Our councils have recruited Peter Winder, former chief executive of the Auckland Regional Council and chief executive of Local Government New Zealand, to conduct our region’s ‘performance’ study.

Without question, Winder is an experienced local government practitioner.

He also, as a consultant to the HB Regional Council, completed a recent examination of ‘shared service’ opportunities for HBRC. That study focused on potential collaboration between HBRC and other regional councils, reflecting HBRC’s predisposition at the time the work was commissioned to deflect focus from structural reorganisation within Hawke’s Bay.

Now Winder comes to town wearing the ‘regional performance study’ hat, with terms of reference whose vagueness leave to the imagination how seriously he will look into local body reorganisation.

So the first question we should ask when Mr Winder arrives on the scene is this: Do you see your brief as including a robust examination of the capacity of HB’s current governance structure to meet the region’s future challenges?

It’s a simple question, but one our elected ‘leaders’ have managed to dance around for months.

Mr Winder shouldn’t earn a dime until he is crystal clear with the region’s ratepayers on this point. After all, we’re paying his fee.

And speaking of who is paying his fee, a second question arises: How does Mr Winder plan to include public consultation in his inquiry? Extensively, we hope and should expect. But again, the terms of reference sidestep this issue, with our council leaders merely asking for his advice on this matter.

So, just two simple questions for Mr Winder. How he answers them will determine the ultimate value and credibility of his undertaking.

Tom Belford

P.S. Looking at my notes from Mr Winder’s presentation on March 14 to HBRC, I’m struck by two comments he made:

First, in response to a Councillor inquiry, he characterised shared services initiatives in HB to date as “quite limited”.

Later he observed: “To make any progress, you need higher level meeting of the minds of Councils to willingly and constructively explore the opportunities.” Uh, oh!

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