A few days back we featured Napier MP Chris Tremain’s supportive views on amalgamation.
Now it’s the turn of a dissenter, Napier MP Stuart Nash. He argues that in a combined council, “competing factions would ensure a degree of gridlock that could stifle economic progress and growth necessary to carry the region forward” and that “two very passionate and competent voices advocating for our region, as well as for our unique Hawke’s Bay cities, is better than one.”
Why I am against Napier – Hastings Amalgamation
By Stuart Nash
I have always said that before I would ever contemplate supporting an amalgamation of Hawke’s Bay councils, I would need to see a robust and compelling business case that showed a clear set of advantages to all the residents and businesses of Napier. As yet I haven’t seen anything even approaching this. In fact, like you, all I know is what I have read in the paper.
What I would need to see as a starter before even entering into the debate is:
1. How the debt differential between Napier and Hastings city councils would be managed. There is no way I would accept a significant increase in Napier rates to service Hastings debt at the expense of further infrastructural, cultural, social and economic development in our city.
2. How the unique characteristics of Napier would be managed, maintained and enhanced in competition with Hastings interests.
3. What economic, social and cultural benefits would accrue to the businesses and residents of Napier over and above what we have now.
4. How a level of accountability to the people of Napier will be maintained when over half the councillors won’t live in Napier or have an affinity to our city. This cuts to the heart of the democratic right of every Napier resident to have a say on what they want to have happen in their city.
5. Finally, but most importantly, a governance model that ensured the voice of Napier residents and businesses is heard around the council table. I am told an example where this isn’t the case is the management of HB Regional Council leasehold property. Napier-elected regional councillors understand the situation and work hard to find solutions, whereas every idea put forward to alleviate the distress suffered by Napier leaseholders is blocked by a number of out-of-town councillors who do not have, in my view, a real appreciation of the magnitude of this Napier issue.
My strong gut feel is that a combined council wouldn’t serve either region as well as the current model, as competing factions would ensure a degree of gridlock that could stifle economic progress and growth necessary to carry the region forward.
I do believe that regulatory consistency should exist across the region, however, we don’t need amalgamation to achieve this. I know that Mayors Arnott and Yule, and their respective councils, work very closely together on projects that benefit Hawke’s Bay whilst managing the expectations and requirements of their unique cities.
Cooperation is very important for regional development, however, we also need to recognise that Napier and Hastings are quite different cities. This is not a case of where ‘bigger is better’. And surely, two very passionate and competent voices advocating for our region, as well as for our unique Hawke’s Bay cities, is better than one.
I do not support a Napier amalgamation with Hastings. We are doing just fine, thank you very much Mr Yule.