When the power dynamics and processes of Business merge with those of Council, public participation is a casualty, and techniques employed by Business are spliced into Council functions.
Just as property/financial companies, and producers/manufactures often make misleading representation, so too is the Regional Sports Park being touted with misleading information.
The Economic Impact Assessment report (February 2008) is based on erroneous data, specifically the Event Frequency Details. This information was supplied by the sporting codes to Kelt Capital, and passed onto Economic Solutions. Their assessment, as with the peer review Cormilligan Report (February 2008), is only as good as the data made available.
It is claimed that the NZ Track and Field championships will be held in Hastings every second year. According to NZAA this is ‘highly unlikely’ as there are 12 competing regions with similar facilities, and the event is shared among the regions. Similarly, the Oceania Cycling track championships (every four years) is shared with Australia, which has 7 covered velodromes. The biggest economic impact at $3.5m is the Junior World Cycling Champs, which it is claimed, will be held in Hastings within the next 5 years, and every 10 years thereafter. Considering the number of countries competing for this event the claim is preposterous.
Every Event can be challenged, yet they form the basis of Hastings District Council’s announcement:
“$24 million best indicates the true impact of events …” (12 March 2008)
When Council process is driven by Business, the techniques of ‘talking it up’ to achieve momentum, and focusing on the ‘vision’, become paramount. So much money and manpower is spent promoting the outcome, stopping the process is daunting, and consultation to do so is not taken seriously.
These techniques are essential in the competitive culture of Business, but inappropriate when applied to an elected administrative body, whose prime function is to express the will of the people.
So confident were Council in the charrette process on Ocean Beach, a time line was presented at the outset, which would have seen the Plan Change adopted by November 2006. Consistently Mayor Yule has said that development at Ocean Beach is inevitable, but thankfully many people saw his collusion with Business, and took action to stop it.
Most of all the founders of Future Ocean Beach committed energy, time, and money, in demanding their inclusion in the process on behalf of all those who wanted something different for Ocean Beach. The cost of challenging at this level requires considerable human and economic resources.
Council is at it again with the Regional Sports Park.
The athletics track is substantially formed with major earthworks and construction already undertaken. This is a permitted activity in the rural zone, but to develop the Sports Park requires a Plan Change. A stand alone athletics facility would be a white elephant, so the momentum to continue, now that millions have been spent, is fully geared.
Plan Change 42, however, has not yet been granted, and it will be interesting to hear how the Commissioners respond. Last week they requested more information.
The Commissioners are bound to comment on the way Council has abandoned its stated intention of protecting the fertile soils on the Heretaunga Plains by putting nearly 200 hectares at risk from urbanisation.
HDC has no planning strategy in place to protect the land surrounding the RSP, which if allowed, will be a magnet for residential subdivision. Application for zone change will come in the form of Private Plan Changes, which are often decided in the Environment Court, and outside Council control.
With the Business cart before the Council horse, public consultation on the RSP is to be invited soon. The Economic Impact Reports have been available to the public in the past few weeks, three months after submissions to the Plan Change closed.
If the Business model is applied to the public consultation it will narrowly focus on the economic viability of the scheme, and preclude citizens presenting alternatives to the RSP, which better provide for the sporting, health, and recreation needs of Hawke’s Bay people.
The merging of Council and Business leadership is not conducive to consensual decision making, or respectful of democratic processes.
Mayor Yule of Council and Sam Kelt of Business are a formidable leadership team. They obviously share a vision for the RSP, but by combining their resources to so rapidly develop and promote their concept of a multi-sport, health and recreation centre in the middle of nowhere, they have ridden roughshod over the democratic process of citizen participation in decision making.
A ‘yes’ vote for the sale of Nelson Park was not a mandate to build the Regional Sports Park.
HDC and Kelt Capital have developed the RSP concept far enough.
It is now time for Hastings District Councillors to assert their power by insisting on a cool down period, during which they can enter into meaningful consultation with the other regional authorities, and the public, as how to best cooperate in providing for the needs of sport, health, and recreation in Hawke’s Bay.