Last week, the Napier City Council demonstrated it was capable of saying “No” to spending ratepayer money, deciding not to spend $12 million on a revamping of Marineland that had been projected to cost “only” $8 million. Mayor Arnott was quoted as saying the concept under consideration lacked the “WOW!” factor to justify such expense. So Napier Council goes back to the drawing board.

Perhaps this ability to say “No” is why Mayor Arnott was re-elected with (WOW!) 84% of the vote last time around.

In sharp contrast, the Hastings Council has yet to learn about “No”, as evidenced by the machinations it is going through to break its pledges to Hastings ratepayers on the sports park.

You might have thought you understood the sports park strategy — three clearly defined phases; no phase to be initiated until all necessary funds were in hand; those funds to include a hefty amount of “external” funding (i.e., money NOT coming from Hastings ratepayers); and all this carefully thought through and to be orchestrated by Sam Kelt, who was paid $600,000+ for his extraordinary skills and detailed planning.

Well, Hastings ratepayers, forget all that. The Council is headed down an entirely different track. Sam’s plan is ancient history.

On Tuesday, the Council will consider whether to adopt a new strategy, one that involves more borrowing, a reconfiguration of phases, a new management team, and an assumption that Hastings will get selected as the preferred site on the North Island for a velodrome (a decision not yet made, there are now five other contenders).

Of course, the Councillors could decide that circumstances have changed so much that the whole matter of continuing past Phase 1 needs to be put back before the ratepayers. How might they feel about the new scheme? The best time for that re-consideration would be next year in the context of adopting the next annual budget (with its competing spending requirements). That’s Option 1.

Or, Option 2, they could simply postpone re-arranging the deck chairs until a decision was in fact made on the velodrome lottery. Given that all of the money pledged by Unison (that’s $1 million of your money by the way) and the Regional Council (that’s $2.5 million of your money by the way) is specifically ring-fenced for a velodrome, one would think that decision might represent a significant milestone to await before making a lot of other infrastructure expenditures or financial commitments.

But choosing either Options 1 or 2 would require the Hastings Council to have learnt how to say “No”.

And that’s a lesson that Mayor Yule and most of his “Yessir” crew have yet to learn.

Tom Belford

P.S. Isn’t it odd, by the way, that virtually all of the so-called “external” fundraising is actually your money?! And, if the velodrome is approved for Hastings and receives some central government funding, whose tax money is that?! Actually, not yours … more like your grandchildren’s, since they’ll be paying off that borrowed money too.

P.P.S. Speaking of “external” funding, why doesn’t the grandstand have a corporate sponsor yet? Unlike the “Unison Velodrome,” the grandstand is actually being built. Hey, if the sponsorship is still open (actual fundraising remains murky), BayBuzz Ltd would be happy to make a multi-year cash offer. Who do we talk to?

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