Answer: It doesn’t.

And so we sit at or near the bottom of the ladder in virtually every measure of economic and social health in New Zealand.

There’s a group of political ‘leaders’ — hunkered down chiefly in the Napier and Regional Councils — who profess to be concerned about this situation. Their concern has become highly elevated recently … in direct proportion to the suggestion by other leaders that our present governance structure might have a guilty role to play in this mess.

“NO! NO!” insist Mayor Arnott and Chairman Wilson. “Governance has nothing to do with our economic and social failures as a region. Take it off the table.”

Apparently to them, these things just happen … and somehow they’ll just cure themselves. Maybe we can just wait them out … let’s not rush into things. No local government planning, intervention, or leadership required. The status quo is just fine, thank you. In fact, they say, the more councils and councillors we have in Hawke’s Bay doing nothing about these problems, the better off we’ll be. Let’s throw in some collaborative working parties for good measure.

Five councils, five sets of councillors and five sets of council staffs is the Arnott/Wilson Job Security Economic Development Program for Hawke’s Bay!

In fact, their “Five is Better” theory of local government has the practical effect of screwing things up, getting in the way, wasting time and money, constantly reinventing the wheel, diverting attention and energy to protecting comfortable fiefdoms and established ways of doing things.

The “Five is Better” approach doesn’t deliver services efficiently or effectively (two different matters). It doesn’t allocate scarce ratepayer resources smartly. It can’t plan or pay for the infrastructure that the Bay needs. It doesn’t present an impressive face to central government or effectively market the Bay to potential visitors or re-locating businesses. It frustrates accountability and citizen involvement. It doesn’t yield a regional vision.

The “Five is Better” approach to local governance is an open invitation to the people of Hawke’s Bay to resign themselves to sucking hind teat.

Now, Arnott and Wilson pretend (maybe they have actually convinced themselves) that only one person in all of Hawke’s Bay — an apparently delusional  Lawrence Yule — thinks that governance has anything to do with the broader well-being of our regional community.

Boy are they wrong about that.

The real leaders of the community — the folks who, unlike councillors, actually create and accomplish things in the Bay — are lining up in support of re-thinking how we do things in the Bay … and that includes how we govern ourselves and make public sector plans and decisions. Unlike Arnott and Wilson, they’re not inclined to accept that they’re powerless to change Hawke’s Bay’s bottom rankings; that it’s central government’s responsibility, only, to improve economic and social well-being.

No one has answers yet. Just ideas and questions.

But they are all agreed that it’s nothing short of stupid to refuse — as the “Five is Better” politicians have done — to re-examine the workings of the Bay. How might we improve our economic and social standing? And to that end, how can local government best facilitate, fund, recruit, inspire, lead? And is our local governance optimally organised to play that role and meet the challenge?

An old boss of mine was infamous for his favourite motto … Lead. Follow. Or Get Out of the Way! He handed out glass paperweights so-inscribed to all his visitors.

Today, that seems like an appropriate admonition to those tired, comfortable politicians in Hawke’s Bay who can’t imagine that as our ‘governors’ they should be leading the Bay up the ladder, not attacking those who would try.

Tom Belford

Join the Conversation


  1. Tom, while I welcome your latter day support of amalgamation, it certainly represents a massive change of mind on your part – you media people usually ridicule such as a ‘flop-flop’. I’m sure that Barbara Arnott and Fenton Wilson will be interested to know that a couple of years ago your boot was into Lawrence Yule, and for what? – his cynical support for amalgamation! (The piece and comments pasted below.) Still, the fact that you maintain all your previous postings on a public archive is an admirable act of self-accountability.

    A final observation: I suspect that you’ve blown your chance of a Bruce Bissett endorsement next time round; unless of course he too has changed his position and support for amalgamation is no longer an abdication of environmental stewardship.

    Cheers, Ewan Mac

    BayBuzz Aug 16 2009

    By his own account, Lawrence Yule was chastened by the last local body election results in 2007. Running then for a third term, he was surprised to find his two opposition candidates — neither of whom were household names or enjoyed a pre-existing network of support in the community — nonetheless collected 45% of the votes.

    His response immediately thereafter was to embrace “sustainability” as the message he heard from the electorate … and to promise that sustainability would be the grand cause of his third term.

    Unfortunately for the electorate, what “sustainability” seems to mean to Mayor Yule is the political sustainability of Mayor Yule.

    So, to sustain his political career for another term as Hastings Mayor (and hopefully, from his perspective, for another 3-4 terms after that as Uber-Mayor of a new region-wide Unitary Authority), this time Mayor Yule is leaving nothing to chance.

    He’s charged out of the gate early.

    Mayor Yule realises that Rodney Hide — with his populist finger on the pulse of “Main Street” New Zealand — is threatening to foment a ratepayer revolution against “out of control” local government, and that this revolution might kick butts out in 2010. So, attempting to ride that wave instead of being crushed by it, the Mayor has cast himself as the champion of local government reform here in Hawke’s Bay.

    Not only will he carry the torch for amalgamation, he will do us the favour of making it the central cause of his re-election campaign.

    Forgive some of us ingrates for not being over-awed by this grand Yulewellian gesture toward the public good. [FYI — according to the Oxford Dictionary, a Yulewellian gesture is one that advances one's prospects simultaneously at all levels — local and national, personal and public.]

    First and foremost, some skeptics might see Mayor Yule’s leadership of such an effort rather like putting the captain (and crew) who rammed the ship into the iceberg in charge of organising the lifeboats to escape. Maybe a fresh team should organise the rescue party.

    Second, there are many advocates around the Bay for some sort of local body consolidation, including many who are not current indentured officeholders. Mayor Yule is only one voice … he doesn’t own the issue. Indeed, a clue to his motivation is the fact that he made no effort to bring forward a plan that reflected any kind of considered support from his fellow elected colleagues … either Hastings Councillors or other local body leaders.

    Going forward, he will need to earn a leadership role on the issue, not merely assert one.

    Third, if the Mayor were truly a champion of local government reform, there are many ways he could press forward right now — not in theory, but in practise — to achieve better, more efficient and more foresightful outcomes in local government operations in Hastings itself, as well as the region. Most of these measures have in fact been far more strongly and consistently — and previously — advocated by others, like Councillor Wayne Bradshaw and the Chamber’s Murray Douglas.

    Fourth, and perhaps least important for the moment, are quarrels one might have with the details of Mayor Yule’s version of amalgamation.

    For example, if you assumed a goal of amalgamation might be fewer elected officials on the public teat, you’ll be disappointed that the Mayor’s plan only reduces the number of representatives from 37 to 33. Or, more significantly, if you were hoping for a well-considered theory of local responsibilities and accountability, with a rationalisation for which bodies should perform which functions, you won’t find it in this hastily concocted plan, which is more focused on who will sit in which deck chairs.

    What explains the Mayor’s sense of urgency about tabling his own personal plan?

    Simple … he hears threatening footsteps behind him. He senses the disaffection with his regime. He realises a stronger challenge to his re-election will be mounted in 2010 than ever before. So, he needs to try to point the coming debate to anything other than the past performance of his regime or current bread-and-butter issues. And if that something else has the appearance of grand vision, so much the better.

    He will tell us … “The machinery of local government is broken, and who better to fix it than people like me, who understand its intricacies. Now is not the time to change horses or to trust political novices.”

    Yeah right!

    That spin didn’t work for incumbent Labour against upstart National. We shall see if it works for Lawrence Yule. Maybe he will succeed in distracting voters from real issues and scrutiny of past performance. Maybe he will scare the electorate over change. And maybe he will lure his opposition into quibbling over the fine print of his amalgamation scheme.

    Personally, I think the voters will agree with Mayor Yule. “Yes!” they’ll say, “the machinery of local government is broken.” But then, I wager, they’ll ask: “But who broke it?!”

    As Mayor Yule has signaled … let the election begin!

    Tom Belford

    5 Responses to “Mayor Yule’s aspirations”

    1. Ewan McGregor

    on August 16th, 2009 9:18 pm

    Tom, this is the most negative, if not mean-spirited piece I have read for a long time. By attacking Yule you’re playing the man and not the ball. The ball is the issue of restructuring. If you don’t like it kick it for touch. If you don’t like Yule vote him out as team captain. But don’t mix the two.

    Lawrence Yule is the democratically elected leader of the Hastings District, and his just-announced proposal is a commendable initiative to promote public debate on an issue – local body reorganisation – which is of concern to a major section of the public. Tell us what your alternative is, if not the status quo. If this is his ploy to get re-elected then it seems like a thoroughly legitimate one to me. If this isn’t democracy in action then what is?

    There are a lot of people, maybe even a majority, who agree with the Yule concept, if not necessarily the detail. I’m one of them. Good on Lawrence Yule!

    2. tbelford

    on August 16th, 2009 10:50 pm


    Mean-spirited? Negative?

    Smart politician that he is, Mayor Yule knows better than most people that in politics it is the man (or woman) who gets elected, not the ball. There’s nothing mean-spirited in saying that Mayor Yule has an agenda … a “ball” if you will. Sure, I’ll follow the ball; but I’ll follow the ballplayer too.

    And by the way, when you admonish me: “don’t mix the two” … maybe that’s advice you should have given the Mayor. Seems to me he’s the one who handcuffed himself, purposefully, to the restructuring issue.


    3. David Bosley

    on August 17th, 2009 1:58 pm

    Boy oh boy. Watch-out anyone who dares to have a different take on things to Tom! For it’s patently obvious, Cr Ewan’s differing opinion, and right royal, no messing, “forthright” bollocking, made Tom vent his spleen to the extreme! So much so -that one would have to wonder if it is worth offering ones opinion without receiving a severe reprimand from Tom!!

    I used, and liked to believe your site allowed “freedom” of speech. Regardless- you are the bos!

    4. tbelford

    on August 17th, 2009 2:21 pm

    Not a reprimand, Bos, just a counterpunch.

    BayBuzz is open to all comments except the slanderous, those dealing with events that occurred in the last century and ow irrelevant, and those so forelornly repetitive as to threaten to bore readers to death.

    I love comments. Commenters just need to realise that they are walking into a public kitchen, and if they can’t take the heat …


    5. Bruce Bisset

    on September 3rd, 2009 3:40 am

    Good one Tom – exactly as it is. The sooner people wake up to that the better.

    As for Ewan’s support: outrageous, considering the council to which he’s elected would cease to exist AND with it any “checks and balances” to protect our environment (because that’s its – and his – job).

    Why not simply resign now, Ewan? You clearly aren’t going to get anything done between now and amalgamation….

  2. In reply to Ewan McGregor. Think again Ewan before you look to the past.

    "If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future"… Winston Churchill

  3. Keith, an historic quote in this case does not make for a sound argument.

    The past position of people on issues is always relevant to the present. If Gaddafi were to come out right now as a humanitarian, should we forget the mere trifles of the past?

  4. Well Keith, Churchill also said "He who presumes to command his fellow citizen to think should simultaniously reveal his identity". (Just kidding Keith – I made it up.)

  5. Ewan, Do I take from your comment about “reveal his identity”, that you would request Lawrences to date secret private funders and supporters to publicly reveal their identities. Good idea, transparency and accountability we need more of this in the Bay.

  6. I’m not sure Wayne why you are holding me accountable for the manner that Lawrence financed his poll when you’re the one with the problem. I would have thought that the crucial thing is that those who conducted the survey are independent.

    Still, I think that those who have apparently endorsed amalgamation by funding the poll should declare themselves on the issue. I have. Have you Wayne?

    I’m averse to anonymity. About 30 years ago I challenged the two local papers to desist publishing letters that were not publicly signed and have recently protested to the editor of Hawkes Bay Today about critical and certainly derogatory texts being anonymous. (When I was at high school in 1962 I wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph – actually about Hastings parochially objecting to the redeveloped Hawkes Bay Airport being located at the Beacons – and signed it ‘School Boy’. It was my first and last correspondence where I haven’t declared my authorship.)

    Polls apart, I also do not agree, certainly at the modest level of council candidacy, that the source of a candidate’s funding should be hidden. In the last election for the Regional Council candidate Tom Belford had far more anonymous contributions than most of us spent in total, and from our own pockets.

    Then there was the big, and no doubt costly, hire sign in St Aubyns St., with its scary skull and crossbones, that was clearly aimed at Tom’s election but cunningly worded so that it didn’t need to be declared as an election expense. We have suspicions as to who funded it – and that’s the problem – we may be suspecting the wrong person. Perhaps you could prevail upon Tom to clear the air. I suspect that you know him.

    But then maybe I have the wrong Wayne in mind. That’s the problem with secrecy; it leads to suspicion, and suspicion is the mother of slander.

  7. Ewan,

    I am really pleased that we agree that all political funding both for elections and other manners such as polls should be open and transparent.

    My advice to you re the last election is to get over it and move on.

  8. Wayne, it would appear you might just have your answer now as Yule’s supporters have outed themselves.

    Don’t seem like a nefarious bunch to me

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