Last Wednesday, Mayor Lawrence Yule sent a personal letter to his fellow mayors in the region, HBRC chair Fenton Wilson, and each of the councillors who populate local government in Hawke’s Bay.

The letter, reproduced below, is a further attempt to get the various councils to support a joint study of the region’s strategic issues and the possibility that an alternative governance arrangement – the shorthand is ‘amalgamation’ – might better equip the Bay to meet its future challenges.

Some look upon amalgamation as a mechanism for producing better outcomes for ‘big picture’ objectives – like sustainable growth, better incomes and social well-being across our population, prudent infrastructure investment, integration of land use and water policies, and adaptation to climate change.

Some look for simplified and lower cost interaction with local government, eliminating inconsistent or redundant consenting and permitting processes, tendering processes and by-laws – from construction permits to building inspections to dog licensing.

And some look chiefly for budget savings and more effective day-to-day program delivery. Do we need (can we any longer afford) two of everything in local government – from computer systems to ‘state of the environment’ reports? How many separate youth, cultural, marketing etc, etc programs/units do we need to ‘unscrew a lightbulb’?

Yule’s letter simply calls for a joint study … not a Treaty! Why on earth would a local elected official not want to examine these issues and possibilities?!

Yet that head-in-the-sand posture seems most attractive to many of our elected (so-called) leaders. To me, head-in-the-sand means butts-up, waiting to be booted.

The Napier Council has already refused once to even study the possibilities collaboratively. The Regional Council is presently aimless and headless on the matter … sitting on the funds tentatively allocated, but with councillors guessing who might be on the losing side of what looks eventually to be a 5-4 vote.

The Wairoa and CHB Councils are yet to declare their hands.

For his part, Mayor Yule appears to hope that making a public appeal to each councillor to re-consider the matter might call to the best of each individual. And that only a minority will choose parochialism and job security.

I think he’s engaged in wishful thinking.

For too many councillors, there’s too much lazy contentedness and fear of change, and too little capacity for thinking about the future …  a future where, following central government-mandated consolidation in priority area after priority area, local government consolidation will be inevitable, if only to keep up.

Hopefully, before the month is out, events will prove me wrong. Each of the councils will meet (Napier is first up on the 10th), openly consider Mayor Yule’s proposal, and opt to jointly study the possible benefits of better organizing for our future.

The NY Times carried a report yesterday on local government (i.e. states) efforts in the US to generate local economic development. The report cited an official from Colorado, speaking of trying to attract new business to his state:

“We can’t buy your love, we can’t buy your movement here — we don’t have the resources, the cash,” Mr. Romero said. But if the state can build a reputation, he said, as a place that actually “has its act together,” then that message will resonate and help the state fight back at a time when the mood of economic woe is bound up with political dysfunction.”


Tom Belford

Mayor Yule’s letter follows.

Dear …….

Collective Study on the structure of Local Government in Hawke’s Bay

Recently I presented a request to your Council asking for a collective study to be done on the structure of local government in the region, and whether changes to that structure might contribute to lifting the region’s socio-economic performance.  The same presentation was given to every council in the region. The presentations were given on the basis of my genuine concern for where the region finds itself around a number of indicators, and a lack of an effective structure for coordinated regional action to address our current performance.

I write today to get a more formal understanding of your Council’s position on this request.  I am aware that Hastings District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have made some budget provision to fund a study.  However, it is my hope that all the region’s councils could participate in a report that would cover the following:

· Review of the historical demographic, socio-economic and environmental performance and trends for Hawke’s Bay
· Review of the projected demographic, socio-economic and environmental performance for Hawke’s Bay
· Review of the projected and possible changes in government policy settings
· Review the performance and effectiveness of the current councils, including financial sustainability, options for increased efficiency and effectiveness, environmental protection and economic development
· Identify options for improving the region’s response to current and projected future socio-economic performance, including recommendations as to whether changes are required to the local government structure in Hawke’s Bay to maximize the region’s future potential.

I consider that this is an issue that requires significant unbiased and independent scrutiny.  To try to address it via internal officer reports or reports from others with a vested interest would, in my view, be a significant disservice to the community and its future generations.  I seek your support to undertake an independent study.  Previous studies and current individual council thinking would form part of the review.

I would envisage the Terms of Reference, choice of consultant; budget provision and timeframes would be jointly agreed by our Chief Executives.

I would be grateful if your council could advise me of its position at your earliest convenience.

Join the Conversation


  1. It's great that Lawrence is continuing to attempt to persuade our politicians to at least undertake a study – personally, I can't understand why we wouldn't look at history and future, gain the facts and then make some decisions.

    Knowledge is power.

  2. Why is it seemingly so difficult to get an independent study commissioned to look at the best approach for the future of Hawke's Bay? Some might say that refusal to do so is negligence of the highest order.

    I continue to be baffled by the indifference or perhaps even ignorance of Napier councillors. They say they are representing their constituency, yet as a Napier voter in favour of a regional vision they certainly aren't representing me.

  3. If the ratepayers are facing amalgamation, they should insist on detailed information, not just vague promises as in the case of Auckland Super City. We were promised accountability and transparency, but since 1 November 2010 we have seen anything but.

    See for further detail.

  4. If Lawrence wanted us to take this whole amalgamation proposal seriously, he would have put forward a plan of what HE thought the benefits were for the region, he would have outlined a strategy, key objectives, and a sound rationale. If he was bold he may have even outlined a vision for Hawkes Bay. He would have well-formulated answers to criticisms that he must have known would arise around Hastings debt levels, local governance by local people and loss of identity.

    He has done none of this. Foss and Tremain, who are his MP amalgamation allies, have been equally remiss at outlining even a simple plan. Lawrence is good at reciting damning regional economic and social stats that actually make his tenure as mayor look a little dismal, but has not given me a sound reason why this proposal should even be considered, let alone ratepayers money spent on a proposal…

  5. Having spent the best part of fifty years up in the hills using both Napier and Hastings as service centres, I could never get over the stupidity of the constant bickering between the cities, and subsequent loss of opportunties for the region. Like Lawrence I was involved in ratepayer groups who had to get a bit noisy to get a fair deal for rural areas when the forced amalgamation of Hastings City and the HB County Council took place. But time has shown that the sun still came up the next day, and no-one lost an arm or a leg!

    Let's have the study done, and then perhaps the matter can be debated objectively, pros and cons set out, and a reasoned decision made based on facts not long held emotions.

    We are talking about the future of our region, not the egos of politicians of whatever level or hue!

  6. Why do people think the future of our region depends on changing the governance structure? For goodness sake, lets forget about changing something that most of Napier doesn't want changed and concentrate on the economic development of the region. See my last week's Napier mail ad.

    Yet again, if anyone can show me a case study of where merged governance structures are responsible for regional economic growth and increasing the wealth of all residents then I will be more than happy to peruse. No one can.! That, my friends, speaks volumes.!!!

  7. Must be election year eh Stuart? Either that or you like the sound of your own voice.

    Do a bit of research and you'll find that Yule did put up a proposal when he first raised the whole amalgamation debate. Got to say it was significantly more well reasoned than your pretty little shared services diagram too.

    It's also easy a bit rich to say that Yule is good at reciting damming regional economic and social stats. Some people would call those facts Stuart. Also Mr Nash you are well known for rolling out alarmist statistics. Anyone remember your poorly reasoned attack on the farmers and the tax they pay? Actually probably not, as nothing you do is particularly memorable.

    Stuart all you are doing is taking the opposite position to Tremain, however sadly for you he's much more likeable and far more effective.

    How's the situations vacant column looking?

  8. Hey Stuart

    In the immortal words of the Toyota ad .." but then you would say that,wouldn't you ? "

  9. Interesting story from the NZ Herald. You can find the full article here:

    If English wanted to wipe recent history, Stuart Nash was bravely trying to rewrite it. Labour's revenue spokesman fired a series of questions at him with figures suggesting the economy was in better shape when Labour lost office in 2008 than it is now after three years of National. No doubt Labour would like such a perception to gain currency given the economy will dominate the campaign for November's election.

    Labour is whistling in the dark. English promptly reminded Nash that Treasury forecasts issued just before the 2008 election had projected 10 years of deficits and ever-increasing public debt.

    "This economy went badly off the rails well before the global financial crisis. Debt blew out, government spending blew out, and our export sector actually started shrinking.

    "We have had to deal with the legacy of the previous Government's policies, as well as the global recession. Under the circumstances, we have done reasonably well."

    But Nash persisted. He said the "facts" clearly showed the country's economic position had deteriorated since National took office. When would English present a real plan for the economy like Labour's?

    English hesitated for a moment. "I can make this absolute commitment," he replied. "We will never produce an economic plan like Labour's."

    God that's got to be depressing Stuart, getting served by Bill English. Didn't even know Bill had a sense of humour.

  10. I am originally from Auckland and have lived in Hawkes Bay for the past 5 years.

    While there has been some very legitimate concerns raised with regards to the Super City amalgamation, the people of Auckland somehow made the right choice of Leader to guide this new concept.

    Maybe this is what the Napier, Hastings and Regional councilors are concerned about. That the people of Hawkes Bay might make the correct informed choices with regards to leadership of a combined Hawkes Bay, (therefore some of them loosing their jobs and having to make a real effort to make a living)

    After 5 years in this wonderful highly motivated part of New Zealand, I still find it mind numbing the amount of dysfunction within the minds of people that live within 20 minutes drive of each other.

    Our children know each other by schools, cultural events or sports and when standing on the sideline in Napier (while living in the Hastings region) I haven’t noticed or spoken to any strange parents at all.( not even one that can play the Banjo)

    It would be a major leap forward for the Hawkes Bay Region to unite regardless of whom is guiding the region as long as the vision is one of economic growth.

    Hawkes Bay is a gem in New Zealand that is greatly under utilized, the region needs growth and it will be difficult to achieve with the current amount of dysfunction that some of our leaders are currently showing.

    Do the “Independent Report” and then from it take the issues and debate these to reach a united way forward for Hawkes Bay.

    No one is asking Napier or Hastings to loose their identities, however, one “unified governance” in Hawkes Bay MUST be better than our current neighborly treble up.

    Let the Leaders “step up” and be counted by the people they serve.

    It is time for a fresh positive approach!!

  11. Wayne enjoy you're view point and again another outsiders view from the inside.

    Napier needs to stop taking the alarmist, protectionism and dictatorial view. I mix in circles both in Hastings and Napier. I have a step daughter who attends Napier Girls High and we employ staff from Napier. The only people putting road blocks in place are Napier council staff and councilors and the attention seeking Stuart Nash.

    He is misleading readers of this post that Lawrence has not outlined his vision or reasons for a report (that's all not anything more) and on at least one occasion Stuart was present – well perhaps…

    It's been 10 years since we looked at this – I was not even around at the time but upon returning from overseas – it was glaringly obvious that the disjointed approach to issues like economic development, marketing of the region and social issues were not going to be overcome by council infighting, jealousy and pettiness. It's time we all got over ourselves and just looked at what the future could be for next generations. Barbara – it's a study – nothing more at this stage, it's not going to be angled or weighted to any particular finding. It will cover off the debt issue, it will cover off the fact that each city has it's own identity and it will provide recommendations on how to reverse our ageing and stagnant population growth. Even it it has answers for some of these we'll surely be better off.

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