BayBuzz has been conducting a survey of attitudes about possible local government reorganization here in Hawke’s Bay. At this point, we have several hundred responses, with nearly equal numbers from Hastings and Napier (not so many from further afield). If you haven’t taken the survey yet, you can do so here. (Be forewarned, the system lets you take the survey only once!)

We’re hearing from all sides on this issue, and we’ll report the full results soon. But most of the respondents who have volunteered comments so far explaining their opinions have tended to call for change. Here’s a sampling. If you disagree with these views, give us your own.

Tom Belford

Verbatim Comments from BayBuzz Survey (sample)

Local Government do not possess a YES attitude. Their default is NO, plus a lot of How Hard Can We Make This?

Procrastination has been developed into an art form in Hawke’s Bay.

We are still dumping sewage into the ocean because our council is dictated to by large industry. I would happily subsidise a clean environment, rather than a sports stadium, splash planet etc. I resent watching fireworks displays when I can’t swim in local rivers. Poor priorities are affecting social and environmental well-being. A clean environment will be more attractive in the long run to people and tourists, which results in economic growth. I am ashamed of Hawke’s Bay’s environment and now households are being threated with water levies when there is was no water shortage before vineyards and dairying, which have just increased our environmental problems.

Lack of direction to organisers of two of Hawke’s Bays two major events — Horse of Year and Triple Peaks held same weekend. Accommodation providers unable to receive optimum exposure, Requires tuned-in local catalyst.

Actions affect environment. Private sector largely affects economics. Best municipalities can do is install and maintain top-notch infrastructure to facilitate private investment.

Our local government bodies have huge potential to have an influence over the well-being of the Hawke’s Bay community. However, the separatist nature and backward functioning actions of nearly all of them mean that rate payers essentially support administrators that waste public money due to the lack of leadership of the councils. Councils could do some much more to support the environment, build our communities, and invest in events and the positive outcomes through sport and the arts. All these opportunities are lost.

It is crazy for a region this size to have 5 separate governing bodies. As one, we would be an amazing region and get on with what is needed for Hawkes Bay to grow!

Hawke’s Bay region needs an advocating voice in unison. Regrettably there appears constant squabbling between the present 5 councils. The latter is a major impediment for the region as we have 5 fractional voices.

Why can’t the NCC Councils at least open their minds to the possibility of a better way? As a NCC Rate Payer I will be using my voice and my vote to ensure the next election provides a representative council that actually has the courage to lead.

This situation has been holding Hawke’s Bay back for years – it used to be difficult, now it is actually threatening the region’s prosperity.

I think we need to attract some higher skilled and more capable councillors in general, this would make a difference to local government -merged or not. Unfortunately most people vote for the old folk they know and capable people are too busy to take the job on. Seems to be a bored housewife/retired man coffee club to boost their egos rather than a functioning council.

The current structures suffer through selfishness, self-interest and lack vision to provide a progressive program for the whole region.

There are many examples of councils NOT working together — eg water; sewerage; sports amenities; Fracking!

HDC and NCC take every opportunity to disagree and in turn try and one up each other. The Hawke’s Bay community misses out with a disconnected, inefficient, vision lacking leadership that is holding the province back.

We have lived and worked here twenty years and the same problems then are still here. We struggled to ‘sell the region’ when in our tourism business because we struck such division and lack of cooperation ‘amongst the old die hards’ of parochialism. New blood to HB is the necessary ingredient in strong regional leadership. Oh Boy, what did I say? I will have to wash my mouth out!

Councils may be co-operating but it’s all lip service. Significant issues and policy that contribute to business development and growth are not being unified.

While cooperation should work, history shows that it doesn’t.

Re Councils cooperating – token gestures. The biggest indication of any form of cooperation is being driven by Business HB and the bureaucrats, not the politicians, who are playing the game!

I think it will be important for communities to have meaningful mechanisms for their particular needs and views to be heard.

Community identity is essential – but our current system doesn’t provide it. Look at the NCC Council – there is absolutely no way you can tell me that that is representative of Napier communities. It’s more representative of a rest home.

‘Intelligent’ social knowledge and understanding of a community would be very useful in decision making and would need to be collated by a reliable and efficiently run ‘board’ of sorts. Nit picking, egotistical drones need not apply.

Community identities can be retained easily if someone is looking at an umbrella strategy correctly – they are only lost when group marketing and business isn’t understood. Community Boards could be helpful but I’d avoid any additional bureaucracy and slowing down of needed joint and collective growth.

I think representation on the council from these communities is better than a formal board that simply adds a layer to bureaucracy. The individual councillor may wish to appoint an advisory group (non-paid).

It is vital that the smaller and more far-flung communities don’t lose their identity or voice in decision-making.

Hawke’s Bay is not that big. The only justification for local boards is to make it politically saleable. Waste of resources, better to consult on local issues as they arise.

It’s ridiculous that the smaller district should prevail over a regional majority. These citizens benefit just as much from the regional GDP contributions from the surrounding areas.

What are we going to call it? Let’s call it Napier so we don’t have another 20-year debate!!

Join the Conversation

18 Comments

  1. Tom, the comments noted would not have come as a surprise for those protagonists supporting a change to our dysfunctional local governence in Hawke's Bay. Over the past 8 months the debate has generated into an internecene tirade from the elected members of the NCC and, unbelievable, also from their officers. Without doubt their lies, ommissions and smear campaign against the rapidly growing numbers of A Better Hawke's Bay supporters has set inter-city relations back decades. In August, a report was tabled by the NCC as a result of a request, which I quote in full. ''To provide council with an assessment of the debate regarding amalgamation of Local Government in Hawke's Bay and address the request from Mayor Yule relating to further regional reviews and studies.'' Simple, you would think. But no. Instead of following up on a genuine request to place some sunlight on the issue the report was confined to a personal attack on Mayor Yule and nothing whatsoever was reported on re local governence as the heading suggested. Not believing their luck, the impressionable councillors launched into a tirade against the HDC and Mayor Yule, in particular. The Mayor and her councillors fell into the trap of not even understanding what they had asked for and what they had received. Worse, at a subsequent council meeting they duly ''followed the leader'' and ratified a report which never attempted to address the topic. Only later, and as a result of a letter to the HBT did they realize their error. How do you suppose they addressed this mistake ? By withdrawing it from their web site–no apology, no letter of regret, nothing but an ''own goal.'' Unsurprisingly, there have been others. In the October issue of Proudly Napier they outright lied about their debt porition by saying ''$4m debt-not increacing. A city that lives within its means.'' Now, as any 5 year old knows that is nothing but a truckload of ''bovine manure.'' As a result of a letter from me questioning this outlandish statement the CEO confimed in the Napier Mail 23/11/11 that in fact the total debt was over 10 times that which the NCC had previously stated as a fact. Worse it now turns out that the cost of servicing all debt as a percentage to rates is nearly 50% higher than the HDC ! Not content to persist in a duplicitous campaign on the debt levels of the two cities, they then proceeded to publically smear on of New Zealands greatest minds on possibly being involved with a regional study, Dame Margaret Bazley. Among rants from furious councillors reported both at the meeting and afterwards she was accused of premeditated bias–a claim that reflects more on the NCC than a truley iconic New Zealander. But that was not the worst of that forgetable meeting. Unbeknown to the councillors their Mayor had actually been the one who requested Mayor Yule to approach her to facilitate the study in question. Perhaps if the dysfunctional NCC were aware as to who knew what and when they would not have made such absolute fools of themselves. Another ''own goal.'' Clearly all of this has not gone unoticed in Wellington. As a result, the new Local Government Minister is proceeding forthwith in an attempt to address the dysfunctional local government in Hawke's Bay. The individuals who have ensured that this will happen are none other that the staff and elected members of the NCC. To each and every one of them I send my profound thanks. If it was not for their deceipt, lies and smears this whole process would have taken years. Now it's only months away.

  2. JJ: Whilst I am still not convinced that almalgamation is the way to go I agree 100% with your comment about the level of debate from some of the parties. This is a pity becuase it distracts attention from the issue at hand.

    One challenge I have with almalgamation is that the public currently has a resonably direct line to thier councillors. If there is amalgamation then there will no doubt be less councillors per head of population than there is currently. This makes decision making more 'distant'. I get the impression this is what has happened in Auckland. However in Hawkes Bay we have a much smaller population base so this should not be so problematic.

    Do you have any thoughts on this matter?

  3. Paul, your concerns are germane but are also addressed by Tom. Simply put if we had more, genuine public consultation over the region then the number of councillors is bordering on being irrelevent. H.B. is the most overly ''governed'' of any region in N.Z. At the present time we have 1 elected member for every 2,400 residents–unbeleivable ! Auckland has 1 for every 72,000. While the AKL example should not apply here, what I beleive we should aim for is 12 councillors and a mayor for the region, or 1 for every 12,000. The important thing is to get quality, not quantity. Under the proposed legislation they would not be allowed to ''invest'' our rates money in guarranteed loss making ventures such as the Aquarium and the soon to arrive buses for Napier. In the latter case millions is being spent in importing buses from San Diego to directly compete with a poorly utilized service funded by the HBRC. The imported buses [ arn't there any available in NZ ?] will cost us over $15,000 a month in ongoing losses–where is the fiducary duty and cash flow figuers to back up this service ? This is of no concern to the financial pygmy's who claim to represent our best interests but at the same time shell out $10,000 per WEEK to cover their other commercial gamble ie the Aquarium. Then there is the Museum–at least $5,000 per WEEK. The new legislation will bar these neanderthals from further commercial gambles, allowing them to concentrate on the necessities–therefore less councillors available to continue to economically stuff up our city. The only possible downside will be an increase in the number joining to dole lines–but it was never the role of rate payers to finance ''make work'' schemes for the unemployable.

  4. JJ: Thanks for the feed back. I agree when compared to other locations the heads/representative number looks appalling. I appreciate you coming out with the 12,000 number which gives me something to consider. Thank you for that. Having attended a couple of council meetings recently I can appreciate your comment about quality over quantity. Voters are funny beasts as you know and like a good free market operate in an unrational manner some of the time.

    I too was appaled by the buses being imported. Spend local to keep jobs local, which I know is something you have always been big on.

    I'm not 100% familar with the numbers on the Aquarium & Muesum and therefore can't agree or otherwise with you on these facilities. However I do believe that the social benefit of such facilities does need to be carefully weighed against the financial cost.

  5. A good conversation I hope others will join because we have to keep the momentum going.

    The survey snippets are very interesting to say the least and sadly amusing at the same time – what's with that?!

    Hopefully our elected officials will pay attention to the people (I wanted to say peasants as the situation we are in has that feel about it) and not continue on with the same 'we know what's best for the people / peasants' attitude. Councils in their present form need to get back to basics just as every household and business in NZ has had to do. We do not need more grandiose schemes and Councillors who actually believe that the people give a continental about fountains, civic squares, museums etc right now are living in some parallel universe?? The people / peasants on the ground generating the taxes in these still tricky economic times know that these things are luxuries and we can't afford them right now how much simpler can that be? Right need to get back to my tax generating business – I have to ensure there is enough money in the coffers to build local luxuries and pay the wages of hundreds of local beuracrats, bail out incompetent finance companies, rebuild CHCH, rebuild a pacific island and it seems house and clothe boat loads of refugees – no time to sit around musing about my place in the Universe!

  6. Blaming local governance structure for a lack of regional success is utter nonsense. I could give you 10 reasons for regional under performance, and governance is not one of them. I wish more people had an attitude like Murray Douglas at the HB Chamber of commerce and just got on with getting things done. I am a huge supporter of Business HB. This is the sort of initiative that will drive economic growth in the region, not amalgamation.

    I remember reading an interview with the CEO of Fletcher Challenge a while back, and when asked about govt policy, he said that it made no difference to his strategic plan: he knew the environment within which the company had to operate and got on with doing business. Exactly.

    Companies don't choose where to locate based on local governance arrangements; they do so based on proximity to markets, cost structure, relevant services, labour force, infrastructure, quality of life, etc etc.

    If you want to get up in arms about something that really matters, have a go at the govts decision last term to take back $71m earmarked for regional roading infrastructure development. Now THAT sort of decision stifles regional economic development and growth.!!

  7. Last I heard, Murray Douglas supports amalgamation of some form, or at least his employer, the HB Chamber of Commerce, does.

  8. Stuart has been hoisted by his own petard. He states that local governence structure is not to blame for a lack of regional success. It was only a month ago in an article in Baybuzz that he was lamenting the irredeemably disfunctional nature of the relationship between the NCC and the HBRC with the on-going issue of heavy trucking that adversly affected small buisnesses along Marine Parade. That is only one example but there are many, many others. If he had his ear to the ground and listened to Napier ratepayers he would have picked up inumerable examples of how differing and bickering councils are slowly but surely stuffing up our economic welbeing. One prize example is the differing policies between the NCC and HBRC on the issue od leasehold land. While the HBRC has a policy of freeholding the NCC refuses to even consider this in respect of commercial property. As a result expansion plans have been cancelled due to the buisness owners inability to freehold and provide adequate security to their bankers to not only expand but to increase employment opportunities in a stagnent local economy. Top of the list is motel/hotel opperators. Worse it has cancelled out new buisnesses coming to Napier [ in Pandora] to set up new buisnesses and generate hundreds of new jobs. His suggestion that local governence is not at fault in stuffing up our region is nothing more than a truck load of bovine manure.

  9. Stuart, great to have you back in HB.

    You say you, 'can give 10 reasons for regional under performance, and governance is not one of them.'

    That strikes at the core of the argument proffered by the amalgamation lobby.

    Please outline the 10 reasons. That'll really get the debate going.

  10. John, actually agree with you re the NCC policy on commercial leasehold land. Personally, i wouldn't freehold it, but would investigate the possibility of offerinig it for peppercorn rent to developers who were willing to build, attract and tenant office blocks with companies prepared to locate to Napier. Could be used as a real carrot to development and growth.

    Btw, regional and city councils have very similar policies re free holding residential land. The HBRC doesn't own any leasehold commercial land.

    But this issue isn't a governance issue (and you are assuming an amalgamated council would change this policy), but rather a NCC policy issue. Yes, some important NCC policies absolutely need to change, and I was lamenting the lack of an innovative, pro-growth plan in the Bay Buzz article, but those who should be driving growth in the city are those residents elected by the people of Napier to represent their best interests. If you think an amalgamated council, where Napier representatives will be in the minority, will best represent the interests of the people of Napier (over and above, for example Hastings) then I very much disagree with you.

    The solution: make sure the council and CEO are those with a combined vision for the future of Napier.

  11. Well Stuart, it is true that in a unitery authority Napier would be in the minority. But this is the case with the Regional Council where it has just 3 out of 9 representatives (Hastings has 4). Can you cite any examples where the non-Napier majority has ridden rough-shod over Napier's interests in the 22 years of the Council's existance. I'd be interested to hear of them.

  12. soooooooooooooo—is that the only one you can come up with? Pretty pathetic if that is all.

  13. Totally disagree Stuart. The RC has worked hard to accommodate leaseholders, bearing in mind that the owners – the public of HB , including Napier of course – have an interest in this too.

  14. You could argue Hawke’s Bay’s local body have been ruled by a minority for well over a decade, Ewan!

    Only 44.6% of Napier’s registered voters actually voted in 2010 (in Hastings it was 43.56%, excluding special votes).

    And it’s been getting worse! 45.35% in 2007 (41.6% in Hastings) and a 47.66% turn out in 2004 (this was the last election in recent years where any major change took place with four standing councillors losing their seats and one retiring).

    Is it right for anywhere in modern society to be governed by a group elected by the majority of a minority?

    Is it any wonder there have been no major change in Hawke’s Bay local government (or the improvement of its economic performance, social indicators, visitor numbers etc) in almost a decade in the face of such voter apathy?

    If amalgamation is to go ahead maybe it should start from scratch, with a completely new "Mega-Council" elected by the majority of the region?

  15. John, you forget that I am actually a fan of the HBRC. I think it is well led by the CEO and the Chair (even though it will be interesting to see how the council handles the contentious issues of fracking and water storage). Given their rather narrow mandate, a regional body in charge of the environment actually makes sense. This model does not, however, translate into a governance (or operational) model controlling the cities of the region and their quite different requirements. Having heard some of the comments by HBRC councillors from outside of Napier have made about Napier residents, I certainly wouldn't want them controlling the destiny of our city. Would you?

  16. Stuart, like a true politican you have elected to resile from answering the questions put to you, but instead attempted to manufacture a school of red heerings. Perhaps you could get around to itemise the 10 reasons for regional under performance–governence not being one of them ! Ewan has given an excellent example of the HBRC whereby a minority represent the interests of Napier yet you are clearly unable to point out where exactly Napier residents have been adversely affected.Like many in the community I am totally unaware of the comments you attribute to non-Napier councillors regarding Napier–please give some examples. The mere fact that the HBRC voted to construct their chambers in Napier instead of the more populous Hastings belies your statement. As to the quality of their members–do you actually beleive that the ''tired and emotional'' Cr Dick is a great example with his totally inappropriate tirade against ABHB 1,000 plus members in telling them to get f—ked. Worse, we have a weak Chair who is clearly under the spell of Mayor Arnott in her continuing campaign of dilute and delay any maeningful study of the region. As I have stated previously the dysfunctional and divisive atmosphere in Hawke's Bay is well understood in Wellington. This has resulted in our group now able to deal with the LGC directly. For this they have our gratitude. A wonderful ''own goal.''What I want–as do the majority–I beleive, is a united regional governance structure to effectivly truley represent ALL residents in our underperforming and stagnent province. The petulant rhetoric from some self serving elected representatives will continue to be treated with the contempt they deserve. I am, however sure that you are above this internecene crap. With so much to offer, to a new, unified council it is time you seriously considered a change from national to local politics. Surely representing 160,000 residents, living in Napier and actually determining policies to better the province is preferable to working in the Wellington swamp. I for one would not be ungenerous in my support.

  17. Stuart;

    I find people who have not been on the receiving end of the activities of the HBRC HAVEN'T GOT A CLUE WHAT AN ENVIRONMENTALLY DESTRUCTIVE ORGANISATION THEY ARE!

    I used to have a nice stream before they got involved with my property; it is gone now!

    I used to have land that had water it is gone now!.

    I used to have pasture yield 70% higher than what it is now all because of ignorance of the Hawkes Bay Regoinal Council and their destructive activities.

    You really haven't got a clue on the reality of this subject area!

    Currently the HBRC a still hell bent on destroying our land waterways and fisheries by their spraying and drainage policies.

    When all the water has been drained away that used to keep Hawkes Bay moist enough to avoid summer fires, we are likely get the sort of bush fires that we have seen in Australia these have the potential to level our cities; of course the councils will not take notice until this actually happens such is the wisdom of history.

    So my observation of council activities over the years has been they have no wisdom; they look for short term solutions for example dig massive drainage systems when natural tree water pumps should have been used instead!

    I am amazed at lack of education that these very ignorant council people have on making decisions on our behalf

    Plato said people need to be trained for governance; In Hawkes Bay everyday we are suffering from the activities of idiotic council decisions and it looks likely to continue!

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