The nervously-awaited report on Hawke’s Bay’s path to prosperity, prepared by seasoned local government exec and consultant Peter Winder, has just been released.
And oops! Guess what … it identifies local government reform as one of five “critical” initiatives that must be undertaken if Hawke’s Bay is to improve its social and economic performance. Indeed it’s the “enabler” of other needed initiatives, according to the report.
What a disappointment — and shock — this report must be to Mayor Arnott and her NCC brood, their ally Stuart Nash, Mayor Peter Butler of CHB and the rest of the status quo contingent. They thought they had quashed any mention of ‘reorganisation’ in this study.
Winder’s report discusses several reorganisation options, but doesn’t yet make a recommendation amongst them.
That awaits “Stage 2” of the study process. Leaders of the five councils have instructed Winder to examine three specific options: transferring some responsibilities for infrastructure to the regional council; a consolidation of regional council functions with Wairoa and Central Hawke’s Bay District Councils and the rural area of Hastings District Council; and the region-wide amalgamation of all five councils.
Meantime, here’s what the Report does establish:
1. Full-scale amalgamation of HB’s five councils could yield $25 million in annual cost reductions.
By contrast, more effort at shared services might yield $1 million to a maximum of $12 million (all cylinders firing!). That comparison alone should suffice to remove the favourite panacea of Councillors Dalton and Bradshaw from the table.
Says the report:
“The opportunity for shared services has existed for many years. For many reasons little progress has been made to deliver significant shared services within the region. The incentives for collaboration are weak and for it to be successful organisations need to be willing to cede some of their independence and sovereignty.” Yeah, right!
2. Regional leadership, a single voice for Hawke’s Bay, a single strategic plan for the Bay — these are the most critical ingredients necessary to move Hawke’s Bay forward.
Says the report:
“The advantages of the establishment of a single Hawke’s Bay Council would be that it: establishes a single voice and a focus of leadership for the region; provides the platform for a deeper and more manageable relationship with government and a means to align government expenditure with agreed regional priorities; provides that greatest scope to address the cost structure and performance of local government; provides the greatest scope to attract and retain highly skilled professionals; and maximises the scope to use the considerable, combined financial strength of the local authorities.”
“The way in which local government has the most profound impact on community development is through leadership. Effective and inspiring community leadership can make the difference between mobilising the community’s resources and capabilities to achieve common goals, or muddling along.”
3. The capabilities and viability of the Wairoa and CHB Councils are questioned.
Says the report:
“…the most serious issues relate to the capability and capacity of Wairoa and Central Hawke’s Bay District Councils to deal with the range and complexity of the issues that their communities face, and to contribute to the sorts of initiatives that are required in order to improve the performance of the region.” And: “Local government reform that does not include the two small rural councils fails to address some of the most significant local government issues facing the region.”
4. Significant benefits to be found in better aligning with and leveraging central government programs and funding.
Says the report:
“…central government expenditure is both substantially greater than that of local government, and focused on activities that are key for the long-term social and economic well being of the community. Health, education, welfare, transport and justice and law enforcement are critical elements of the community. Being able to align this expenditure and effort with the efforts and investments of the community and individuals has the potential to significantly increase the impact of both government and local authority expenditure …
“The cost of securing that [alignment] is low – other than that to do so Hawke’s Bay must be able to present to the government a single, united approach and the capacity and cohesion to engage with government in a meaningful way. That cohesion does not currently exist.”
Clearly, those expecting (hoping) the study would walk away from reorganisation as a critical requirement will be terribly disappointed. It will be interesting to see how opponents of reorganisation talk their way out of the findings of the Winder report in the days ahead.
P.S. Here’s the full report.