This past weekend, an alliance was announced of seven councils in the top half of the North Island, representing a combined population of 2.3 million … more than half of all New Zealanders.

The entity, called the Upper North Island Strategic Alliance (UNISA), will be a vehicle for collaborating on issues like economic development, transport, tourism, emergency preparedness, ports, waste and water. UNISA will also lobby central government on sundry issues … as if Auckland needed the help!

Meanwhile, many elected officials in Hawke’s Bay seem to believe that ‘small, fragmented and duplicate’ (or is it ‘quintipulate’?) is the path to a prosperous future for the region.

I don’t know how long it took the seven northern councils to fashion their Alliance. But I’ll bet it takes our region’s five councils longer to come up with the terms of reference for a mere study of our region’s best way forward. I expect they’ll still be negotiating next year over the ‘g-word’ — governance. That is, should the study include an examination of our local governance structure and its role in fostering or hindering socioeconomic gains?

The Regional and Hastings Councils have said it should. Officially, the Napier Council has not agreed; while Mayor Arnott herself has waffled, with different listeners hearing different messages. The CHB District Council’s chief executive says that his Council supports the Regional Council’s approach, but his Council’s official resolution leaves their position unclear. And Wairoa? They’ve ‘gone fishin’ and haven’t been heard from yet.

Can’t rush these matters. The Bay has lagged the country for decades. Why hurry now?

Tom Belford

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