Belford at River

This weekend the March/April edition of BayBuzz begins to hit the stores and mailboxes. My From the Editor column previews what you can expect.

From the Editor

I write this just back from a Sunday morning walk at bustling Ocean Beach, perfect blue skies, 25C, cheery people, happy dogs …all’s well in the world.

Except that it isn’t … outside our cloistered paradise.

Coronavirus still killing thousands a day. Xenophobia rampant throughout the world threatening social stability. A fragile global economy threatening really bad news any day. And global warming harming the planet at a quickening pace.

Against that backdrop, it is kind of ‘another day at the beach’ here in New Zealand and Hawke’s Bay. 

We should enjoy, celebrate and be thankful for it. There’s plenty on offer, as Keith Newman writes about in Events mojo.(unless you were responsible for cancelled Art Deco or Horse of the Year). But we must do everything we can as individuals to preserve what we enjoy …

  • Keep track of our whereabouts as carefully as we should in case Covid-19 strikes here. Take the vaccine when offered.
  • Be appreciative, welcoming and respectful of our neighbours of differing race, creed, origin or belief.
  • Be mindful, not just that systemic poverty and disadvantage must be addressed here in Hawke’s Bay, but also that any one of us might face or be already struggling with personal health, mental wellness or financial burdens brought on through no fault of their own. In short, be kind.
  • Take care of the environment that sustains us and our fellow species, recognising our moral obligation to future generations to whom – on our current path – we will otherwise bequeath a planet in shambles.

Accepting those as our personal responsibilities, we can then demand the best of our political leaders in return.

They need to front up, craft policy frameworks and provide leadership on the larger issues we do face as a community, even on our sunny Sundays.

Affordable housing is one of those … an issue of major consequence here in Hawke’s Bay, not just headline-grabbing Auckland. Although key policy settings and resources need to come from Wellington, our councils have a critical role to play as well, as Mark Sweet explores in his article.

Managing our water is another of those humongous local issues, whether it’s safe drinking water, waste and stormwater disposal, water for economic use, or water for swimming, recreation and most importantly, the well-being of our natural environment. 

Our present councils are dealing with these issues. Our past councils have botched them badly, to the point where one could argue malfeasance except for the legal protection given our elected officeholders for their poor decision-making – “they did the best they could with the information at hand”.

There’s no charitable way to describe the public infrastructure neglect our previous councils have bestowed on our present councillors (not all of whom are innocents). 

Read Amy Shanks’ interview with Mayor Alex Walker, who describes CHB’s infrastructure situation as “heart-breaking” and “frightening”. Or read Abby Beswick’s account of Napier City Council’s handling of its latest (increasing frequent) rainfall events – probably well-managed in the aftermath, but certainly not well prepared for over previous years.

So now, hundreds of millions of legacy costs for Hawke’s Bay come to roost. You will face them as ratepayers as the latest Long-Term Plans are adopted in the months ahead, as discussed in my Political Update article.

The failure of our politicians over the years to adequately address infrastructure issues gives little reason for optimism when one considers the policies and leadership required by climate change.

Just like with decrepit hidden pipes, this is another issue to fob off to future generations. Only this time our kids are wise to the scam.

If ever there were a rock-solid case for acting now, while mitigation of effects might be possible, more affordable and even economically beneficial, climate change presents that opportunity – as NZ’s Climate Change Commission establishes with its recent blueprint.

Sure, the overall policy framework needs to be enacted by Government, but then it’s all hands on deck, including our five HB councils.

Arguably, with infrastructure neglect, politicians ‘merely’ shifted higher costs to future ratepayers (some 5,000 victims of water-bourne illness in Havelock North would dispute that they escaped the ‘cost’). But if we shift the burden of addressing global warming to future generations, we’re consigning them to a bleak existence over which they will have little or no control. And appropriately condemn us for.

So, on that cheery note, it’s March … take off the jandals and put on the work boots, there’s heaps of work to get done.

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  1. It concerns me that there is very little comment on the key reason we have a housing problem…excess immigration. In the period from 2013 and the start of Covid the net migration gain was in excess of 480,000 people. That’s huge! Sure it’s stopped now although returning Kiwis have continued the inflow. The concern is that once Covid is controlled we will again open our borders to massive immigration. Do we need that?!

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