I caught up on some Council reading this weekend, in anticipation of Council meetings coming up, key submission due dates, and articles in preparation for the May BayBuzz Digest.

As I sorted through the stack of meeting agendas, background memos and reports, draft annual plans etc, what struck me was the amount of Councils’ energy that goes into “planning” versus “doing.”

Obviously, planning is necessary. Workloads and activities need to be anticipated, assumptions need to be tested, priorities and alternatives need to be previewed for public approval. All in a context where issues are more and more complex and inter-dependent, and play out over months if not years.

But at some point, planning becomes at best too absorbing, an end in itself … and at worst, planning and “process” become a way of avoiding action.

For example, at its meeting this week, the Regional Council will discuss a paper on “risk management” (you might be surprised at what the Council considers to be “risks” … here’s the memo), one on criteria for “strategic partnerships,” one on “pre-feasibility studying” for water storage in the Ngaruroro catchment, as well as another on “Looking Forward” (the Council’s workplan for the coming month … lots of “plans” in progress there too). Then, later in the week, the HBRC is conducting two briefing sessions on its “Future Scenarios for HB” planning project.

That’s a lot of planning! Is there any time left to clean up the environment or actually help real HB businesses grow?

I don’t mean to pick on the Regional Council. I also read the new “marketing plan” for the Hastings Council, which, if it said “we need an events strategy” once, repeated the need at least a dozen times.

At the other extreme is Napier, which has almost no plans. Apparently because, with the exception of the nagging issue of replacing Marineland, Napier has no problems big enough to require planning. (Actually, I have seen a tourism plan … it’s a refreshing two-pages of bullets … some even describe activities!)

Maybe there’s a lesson here. Maybe Napier’s Barbara Arnott gets re-elected with 84% of the vote because Napier does things.

As the local election year unfolds, listen carefully as our Councils and Councillors use their newsletters, websites and briefing mailings (replete with incumbents’ photos) to report on their performance. Try to separate the actual achievements from the “plans.”

Come October’s election, it’s only the “doing” that will count.

Tom Belford

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1 Comment

  1. Funnily I had exactly the same thoughts when I was perusing the HPUDS document – reflecting well the identified future needs of our communities and certainly heeding the tremendous public input, but will they actually be incorporated into council plans as a basis for what , where and how in our future development scenario?

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