Yesterday BayBuzz had it right … the Hastings Council has in fact received the judgment of the independent hearings commissioners on the regional sports park. And later this week, on Thursday the 21st, the Council will meet to decide whether to accept that decision.
Just so you understand the process here, the Council can still tell the commissioners to take their report and stuff it. Believe it or not, it is currently recommended by HDC staff that this decision be debated in public-excluded session.
Here’s the explanation of a senior HDC staffer to BayBuzz:
“It is up to the Councillors on the day if they wish to go into public excluded. As this decision is actually an extension of the hearing process this is normal until the decision is released. They are actually deciding on whether to accept the recommended decisions of the Commissioners who heard the evidence of all at the hearings.
They may however decide not to go into public excluded; that is up to them … Obviously once the decision is released it will be sent to all submitters at the same time.”
It’s hard to imagine that any Councillor would be foolish enough to choose to have this matter debated and decided in a closed meeting.
What they are discussing, after all, is an official decision and report by the independent commissioners that already has the status of an official public action and document. The sports park decision-making has been abusive of due process all along. To conduct this next step in secret would be a deliberate slap in the public’s face, so that the Council can save face. I’m counting on Councillor Wilson to make this point.
One must surmise that we would not be suffering all this mystery if all Councillors had to do on Thursday was to meet to give each other high-fives for receiving a greenlight on the project by the commissioners.
More likely (here we go with those scurrilous rumours again), Council has been confronted with a commissioners’ decision that blocks the project in a substantial way. If so, the desire to remove egg off the face behind closed doors is understandable, but not acceptable.
At issue is a $60 million+ investment in both a facility and a strategy that will pre-empt any other alternatives for years to come for meeting a wide assortment of the region’s social objectives. To say nothing of its detrimental impact on productive Heretaunga Plains land, which presumably is at the crux of the commissioners’ decision.
If there is bad news for the Council in the commissioners’ decision, the public — to say nothing of submitters on the proposed plan change — is entitled to witness a debate and sorting out of the available options. If these are the circumstances, personally I would be astonished if Mayor Yule compounded the injury by proceeding in secret.
Thursday will tell the tale of what transparency means in his rulebook.