On Tuesday the Regional Council broke open its piggy bank and committed $5.8 million to a series of “infrastructure” projects, chiefly the sports park velodrome at $2.5 million (on the condition that Hawke’s Bay is selected as the preferred site amongst several competing for the honour), the HB Museum & Art Gallery at $2.5 million, and a refurbishment of the Waipawa Town Hall at $500,000.
Actually, they didn’t break open the piggy bank … that would imply they were spending ratepayer money already in hand. No, instead HBRC will be selling land and borrowing.
And actually, they didn’t write any checks today, that will await a faux consultation by HBRC on the funding mechanism next year. But the reality is, the Regional Council has as much interest in hearing a substantive case against any of these expenditures as Mayor Yule has in having tea with the Heretaunga Plains Land Protection Society.
That was evident in the level of Council “debate” on the proposals. Mayors Yule, Arnott and Giddens made their well-practiced presentations, complete with DVDs, scale models and slick fundraising portfolios, and on the other side Councillors asked perfunctory questions with the incisiveness of an Intermediate School social studies class.
The level of considered judgment was pretty well illustrated by the Council’s resident anti-spending hypocrite, Tim Gilbertson, who said (and this is pretty much verbatim): “I know I’m being inconsistent, but I’ll vote for these projects because if we don’t do these, we’ll just find another way to waste our money.” Another few Councillors voted for the velodrome spend because “the horse has already bolted.”
Only one vote was cast against any of this spending, and that was cast by Councillor Remmerswaal, who successfully asked for separate votes on each of the three main projects, and then voted against awarding $2.5 million for the velodrome. She, like BayBuzz, doesn’t believe the case made for the sports park holds water. The cases for the Waipawa and HBMAG proposals do.
An interesting sidebar to the day is the question of whether Napier City Council is in fact committed to contributing $1 million to the sports park.
Mayor Yule regularly tells audiences … Yes, they are committed. He did again yesterday. He then exited the meeting.
Later in the morning, Mayor Arnott was asked about NCC’s commitment. At first, she hedged … we’ve always told them we had other priorities to deal with, including McLean Park, HBMAG, our own facilities, blah, blah, blah … suggesting no commitment has been made.
Indeed, the Napier Council’s new ten year plan makes no mention of funding the sports park. And when I asked specifically in my submission — and in other exchanges with Mayor Arnott and other Napier Councillors — whether there was any “sports” money in the plan for that purpose, I was told explicitly, NO.
But when pressed further on the subject yesterday, Mayor Arnott said: “If Hawke’s Bay gets the nod for the velodrome (from SPARC), why wouldn’t we (implying the NCC) celebrate?” It wasn’t clear whether Mayor Arnott was speaking for herself, the Napier Council, and/or Napier ratepayers, who are yet to be consulted on the matter.
At least one of these mayors has a serious
truthfulness candor problem. How hard can it be to get them in the same room and get a clear, consistent — and honest — answer for ratepayers?