Last week our region’s four mayors and Regional Council chairman had one of their regular public-excluded sessions where they scratch each other’s back, make their mutual support pacts of the day, and seek to manage away potential embarrassments concerning their group stewardship of Hawke’s Bay.
The meeting yielded a media release, which I publish in full, as follows:
The Mayors and Chairman of Hawke’s Bay’s five councils have agreed to support a prosperity study for the region. All the councils have signed off the terms of reference for the study, which will be led and funded by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. Work will now get underway to find an independent body or person to undertake the work.
In other words, our ‘leaders’ merely confirmed an announcement they already made last November. Since then, absolutely nothing has occurred, while they disputed who was allowed to speak to whom, and what the identical terms of reference originally adopted back then actually meant.
Last week’s ‘new’ announcement sheds no light on the key bone of contention … whether the ‘prosperity study’ will or will not include a comprehensive review of the region’s governance structure — i.e., are we best served by having five councils?
The fact that our five leaders cannot put their names to a plain English statement indicating YES or NO to that understanding of the study’s scope indicates is still no agreement on that most fundamental issue .
[If I’ve got that wrong, I invite any of the five leaders to set the record straight with an unequivocal ‘plain English’ public statement on behalf of the group.]
So they sit right where they were six months ago … on their thumbs.
This kind of stalemate is precisely why Government is intervening to set new ground rules for how local government reorganisation can be reviewed. Knowing full well that councils will never question their own existence, Government will legislate new procedures that allow “the community” to trigger the review process independently.
The job is too big for self-preserving councils to undertake, much less lead.
It’s time for the Hawke’s Bay community to seize the initiative, and prepare to lead under the new ground rules. And hopefully A Better Hawke’s Bay will do just that.