Here’s an example of fragmented local government ‘at work’ — at snail’s pace — for the betterment of Hawke’s Bay.

Back in April/May, Colin Stone, chief executive of Sport Hawke’s Bay, made the rounds to each council in the Bay, asking them to get behind development of an updated Hawke’s Bay Regional Sport and Active Recreation Strategy. This would include chipping in some funds.

He was following a fundraising obstacle course that any agency or NGO with a Bay-wide mandate and mission is forced to navigate. Bounce around from council to council (as many as five), confirming to each that …

“Yes, we’re seeking funds/approval from the other councils.”

But, “No, none of the others has committed yet.”

Each council, upon hearing this common refrain, berates its fellow councils for not being a team player, then typically declines to be the first to ante up.

So, here we are at the 26 October meeting of the HB Regional Council — that hotbed of regionalism — and the matter of forking over $10,000 to help fund the development of the Regional Sport Strategy is presented by staff. Actually, the HBRC had already decided back in June to provide the funding, assuming it had the opportunity to review and approve the terms of reference for the strategy development project.

Of course, four other councils also wanted that prerogative! But only the Hastings Council had so far acted to approve them.

And so naturally the wheels fell off.

The staffer couldn’t confirm whether or not Napier Council had approved the proposal as scheduled, seven days earlier. Too busy to make that call. [In fairness, she probably figured — No need … this is a no-brainer … Council will approve.] A few Councillors niggled over the terms of reference and/or queried why fund the strategy development if they weren’t likely to give any money to actually implement it.

You get the picture … the matter was tabled. No action.

I’m sure this scenario came as no surprise to Colin Stone … he’s been around this track many times.

Yet, how frustrating it must be to have to court five councils to get a simple planning project underway — a Sport and Recreation Strategy for Hawke’s Bay, at the height of rugby fever no less — and see it sin-binned because some council or councillor has a bad hair day.

But Colin’s paid to endure this kind of nonsense.

Think how frustrating and demoralizing the process must be to the volunteer leaders of the region’s NGO’s and sporting codes and charities … across all sectors.

When the ‘experts’ add up the costs of fragmented local governance — or conversely, calculate the savings from consolidation — they never factor all this wasted time and energy into the cost/savings equation … five councils and their staffs pondering the issue (more likely protecting their turf), applicants trudging around the Bay begging for attention and money, delays lasting months causing missed opportunities and thwarted plans.

Hey, but who cares? As long as we have ‘our’ council, we’ll settle for inertia.

Tom Belford

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