That’s how Napier Council CEO Neil Taylor characterises the process that Lawrence Yule has proposed to investigate alternative governance arrangements for Hawke’s Bay.
In a remarkably intemperate ‘report’ to his Mayor and Councillors on Wednesday, Taylor refers to Mayor Yule’s “near obsessive position on amalgamation” and talks of “a degree of stupidity in reigniting a debate” … all while bemoaning the “emotional statements and blatant untruths” that a debate over amalgamation would trigger.
It looks to me that Mr Taylor is doing all the emotional triggering! Clearly, on a team that many I’ve spoken to in Napier believe is ‘obsessively’ conjoined at the hip, Mr Taylor has taken on the role of pit bull, while Mayor Arnott softly whispers platitudes about not wanting to stir up bad feelings.
Ironically, after trashing Mayor Yule, Taylor’s report goes on to argue that ‘shared services’ pursued in a spirit of trust and cooperation between the councils is all that’s required to move the Bay forward. Yeah right!
All of this was echoed faithfully by the Napier Councillors as each rose to applaud the Chief Executive’s report. Councillor Dalton elevated the discussion by repeatedly referring to Yule as “arrogant” and terming supporters of amalgamation as “his secret squirrels”.
I’ve never seen a group of people as petrified of the idea of change as these Councillors.
Moreover, they appear utterly clueless as to the range of sentiments about local governance change that actually exist in their own domain. The fact of the matter is that Yule’s professionally-conducted poll of Napier residents indicated that 39% somewhat or strongly supported amalgamation, with another 13% neutral.
My math says that’s a majority open to discussion and debate of the issues. However, to Napier’s Councillors these people either don’t exist … or will be summarily detained and thrown off the top of Napier Hill.
So instead of Napier Councillors carrying the issues to their constituents (only Councillor Boag seems to see any value in public consultation on the matter), it will be left to the proponents of a governance inquiry to do so.
And the proponents will. There are simply too many leaders in Hawke’s Bay — and that includes in Napier — who believe strongly that the Bay needs to better organise itself to face the challenges of the future. They won’t fade away. Mayor Yule is only one of them. And from my soundings in many, many conversations with folks in Napier, I have no doubt that there are more than enough ‘secret squirrels’ nesting in that community who want to see the debate unfold.
So with the Napier Councillors declaring their irrelevance for a second time, it’s time for the debate to move beyond them and directly to the people of Napier and the rest of Hawke’s Bay.
The process available to the proponents of amalgamation is to secure via petition drive the support of 10% of the voters of each affected district for at least a tentative amalgamation proposal. That suffices to put the issue before the Local Government Commission, which, with public consultation, then guides the process of shaping an actual reorganisation plan to put before the voters in a referendum.
For the good of Hawke’s Bay, that process can’t begin soon enough!