Over the weekend, this ‘Better Hawke’s Bay’ ad ran in Hawke’s Bay Today.
Its headline: We Want A Better Performing Hawke’s Bay, Do You?
Although that sounds like a bit of a no-brainer (who could say No?!), its sponsors and their agenda do command attention.
Several dozen of the ‘big guns’ of Hawke’s Bay — individuals from throughout the Bay with a history of getting things done in our community — put their names to the ad. Clearly, they believe the Bay is failing to meet its potential, which leaves an unconscionably large chunk of our population on the ropes, lagging behind the rest of New Zealand on most economic and social indicators.
So, what does this group call for? I quote the advert:
“We support the commissioning of an independent study to better inform us of the issues we face and options available. We need to look at the economic, social, health and environmental challenges and decide how these issues are best addressed. This may result in a re-evaluation of the current approach to governance and service delivery to ensure it is best structured to provide a platform for our future. We need to develop a regional vision and plan that is future focused, inclusive and offers people a first-class quality of life supported by a sound economic base.
These issues require independent examination with no presumed outcomes.”
This appeal is coming from many of the most successful people in Hawke’s Bay. People for whom the status quo might serve quite well, thank you. Yet they are interested in change. How do you think the situation looks through the eyes of those on the bottom rungs of the Bay’s socioeconomic ladder?
The ‘fighting words’ in this ad are those suggesting that a change in the Bay’s governance structures might be required if we are serious about moving the Bay forward.
So far, only the Hastings Council is committed to a study which includes that possibility in its terms of reference.
This leadership group is calling upon the four other councils in the region to join in such a comprehensive examination. The first council to respond (or not) to this appeal will the Regional Council, which meets on Wednesday.
Faced with the breadth of support indicated by this ad, it will be interesting to see what evidence Regional Councillors can produce (as opposed to their personal prejudices) to reject a study that includes a look at the role of governance structure.
I urge you to download and read the ad. I hope you will agree with its message and join its signers by sending your indication of support to: email@example.com … and pass it along.
P.S. For the record, I signed this advert, but reluctantly. I believe it barely goes far enough in suggesting the possibility that the Bay’s governance structure is ill-suited to meeting the challenges at hand. Indeed, for me, any study undertaken needs to establish that regional government reorg is not advantageous or needed!
As someone who, more persistently than most, has monitored the workings of our councils on a day in/day out basis, close-up, for several years now, personally I don’t need more evidence that the present system requires overhaul. I can see clearly how some form of regional consolidation could address shortcomings from the pettiest of turf squabbles, to the many inefficiencies of service delivery, to the failure to construct a regional vision supported by region-wide political consensus and advocacy.
But I appreciate that most others do not have the same information or experience to draw upon in reaching their own conclusions on the matter. Hence my impatient support for the study.