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.”
Mayor Yule’s letter follows.
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.