In Napier, 26 cents of each ratepayer dollar goes to roading and associated projects. The central government funding cuts described in yesterday’s BayBuzz post will affect routine maintenance and renewal, resealing, extension of cycleways, as well as major new roadworks. The Napier Council staff has presented a paper examining these implications.

On Thursday, the Hastings Council’s Works Committee will meet. While there is an asset management report on the agenda, it does not include a discussion like Napier’s of the impact of central government funding cuts on Hastings’ transport projects.

Hastings spends about 21 cents of its average ratepayer’s dollar on transport, so one would think the effects of funding cuts might be comparable to Napier’s. At a time when the Hastings Council is rushing to spend capital on new offices, and advance borrowed money to the sports park, it might be questioned whether the overall capital spending schedule and amounts envisioned in the new LTCCP should already be re-examined.

On the Council, a noisy, pesky, irritating six Councillors seem to want to do just that. However the Mayor and Company represent nine votes who simply want to stay the course, come hell or high water.

Not a good look. Perhaps it’s time for you to fill out your Council Report Card here!

On the other hand, with independent commissioners recently slapping down the proposed Northern Arterial Road so hard the pavement cracked*, maybe the Council has “saved” (or been spared) so much roading money ($15-17 million?) it doesn’t need to lose any sleep over central government cutbacks.

The point is, we ratepayers don’t know. Just like Rodney Hide says we don’t.

It would seem that basic fiscal transparency and accountability would warrant a review of Council’s capital spending plans under the circumstances, before we start ordering new Council office furniture … just to be on the safe side. Which I strongly suspect is the side where ratepayers would like to see their Councillors stand.

Tom Belford

*The rejection of the Northern Arterial Road by independent commissioners provides an interesting case study of how Council can get it so wrong. In his BayBuzz Digest article, Arterial Road Hits Dead End, opponent Paul Paynter analyzes this debacle.

Says Paul: “This was a remarkable defeat for the Council. Purportedly $1.9M worth of reports in support of the NAR was shot down by a bunch of Maoris, some peasant fruit growers and a handful of ‘old folk’ from Kennilworth Road. The commissioners acted with clarity and courage in turning down reams of evidence that sought to justify the NAR. Moreover, their decision was so emphatic that an appeal to the Environment Court seems to have been quickly dismissed.”

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4 Comments

  1. Tom, this posting is in response to your BayBuzz newspaper front page article.

    In the BayBuzz article A Long Winding Road you state that “But farmers are a privileged class” and that “old guard Regional Councillors like Kevin Rose and Ewan McGregor…seem to see their job as protecting farmers, as opposed to protecting the broad public interest in clean, sustainable management of water”.

    It doesn’t seem that way at all Tom. You just want it to seem that way. Implicit in that statement is that I am indifferent to the ‘broad’ interests of my constituents. I repudiate that entirely! This, I suspect, is a process on your part to prejudice or promote councillors in preparation for you to put up candidates at the next local body elections. It’s your right of course, but I don’t see why you should exempt yourself from the transparency to which you hold others, otherwise you’re just electioneering by stealth. I have challenged you to declare your hand here. I’ve even tried to flush you out with a bet that I will donate in your name $100 to a charity of your choosing if you don’t, but that you will give $100 to the Rescue Helicopter if you do. There’s been no response.

    I don’t yield one millimetre to your commitment to the environmental care of Hawkes Bay. It is just that we have a different view on how to achieve the same end.

    And here’s another difference. Unlike you I don’t consider that my knowledge of what is good for Hawkes Bay is pre-eminent, and that anyone impertinent enough to challenge it be subjected to such denigrations as ‘nincompoop’ and ‘head in the dirt ranter’. (That was obviously me.) Much in BayBuzz is provocative (that’s obvious!) and stimulating, but much is of a tone that is unworthy of robust but respectful public debate in Hawkes Bay. I think we can do without it.

    Farmers are not privileged, but their environmental role is absolutely vital. This is simply because 64% of this region is in the care of commercial landusers. 50% is under pasture and the remainder in forestry, horticulture, viticulture and cropping. (Most of the rest is in conservation estate.)

    This farmland is constantly subject to commercial dynamics and its proprietorship has to not only care for the land but run a profitable business. Today this is a challenge indeed, and many primary producers are struggling financially. But the care of it is, apart from some very small but helpful assistance form the Regional Landcare Scheme, the responsibility of the owner, subject to his/her skills, commitment and resources. In many other countries, especially Europe, the landowner gets considerable public assistance, much of it to maintain the landscape and the environment. The Kiwi farmer is the most unsubsidised in the development world. Yet, with all its warts the New Zealand productive landscape is well manicured and attractive, and thus it not only enriches the life of those of us fortunate enough to live here but is a potent economic resource in its own right.

    This is quite apart from the fact that our land based industries underpin our prosperity and way of life. There is no doubt that that the dairy industry, which you relentlessly criticise, is placing considerable pressures on the environment, a fact that has especially emerged of late through its rapid expansion and increasing environmental standards. It also contributes a quarter of our overseas income. Without it this country’s standard of living would be somewhat less than what it is. We need therefore to work to accommodate our material aspirations with acceptable environmental standards. This is a demanding challenge and the Regional Council is seeking to meet it accordingly. And so are the vast majority of farmers.

    I’m proud of Hawkes Bay’s farming industry. I believe its environmental record, while of course not perfect, is by world standards very good.

    In the 20 years since its inception the Regional Council has worked hard to win the goodwill and cooperation of the farmer as it believes that this will better serve the regional interest than regulation, other than as a last resort. But this goodwill does not only apply to the partnership with the Regional Council but with the wider urban constituency. Today I believe the town-country relationship is better than it has ever been, and a cause for celebration. If regional councillors were to employ the anti-farmer rhetoric that characterises your comments (to say nothing of columnist Bruce Bisset) then the relationship would become adversarial rather then generally cooperative. This is the conclusion I have come to after a long period involved in public affairs. Being of the ‘old guard’ does have its advantages.

    Ewan McGregor

    HB Regional Councillor

  2. Ewan you were doing very well until

    "I’m proud of Hawkes Bay’s farming industry. I believe its environmental record, while of course not perfect, is by world standards very good".

    And based against a lot of countries our record of civil war is very good also.

  3. It would seem that my memory has failed me and Tom did not use the term 'nincomppoop'. My regrets and so therefore I'm happy to withdraw it.

    Ewan McGregor

  4. Ewan you have your head in the sand!

    The H.B Regional Council and its predecessor has done nothing but destroy my property from an environmentally sustainable point of view, quit the waffle and get down to some hard facts.

    Your organisation has dried up my stream for most of the year killed off the fish life and ecosystem, destroyed the natural vegetation that stabilised the embankments and left a good mess behind.

    This situation can be seen repeated all over Hawkes Bay I suggest you and the rest of the long-term councillors and senior employed staff at the Regional Council find some employment elsewhere; as far as I am concerned your skills and knowledge are no use but are damaging to the Hawkes Bay community.

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