing two hard working NCC councillors,[ swimming against the NCC tide] does you no credit.

  22. Dave, my response to Michelle’s non-answer was never published.
    Hard to counter such ” answers” are difficult when these circumstances prevail.

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