As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the survey sent to Hastings ratepayers seeking their opinions on key spending issues in the latest ten-year plan asked this question:

“How do you feel about a proposed contribution of $1 million to the new Hawke’s Bay Museum in Napier?”

The response: 46.4% said “Don’t Contribute”; 24.4% said “Contribute Less”; and 29.3% said “About Right”. Hardly a rousing endorsement for such a significant expenditure!

One would think, therefore, that the matter should have been discussed — and perhaps reconsidered — when the Hastings Council decided its LTCCP funding levels.

Guess again!

This $1 million item received no discussion at all … meaning it got less discussion than the 20 minutes of debate on a $10,000 grant for a “Curtain Bank” to help insulate homes, or the similar time alloted to discussing a $20,000 contribution toward a “Big Screen” to make local events more flash.

In view of this non-discussion, a week ago I asked Mayor Yule and each Councillor the following question by email:

“In view of the fact that 46% of ratepayers responding to HDC’s survey indicated a preference to make NO contribution, and another 24% wished to see a lesser contribution, what would be your explanation to a ratepayer like myself for personally voting to include these funds? Do you in fact personally support including these funds?”

Two elected representatives have responded, as follows …

Councillor Wayne Bradshaw: “This topic along with the Regional Sports Park seems to have been below the radar during the LTCCP discussions and debate. I hope that this was because of the extraordinary amount of items to be covered, rather than any other reason. Personally, I would like to publicly debate this issue before the LTCCP is finalised. Several areas in regard to the planned $1 million donation are highlighted for me. These are:

  • Is there an agreed Policy by both NCC, HDC and HBRC, that shows what is a Regionally Significant Facility?
  • If so, does this Policy cover how these are to be funded and by whom ?
  • Has the $1 million donation been put in by HDC as a Tit for Tat for a possible similar donation from NCC for the Regional Sports Park?
  • Does the HDC have a Policy that highlights how these Donations should be funded ?
  • Is it reasonable to borrow all the money for this proposed donation ?
  • As a Region, we need to work more closely together with HDC, NCC, HBRC and ratepayers to understand what is needed, where, when and how.”

Mayor Yule: “Yes, I support the use of these funds.”

That’s elucidating!

Note that I am not commenting on the merits of any of these proposals, one way ot the other.

I am commenting on the lack of accountability in a decision-making process that seeks ratepayers’ opinions, but doesn’t bother to consider them. Then, add to this affront the fact that most Councillors don’t even care to explain to the people who elected them their positions on a major $1 million debt commitment.

Was the survey a joke? Were Councillors exercising leadership by over-ruling the ratepayers’ sentiment? Were they not even present when the vote was taken? Were they unaware the money is in the plan? Were they doing Napier’s Mayor and Council a “favor” as Councillor Bradshaw asks? Alternatively, do they oppose the expenditure?

Who knows. Unfortunately, that’s the way democracy is practised in the Hastings Council.

Tom Belford

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