BayBuzz had a chance to catch-up yesterday with Andrew Newman, CEO of the HB Regional Council.

As BayBuzz regulars know, we think CEOs are the real powers behind the throne in our local governing bodies. When our new website launches in February, we’ll be inviting them to come out from behind the curtain and publish occasional guest articles.

Naturally I whined and complained about all sorts of issues, but Mr. Newman seemed to take it all in stride … and occasionally sympathized.

The best news I heard was that he has involved himself directly in the Bay water issues that have become rather contentious lately.

He indicated that he viewed water quality and management as a critical “life support” issue for the Bay, and one of a number of “macro” issues — along with land use across the region and the regional implications of global warming — that deserved more attention from the Regional Council … both Councillors and staff.

As the CEO sees it, the Regional Council has done a superb job in its more traditional “service” roles, such as supporting rural landowners in areas like landcare and pest control. However, he adds, a more urban population and additional mandates under the Local Government Act and from central government create different needs and expectations to which the Council must still adapt.

Asked what goals he personally would like to emphasize during this term of Council, Mr. Newman tended to focus on the managerial side of things:

  • shift more of Council attention and debate to bigger, strategic issues;
  • tap more of the existing creative capacity of Council staff;
  • engage with a broader range of constituencies throughout the region;
  • clarify the Council’s role under the Local Government Act in areas like social and cultural development;
  • help Councillors as a body define their own strategic objectives for the coming term; and,
  • better understand environmental costs (or externalities, like the depletion of water or impacts of global warming) and integrate these into planning and decision-making.

What strikes me in retrospect about this list is that it speaks of the process of governance as opposed to particular substantive or political goals. For example, he didn’t say something like “cut pollution in the Tukituki by 50% in two years.”

Intentionally, I suspect, because a politically astute CEO would defer, of course, and say that setting those policy goals was the prerogative of the elected Councillors.

On the other hand, finishing our conversation, off he went to a
meeting with concerned citizens on my favorite HBRC issue … water
quality in the Bay’s rivers. Somehow, I suspect that where the CEO
comes down on the matter will have substantial impact on how the
Council views it.

More on that later.



[This is not Andrew Newman. Indeed, as far as I can discover, Mr. Newman hasn’t even had his picture posted on the HBRC website. That’s what I call staying behind the curtain!]

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