Pleasingly, I am not going to talk about the election.

But I am going to talk about the local state and especially the Councils on the Heretaunga Plains.

Local Government under its Act has only one purpose: “to enable communities plan for their future.” Yet we find so much of local government reactive, responding squeaky wheel-like to immediate things, or worse still, engaging in pet projects of the elected members and their officials.

What really has concerned me lately is the apparent inability of the three Councils involved in the Heretaunga Plains to organise themselves to undertake the strategic urban land strategy.

This strategy is meant to plan residential, industrial and commercial development for the next 25-30 years. It builds on a remarkably successful strategy undertaken by Hastings District in 1993. This “Hastings Urban Development Strategy” has been a great vehicle for indicating the growth cells of Hastings, Havelock North and the smaller settlements.

But it is now out of date. According to Council reports, Havelock North will be out of new sections by 2012 and Hasting by 2015. Council’s own officials, in advice to recent Plan Change hearings, have indicated that it will take an almost unbelievable 8 years to get any new strategy in place.

This means Havelock North will potentially be out of new planned development areas for 3 years and Hastings on the cusp of running out – while the bureaucrats get a new plan in place.

Three years ago, the three Heretaunga Plains Councils agreed in principle to work towards a regional strategy, recognising that Hastings and Napier in particular were increasingly working as one employment and residential market. A forward thinking idea you would think.

Sadly, this broad agreement has led to absolutely nothing in three years. In the interim Napier City, I suspect out of frustration with its neighbour who is responsible for co-coordinating the proposal, went ahead and completed a Napier-only residential strategy.
Curiously, Hastings the major player in this matter, resolved in January 2008 its intention to complete the integrated strategy by August 2008. It has not even started.

When we should be laying out the welcome mat to development and growth, unbelievably, Hastings District not has not even commenced the work. Not surprisingly, the property development, planning and valuation community is increasingly frustrated at the inability to plan new industrial and residential development with any certainty.

It is simply not good enough for Councils to act with so little regard to the real future of an area. The public, as well as the business community, should be concerned.

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