This ‘episode’ of Political Buzz focuses on the final reorganization proposal put forward by the Local Government Commission, and features several articles making the case for amalgamation. The advocates are Chris Tremain, former MP; Rebecca Turner, chairman of A Better Hawke’s Bay; Chris Joblin, Wairoa businessman and former councillor; and Di Peteresen, former CHB councillor.

But before getting into the proposal itself, it’s timely to consider the latest “$6m Blunder” (as Hawke’s Bay Today headlined) by the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council (CHBDC).

It’s hard to imagine a more compelling example of the need for amalgamation of the region’s five councils than the debacle over Central Hawke’s Bay’s failing sewage treatment systems.

In December, the first – appalling – monitoring results from CHB’s ‘floating wetlands’ sewage treatment system came to the Regional Council. This new system was installed so that CHB could meet tougher environmental standards requiring better clean-up of effluent from Waipawa and Waipukurau sewage systems before discharge into the Tukituki.

Mind you, the new standards, which took effect 1 October 2014, were originally issued by the Environment Court back in 2006 (over the opposition of both CHBDC and HBRC). So CHB has had plenty of time to get it right!

As CHB weighed its options regarding the clean-up system to adopt, the Regional Council weighed in with a proposal to disperse the effluent on land, which HBRC would purchase and plant in trees, virtually eliminating discharges into the river.

So confident was HBRC that CHBDC would accept its wisdom, the Regional Council went ahead – without any formal agreement from CHBDC – and bought the land and planted the trees!

But then, literally at the midnight hour, CHBDC announced its decision to opt for ‘floating wetlands’, leaving HBRC holding its … plantings.

Now, it turns out, the ‘floating wetlands’ are failing to get the job done. The quantities of E. Coli, ammonium nitrate, and phosphorus being discharged into the Tukituki are vastly over the new limits … by orders of magnitude.

Work is feverishly underway at CHBDC to figure out if the new system can be made to deliver the required results. By the time you are reading this, it’s expected that the December round of monitoring will have found the system still vastly exceeding the limits, putting CHBDC officially in non-compliance status. To which HBRC must respond as ‘enforcer’ of the pollution limits.

HBRC staff say the standards are “non-negotiable”. But beyond that, it’s unclear what actions HBRC might actually take to address the situation. You see, HBRC, with its depth of environmental science and engineering expertise, cannot dictate what measures CHBDC adopts to clean up its s**t.

So, what do we have here?

Two councils have different responsibilities with respect to cleaning up sewage entering the Tukituki.

Council A, of dubious competence, ignores the advice of, perhaps, better informed Council B … and indeed, gives a two-finger salute to Council B, which has spent a gob of money on land and trees to facilitate a more proven solution.

Council B makes the mistake of trusting Council A, instead of getting a commitment in writing.

Council A builds a system that winds up non-compliant. When asked to explain by HB Today, the mayor of CHB has ‘no comment’.

Local Government Commission Proposal

Council A presumably has trade waste by-laws that require the ‘stuff’ that’s allowed to enter its sewage (and wastewater) system to be properly treated (what’s coming into the ‘floating wetlands’ system seems to be a key part of the problem).

Council B has no authority over those by-laws or their adequacy.

Indeed, Council B says, not ‘our’ job to instruct them how to do ‘their’ job.

Will ‘floating wetlands’ clean CHB’s mess?

So now Council B does what? Suggest alternatives Council A has no obligation to accept? Fine Council A? Take them to court?

If you are unfortunate to live and pay rates in CHB, you are paying for both these councils to sort this out! Surely you’re paying for competing staffs (and councillors). Perhaps for competing outside experts. Perhaps for competing lawyers! And meantime, the river remains polluted.

A ridiculous situation.

In a unitary authority, the alternatives would have been thrashed out internally, with properly resourced expertise, a recommendation brought to the governance level, the public properly consulted by those ultimately responsible, needed funding arranged, and one set of councillors – who could subsequently be held accountable – would make the decision. End of story.

It’s clear that in the case of cleaning up the CHB sewage mess, if the decision on how to get the job done were made originally in this manner, CHB’s effluent would now be getting spread on land under trees.

And mind you, if this mess, involving only two players, isn’t cleaned up, what confidence would you have that HBRC would be able to clean up the mess caused by major intensification of farming (with potentially hundreds of farms leaching pollutants) if a dam proceeds? But I digress.

Some people naively believe that the Regional Council, left apart from any amalgamation, would be better able to act as a ‘check’ on district councils running amuck and ravaging the environment.

But the CHB sewage story reflects a different real world situation, as it exists in Hawke’s Bay today. Responsibilities and decision-making authorities that could be better exercised in one set of hands, with clear accountability, are in multiple hands, with blurred or only partial responsibility, mutual finger-pointing, and weakened accountability.

The same kind of discouraging story could be told about any sector in Hawke’s Bay where concerns and needs cross current governance lines – business, sport, arts/creative, tourism, social service NGOs, contractors … you name it.

This is the principal reason I support amalgamation. And I’m unapologetic about using the pages of BayBuzz to make the case for readers to consider.

In the pages that follow, four fellow supporters of amalgamation make the case as they see it – Chris Tremain and Rebecca Turner from the perspective of leadership and shared purpose; Chris Joblin and Di Petersen from the perspective of how their communities could attain a better future in a unified region.

I Want To See Change

by Chris Tremain

Sometimes leadership is about defending the status quo.

However, more often than not, leadership is actually about challenging the status quo and pushing new boundaries. More often than not it’s about managing the process of change, it’s about improvement and shaping a vision that people can grasp for a better tomorrow.

Often leadership can be extremely lonely. Pushing for change when the majority of people in your work place, your city, your country, don’t want that change, can be daunting, even frightening. The easier road to follow is to say the majority don’t want change, so we’ll stick with the tried and true.

During my time as a parliamentarian I faced many of these challenges. The anti-smacking legislation, the seabed and foreshore legislation, and the gay marriage legislation are cases in point. In each of these new laws a significant number of the population were opposed to change, yet we as leaders stuck to our guns, saw that change through, and those changes are now history.

Interestingly, the voices of opposition in each of these cases have now proven somewhat inaccurate. Few parents if any (as far as I am aware) have been jailed for smacking their children since the anti-smacking legislation was passed. We can all still access our beaches since the seabed and foreshore bill was passed. And New Zealand’s moral fibre remains intact since the passing of the gay marriage bill.

Some of the most vociferous opposition to change came when Helen Clark announced her Government’s intention to ban smoking in bars and pubs. A majority of the public were opposed. It’s kind of laughable now that significant numbers of people (including non-smokers) actually opposed that change.

I understand, back in the day, there was an outcry when it was suggested that the Waipukurau Borough would be merged with the Waipawa Borough. There was similar opposition to merging Taradale with Napier and Havelock North with Hastings. No one that I know of is now advocating to reverse these changes.

Recently I attended a meeting of the Better Hawke’s Bay team who are advocating for the amalgamation of local government across Hawke’s Bay. Many residents oppose the intentions of Better Hawke’s Bay.

Given my political colours are pretty clearly nailed to the fence, it was interesting to see the likes of Mike Williams and Anna Lorck at the same meeting. Mike has successfully run three campaigns to win national elections for the Labour Party, so clearly this Better Hawke’s Bay meeting was no political party gathering.

In fact the meeting was a gathering of like-minded people advocating for change across Hawke’s Bay in our local government structure. Given the tribal nature of central government politics, I found the meeting extremely refreshing.

Most of you will know my own position on local government in our province. I’ve been advocating for change for years. In fact, before the 2011 election I took out a number of full-page advertisements setting out a new vision for change. At that time I was not fixed on amalgamation, just some lesser form of merged governance. Since then, my thinking has firmed up and I see amalgamation as the best step forward.

For me the reasons for amalgamation are pretty simple – leadership, vision and implementation.

Too often the reasons are painted with the negative economic and social statistics that straddle our province. I’m not going to rehash those statistics here other than to say they are very real and that they need to be addressed. I accept that local government amalgamation will not be the silver bullet to solving these issues, but in my opinion it will take a significant step towards it.

No, today I’m not going to focus on statistics. As I began this article I want to focus on leadership and vision.
I ask you to now turn your mind to the most successful organisation that you can think of. Any sports team, any government, any NGO, literally any one. Ask yourself … in any of those organisations, did success come from poor leadership, a disjointed vision, and a lack of clear priorities?

The chances are that leadership was pivotal to the success of the organisation. No doubt leadership was not the only reason, but I bet you that in most cases it was central to the success.

I guarantee you that the leadership of any of these successful organisations did not include five mayors, five chief executives, and fifty-plus councillors sitting around five different tables trying to debate strategy. In my opinion, a clear vision and a clear set of priorities for Hawke’s Bay is an oxymoron with the current local government structure we have.

I don’t blame our elected councillors and mayors. The fact is that they have been elected to represent and defend a small portion of the Hawke’s Bay pie. Until the system is changed and councillors are elected in a system where they are required to represent the whole pie, things just won’t change.

The status quo in my opinion is a recipe for stagnation, not only for current generations, but for our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

So what I really ask you to focus on are the opportunities for our province if we really got our act together, elected ourselves one leader, and one council to give strong representation across our region from Wairoa to CHB. The recent Local Government Commission proposal provides us with a model to do just that.

I challenge you to think expansively about the kind of vision we would come up with for the Bay. What would be our shared priorities? Where would we take our region if we were all paddling in the same direction?

Over three years ago, I suggested a list of 21 priorities to stimulate discussion. A representative version of that list adjoins this column. Some of the original ideas have already been progressed.

I don’t pretend to be the bastion of good ideas so clearly the list needs to be updated and refreshed. A new council would do that, consulting on a much wider basis, including many fantastic ideas and dropping others. Personally, I’d add a cycle trail from Napier to Gisborne into the mix. No doubt others would oppose this vociferously. Good – that’s democracy in action. The key difference is that, after consultation, a decision would be made by one leadership group, not five, and then we’d get on with the job.

I want Hawke’s Bay to be the very best it can be. While I am Napier born and bred, I have never viewed our province in silos, as Napier, Hastings, Wairoa and CHB. I’ve always just seen us as ‘the Bay’! I’ve had businesses across our province, owned property in both our major cities, sent my children to school in both our major towns. For the life of me I can no longer see why we need five separate councils, five CEOs, and fifty-odd councillors to lead us into the future.

So, I do want to challenge the local government status quo. I do want to see change. I do want to see a new future for my children and grandchildren across the Bay.

Editor: A Selection from Chris’ 2011 List

1. Working with DOC to create NZ’s largest predator-proof eco-system on the Mahia Peninsula while still allowing existing farming property rights.

2. Changing the HB Power Consumers’ Trust so that dividends can be used for public legacy assets such as swimming pools, theatres and sports facilities. As a first priority we would build an Olympic-class regional swimming pool.

3. Working with central Government to upgrade State Highway 38 from Rotorua to Wairoa allowing tourist bus access.

4. Working with iwi as key investors and DOC to build tourist eco-hotels at Waikaremoana and Morere Hot Springs.

5. Building Maori tourism with an urban marae and concert hotel at Wairoa, together with replica pa sites at Petane and Otatara.

6. Continue to develop Marine Parade and Art Deco Napier as the “jewels” in our tourism portfolio.

7. Work with central Government to purchase Waipatiki Campground to hold in public hands. Look to similar opportunities at Ocean Beach and Waimarama.

8. Build a Bay-wide network of highly connected innovators, entrepreneurs, artists and exporters to grow an online and face-to-face community which attracts others of this ilk to the Bay. Encourage these people to start and invest in a ‘HB Business Incubator’ and a ‘HB Venture Capital Fund’ focused on the clean/greentech space.

9. Work closely with the Ministry of Fisheries to improve the sustainability of the HB fishery with consideration of additional Marine Reserves.

10. Continue to focus on lifting water quality in our rivers and lakes with a special focus on the Tukituki, the Mohaka and Lake Tutira.

2015 Hawke’s Bay at the Threshold

By Rebecca Turner, chairman, A Better Hawke’s Bay

2015 will be an extremely important year. The time has arrived for Hawke’s Bay to make one of the biggest decisions of a generation, and I’m confident that together we’re going to get it right.

The very idea of amalgamating the region’s five councils into one unitary authority has been a highly charged and heavily debated issue here for the last couple of years. The proposed changes will mean significant differences to the way things have always been done.

But that’s the point really. We need a major change if we’re to effectively start addressing the current situation and the even more concerning direction the region is heading in.

There is so much to love about Hawke’s Bay. From the wonderfully innovative and passionate people who call this corner of the world home, to the climate, the top-shelf growing conditions, the natural beauty, the ever increasing multiculturalism and our rich heritage.

This is why it’s heart-breaking – and inexcusable – that we’ve reached the point where this region has slipped to the bottom of the pile. Recent statistics reporting on the 16 regions in the country show Hawke’s Bay’s appalling performance in a number of social and economic indicators: Throughout our region total crime reported – 16th. People feeling safe – 16th. Productivity (GDP per capita) – 12th. Youth not in employment or education – 15th. 25-34 year olds with trade qualifications or degrees – 12th. Unemployment – 13th.

These statistics are not one person or organisation’s fault. There is not one council or mayor we can hold accountable. All we have is a lot of finger pointing and blaming of others.

Add to these clear issues the enormous amount of local businesses frustrated by the dysfunction of multiple councils to deal with; the different consenting processes; the duplication and waste across all departments in all councils; the lack of new business and economic development in the region; and the absence of a regional plan, a region-wide vision and regional leadership to move Hawke’s Bay into the future, and you get a fairly gloomy picture of the status quo. It’s not working.

We can do better and we should do better.

Under strong, cooperative leadership a lot can change. The benefits of collaboration and coordination are many and varied. We are one region with countless strengths, challenges and opportunities, and together we can develop the best ways to face these.

We can have a much better unified approach, rather than the current fractured one, to water management, preparation for natural disaster/civil defence, climate change and rising sea levels, poverty, the increasingly aging population, sustainable population growth.

Think about what a future-proofed, sustainable region would look like for you and your children and their children.
We’ll be able to attract new business and development, ensuring more jobs and a stronger regional economy.

Businesses will be coming from Auckland to Hawke’s Bay, bringing opportunities to local people. But we have to make it easy and appealing.

Thriving local identities

One of the concerns of many has been that amalgamation could impact on local identity and erode the special character of the various communities and areas within the region.

The Local Government Commission’s latest position paper (released November 2014) has proposed an increase in elected officials compared to the current structure, this isn’t just a ‘reshuffling of chairs’. The dual-level governance structure making up a single authority will ensure there are more voices but less red tape. This means better representation, while the need to increase cooperation and eliminate duplication will still be met.

The introduction of Local Boards will enhance communities and allow for people who might not otherwise be interested in standing for office to take on roles to promote their areas and see that they’re well served under the new council.

Community identity is about much more than who sits around the council chambers. In 1989 Havelock North Borough Council was merged with Hastings County Council, and since then we’ve seen the look, feel and brand of Havelock North go from strength to strength – a reality that’s a far cry from the feared notion of the smaller community being swallowed and silenced by the larger one.

The same success can be seen in Taradale, which merged with Napier in the same round of amalgamations in 1989. I’d challenge anyone to argue that Taradale, with its relaxed, welcoming and family-friendly feel has been ‘taken over’ by Napier or that it’s become just another suburb.

In fact, with all the variation in Hawke’s Bay, there really is no example of ‘just another suburb’, as far as I can see. Over the last few years I’ve met countless people and had discussions on the future and current state of the region, and how we relate to it. What I’ve discovered is that people identify themselves as belonging to not just Napier or Hastings, Wairoa or Central Hawke’s Bay. Almost without exception, they talk about their neighbourhood. My own neighbourhood is on the Cape Coast, in Hastings District and out here we break down our home community even further than that, to Te Awanga, Haumoana, Clifton, each with its own distinct identity.

In Central Hawke’s Bay there are vast complementary differences between the settlement at Kairakau Beach, the village of Otane and the largest town, Waipukurau. People who live in Nuhaka consider themselves and their community different to those in suburban Wairoa and the residents of Mahia. And likewise, Ahuriri, Napier South, Greenmeadows and Westshore each have their own special character and identity.

My point is that we’re a region made up of many more than four parts, and there’s richness and potential in that. Hawke’s Bay is a mixture of rural and urban, coastal and inland, Porangahau and Bluff Hill. By coming together under a cohesive structure, we could put all our strengths to work for the betterment of the whole province. We could support, complement, promote and enrich each other.

We need to change what the future looks like. It should be bright and prosperous. This is something I and all of us work for and towards every day. I believe a single council for the region will help achieve this future.

I hope that you’ll start to ponder Hawke’s Bay’s future too, discuss it with family and friends, and look forward to a stronger, more sustainable region. Then when we have the chance to have our democratic vote, let’s get there together.

Getting in Touch with Reality

BY Chris Joblin, Wairoa businessman and former councillor

“Leave us out of your Napier /Hastings scrap,” they say. “Wairoa can look after itself.” We will reverse our population decline, attract new business and become “the Global Mecca for bright young minds”.

Is there a genuine belief that an autonomous WDC can not only arrest, but actually reverse the district’s current dynamics? Is this simply a cynical attempt by the leadership to preserve their power and well-paid positions? Or is this an ill-informed, poorly conceived and perilously quixotic mission with the potential to destroy the best chance Wairoa may ever have to secure a decent platform for future generations?

The latest Census tells us that, like the majority of rural districts losing population due to the global phenomenon of urban drift, Wairoa’s population is also becoming older and poorer. And we are already nearer the bottom of the heap in the social deprivation stakes than virtually all of our provincial peers.

Council fantasy

The WDC knows full well that Wairoa cannot continue down this path. With our shrinking ratepayer base living on reducing, often fixed incomes and facing the increasing cost of maintaining an independent Council administration, our Council is marching inexorably towards the tipping point of unsustainability.

The WDC imagines it can attract new industry and more people to Wairoa for lifestyle (so far largely limited to a few highly paid additional Council employees like a ‘Transformation Manager’), but it will never stop our local young people and young families leaving for the better paid employment opportunities and bright lights of the bigger centres. We cannot guarantee to attract new industry to an isolated region that can’t provide a stable, sustainable workforce. And we certainly can’t stop central government burdening us with the increased cost of meeting more regulatory obligations.

The latest WDC concept – to generate a new identity for Wairoa facilitated by international consultants with the support of a unified community – is aspirational, but the reality is that the vast majority of Wairoa residents won’t actually feel that Wairoa needs a new identity. Bluntly, Wairoa will not be socially engineered into the utopia visible perhaps only through the new chief executive’s rose-tinted specs.

The doom merchants tell us that amalgamation would mean the loss of Wairoa’s autonomy and demotion to poor relation status under the political dominance of Napier and Hastings. Wairoa’s identity would be lost and our needs ignored at the Council table as the bigger centres of Napier and Hastings capture all the development capital. Our financial reserves would be taken from us and our enhanced government subsidies diminished. Amalgamation would “Tear the heart out of Wairoa,” the Mayor implores.

Is this the enhanced clarity of an enlightened few, a well-intentioned but misguided perception, or simply baseless scaremongering calculated to convince the less informed that the independent research, and somehow history itself, is wrong?

Reorganisation benefits

Apart from an umbrella when times get tough, the most tangible benefit of amalgamation to Wairoa would be the reduction in cost of local administration, resulting in the mitigation of rates increases. Regardless of anyone’s view of the Auckland “supercity”, it is undeniable that the proposed rates increases of their eight legacy councils have been halved under the new structure, whilst concurrently billions are being invested in long neglected infrastructure development. Auckland is moving forward, leaving the rest of us behind.

Rather than become the poor relation languishing in neglect, the 4,120km2 Wairoa district can become a significant element in a unified HB region. Already contributing a major component of the region’s agricultural GDP and dominant in forestry, the district also holds largely untapped horticultural and dairying potential. The iconic Lake Waikaremoana and Mahia Penninsula offer the province’s premier outdoor settings, with attendant visitor and tourism venture potential.

The long overdue initiatives that Wairoa needs to take around agriculture, horticulture, tourism and social development are far more likely to be successful under the combined resources of a unitary HB Council, with a single vision to grow the region, than they ever will be under a isolated and under-resourced WDC attempting to go it alone.

Rather than becoming a minor partner in a unitary authority, with no control over Wairoa’s destiny, the reverse may well occur. A unitary HB Council will be a coalition governance structure within which no single ward will hold a majority. The updated proposal before us allows for two councillors each for Wairoa, CHB and the new Ngaruroro ward, with six each for Napier and Hastings. Logically, no one area can dominate. With only six votes apiece, even Hastings and Napier will need the full support of two of the smaller wards to gain a majority for their causes. The smaller wards will often hold the balance of power and accordingly, Wairoa’s representatives will be in a position to negotiate favourable attention to our needs. That’s Politics 101.

Local board

The updated LGC proposal now proposes a Local Board structure for each ward, so Wairoa will have an eight member board replacing our current Council, comprising six elected members plus Wairoa’s two elected HB Council members. Local Boards cannot be disestablished by Council and must have delegated responsibilities along with negotiated funding from Council. They will be established with the maximum possible level of power and responsibility for decisions affecting their areas. In practice, the Wairoa Local Board will be responsible for the decisions that will affect the Wairoa community, while the HB Council will be responsible for high-level matters affecting the whole region, including regulatory policy.

So with eight elected representatives plus a local council office, Wairoa will not lose local representation. And what we will gain is region-wide responsibility for the funding of future infrastructure needs.

Our Wairoa “identity” is the nature of our environs and people, and that won’t change any more than Havelock North or Taradale did with amalgamation, will it?

WDC shouldn’t risk our future.

So is it responsible – ethical even – for the WDC to reject out of hand the opportunities that becoming part of a unitary HB could actually offer? In taking its official anti-amalgamation stance under the guise of “providing leadership to the community”, Council is clearly and cynically trying to influence the voters to its own end. The issuance of misleading and emotive propaganda in contravention to the official WDC policy of providing factual information is frankly, immoral.

There is only one position Council should take – that of neutrality.

The WDC wants to play Russian roulette with ratepayers’ funds and our residents’ futures. Whatever its motivation, Council is gambling with the future of our district, keeping us out on an isolated limb in a downward spiralling environment that history and independent experts tell us is irrevocable. To seriously consider the opportunity to join a new authority at its birth, where we will come to the same table at the same time and on the same footing as all the other councils, without the baggage of significant debt, and in a strong position to negotiate the best position for our future generations, is the safe, and therefore the only legitimate position for Council.

There have been 152 council amalgamations in NZ over the last 25 years. Without exception these amalgamations are now considered to have been logical, essential, and absolutely none have asked to be de-amalgamated. This includes the amalgamation of the Wairoa County and Wairoa Borough councils.

So history tells us we have little to fear in change beyond change itself. This is a logical evolution of local government – it’s not a conspiracy, and certainly not rocket science.

A Central Hawke’s Bay Voice for Amalgamation

BY DI PETERSEN, fARMER & Former CHB councillor

I believe that amalgamation is the right thing for Central Hawke’s Bay. And the changes most recently proposed by the Local Government Commission confirms my opinion.

First, let’s look at the changes as they affect CHB.

The major one for us is the increase in representation from what was originally presented. The new proposal is for two councillors to represent CHB, plus a local board of eight, two of which will be the councillors. This gives us eight elected representatives. At present we have eight councillors plus a mayor, so no one can say that we are not being represented fairly!

The retention of an area office in Waipawa as well as the existing service centre in Waipukurau negates the argument of not being able to access services locally. The services which should be provided locally are information on infrastructure services (roading, water and wastewater), planning and non-regulatory activities, community services and facilities, general council news and information, and public consultation exercises.

CHB is a rural community of 13,500 people with high rates.

In my opinion, we are unsustainable as a council as we have a small rating base (6,000 ratepayers) and do not have the capacity to do much more than maintain the status quo. This will become even more difficult with the proposed cut in subsidy by the NZ Transport Association. The declining population in CHB will lead to the existing council being unviable, resulting in declining infrastructure maintenance, a drop in the level of service, or having to increase debt and rates beyond the ability of the declining and ageing community to pay.

We already have had many amalgamations to form the present Central Hawke’s Bay District Council – Waipukurau Borough Council, Waipawa Borough Council, Waipukurau County Council, Waipawa County Council and Patangata County Council. At the time people were apprehensive, but it has been successful. Debt was ring-fenced to those wards for quite some time.

How often do you hear in the present arguments that there will be a loss of identity? This hasn’t occurred here and in fact I have never heard anyone say that these mergers shouldn’t have happened. Quite the opposite – it has probably enhanced the uniqueness of our villages and smaller communities.

We need to embrace and celebrate our differences, not only locally but also regionally. Every district in Hawke’s Bay has its own character which contributes to ‘team HB’ – Wairoa has the Lake to Lighthouse; Napier, Art Deco; Hastings, Horse of the Year; and CHB, Lamb Country – all contributing to Hawke’s Bay’s image.

So why do I believe that amalgamation would benefit CHB – particularly as on the surface there looks to be very little change for us from what we have now?

Need united voice

I do not believe arguing the ‘savings’ that can be made will win over the majority of residents. To me, the important issue is that unless we go forward as a united Hawke’s Bay, our whole province will stay at the bottom of the regional authority ladder, thirteen out of fourteen, where we now sit (BERL 2014). This is simply extremely poor economic growth.

The rural community is a huge contributor to the economy of Hawke’s Bay and employs a large amount of staff. In fact, in Hawke’s Bay 11.7% of jobs are in the agriculture, horticulture and viticulture industries (BERL 2014). Moreover, urban areas do not exist separately from rural parts of the region; they benefit from the flow of goods to the port and airport, from export earnings and from the services and jobs required to support the rural area. A declining rural area impacts on the prosperity of Napier and Hastings.

This all points to a very much needed reorganisation of local government in Hawke’s Bay. We already have regional cooperation and ‘mergers’ in things such as health, sport, newspapers, service clubs, police etc.

We need a united voice to lead the whole of Hawke’s Bay, with strong leadership that can represent us all. A united HB must forge a better relationship with Central Government, who in turn would be more inclined to listen and help the region.

I also believe that with a unified approach it will help with improving and preserving the quality of the environment and that it will provide the opportunity for Maori to contribute to better decision making processes, rather than working with five different entities. Under the new proposal there is a Maori Board which would provide advice to the new council and assist it to meet its statutory obligations. We have a high proportion of Maori in CHB and it is important that their voice is heard regionally.

We need a regional strategic plan and region-wide standardisation of regulatory policies, providing consistency across the whole of Hawke’s Bay. This will eliminate the duplication of the consultation and compliance process which happens at present.

Why would people or companies want to invest in the Bay when there are five annual and five long-term plans across the region? We need to remove the unnecessary barriers and impediments to making Hawke’s Bay a more vibrant and economically viable province.

A unified approach would mean long-term decisions based on the interests of the entire region. This will help provide increased employment opportunities and greater depth in the labour market, helping us to have a real stake in our future and to contribute to our communities. It will also provide an incentive for people to stay and build their future in the region.

Central Hawke’s Bay would benefit from a vibrant and exciting Hawke’s Bay … and the reverse is true as well. And wouldn’t it be lovely to hear us say proudly – I live and work in Hawke’s Bay, the best province in New Zealand.

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