Last week, I received my latest rates invoices from the Regional Council and the Hastings District (the latter bill so big I need installments).
The Regional Council tab was about $277. For that, I get — if all goes well — quasi-protected waterways, clean heat and warm homes (and cleaner air), a well-functioning port (actually the port pays us, but that’s another story), pest control, the beginnings of public transportation, flood mitigation, an economic development & tourism agency, some tree planting and erosion control, nine councillors to supervise the operation, and a few other bits thrown in.
Personally, on days when I consider the Regional Council might be serious about protecting the environment, I think that’s a bargain.
I fully realise that assessment will get me in trouble with certain BayBuzz readers. One in particular (whom I won’t identify out of respect for his devoted family!), called me the day he got his HBRC bill to complain vociferously that it was a travesty … even illegal. “My rates are outrageous,” he said. He was particularly upset about paying for public bus service and for Venture Hawke’s Bay. He had already fired off a letter to Rodney Hide.
As it turns out, his bill was almost the same as mine. So I tried to empathize with my erstwhile supporter by saying I’d pay his targeted rate for bus service (a cost I don’t incur, living rurally), if he’d pay my roughly equal charge for pest control (the only pests I have — rabbits — are far from controlled). I figured we could bond over services we paid for but didn’t benefit from. That didn’t placate him.
But finally I managed to deftly side-step these issues (and our disagreement on them) by diverting his attention to our Hastings rates.
“My Hastings rates are almost ten times my HBRC rates … I wish I could say I got ten times the value,” I exclaimed.
“But unfortunately,” I continued, “these days my Hastings rates go to pay for new Council offices, a flash sports park, a faux sewage treatment plant (really a transfer station for channeling poop — magically transformed into sanctified “biomass” by passing over rocks — into the Bay), endless operating losses at Splash Planet, a growing mountain of debt, and fourteen councillors and a mayor. All this while maintenance of community swimming pools, public toilets, and footpaths suffers, and weeds grow at Nelson Park.”
My stratagem worked brilliantly! Immediately my caller shifted gears, venting even more passionately about the Hastings Council, its mis-adventures and mis-spending. By comparison to his volcanic blast at the HDC, his gripe against the Regional Council was a forgotten firecracker.
And once again we were on the same side, fences mended.