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.