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?

Tom Belford

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5 Comments

  1. When will the Regional Council reach its pinacle of waste.

    The sports park/velodrome should be scrapped; we/I cannot afford to support this crazy misuse of public funds…………;are any of you in this

    organisation actually interested in democracy and listening to the people who pay your stipends!?

  2. Everyone is talking "Green" and here they are spending up large on a Sports Park and ignoring the 'Screened Waste' that goes into the Ocean from Hawkes Bay. Now thats looking after our image – Yeah Right. I know where i would rather my HRC $$ go – waste treatment.

  3. Tom, when was a sports grounds, upgrading a town hall , and art gallery infrastructure?

    This is public relations spin describing this expenditure as infrastructure.

    These projects are discretionary community/social/ recreaction/cultural projects, and this difference needs to be understood.

    Infrastructure spending is more properly refers to projects that provide economic added value (water, transport, sewerage, better broadband).

    The Regional Council must have undertaken some good quality economic cost benefit analysis of other potential projects compared to the alternatives that they would spend the public's money on. Have you got this analysis? And what other alternatives were considered?

    Given the Regional Council's desire to use "its lazy balance sheet" better, we should have more knowledge of the other projects that they could have invested in, and a good understanding of the expected returns from our investments.

    Given the Council is to use public funds (currently earning interest, or increased rate demands) and borrow further money, the rate of return needs to be greater than the cost of funds, and greater than the return from other potential uses of this money.

    Can you shed any more light on this aspect of their decision?

    Paddy Maloney.

  4. Collin Blackman deserves a "big tick" for suggesting HBRC donations could have been directed at "Screening our Waste " towards a cleaner Hawkes Bay.

    Hawkes Bay Regional Councillor Liz Remmerswall also deserves a "big tick' in her concern that the proposed Sports Park will not cater for all, especailly the many bored unemployed youth,who would respond to activities in the own parks and school grounds in close proximinty to their homes.

    Anyway we have the failed expensive prisons to fall back on, and our prisons are never short of a buck.

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