Barbara Arnott, in this month’s lyrical Guest Buzzmaker column, A Tale of Two Cities, wants us to believe that she and Lawrence Yule — and their respective Councils — have an even tighter, more synchronised working relationship than our Backing the Bay duo, Craig Foss and Chris Tremain. Those two are tighter than a tick to a hound dog.

As she puts it: “Napier and Hastings are 16 kilometres apart but together in many ways” … and she goes on to illustrate her point with ten or so examples of collaboration between the two. Read her account here.

Now, in the Christmas spirit, I want to believe this cozy picture. Really I do.

But I must say, as someone who gets around to both Councils a fair amount, I pick up a lot of grousing about lack of consultation between the two bodies on matters of shared purpose or importance. Many times (twice just today, as a matter of fact) I’ve heard a Council staffer asked how or what or why something was happening in the next door jurisdiction, with the reply given, effectively … “Don’t know.” Or with the question answered with sidelong glances and sly grins, or painful grimaces.

Some of this grousing comes from Councillors who feel under-consulted by their next door counterparts. Some comes from community leaders, businesses and others who need to deal with both Councils on a regular basis.

There’s no question that the Mayors take up occasional causes together — defending the elected Health Board, attacking clean air standards, advancing the airport, pitching for World Cup rugby. Easy politics on these.

More vexing and divisive are issues like the sports park, a year-delayed urban growth strategy, support for Hawke’s Bay Inc., and promoting tourism.

I do believe the Mayors — the generals — work hard at maintaining a united front. But I’m less sure about their footsoldiers, whose attitudes and day-to-day behavior in the trenches appear less collegial.

This is a question I’d sure like to hear BayBuzz readers comment on.

Meantime, as to who’s more in sync, Barbara and Lawrence or Craig and Chris, it’s too close to call. I think we’ll need to settle the matter with a three-legged race. Maybe at a party celebrating the return of the elected District Health Board.

Tom Belford

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