Brown, Grey, Green — these are the colours of Hawke’s Bay’s future (leaving aside Magpies’ black & white for the moment).
Brown — our increasing proportion of Maori, with the Maori population growing 25% by 2045. At that point, Maori will comprise about 27% of the Bay’s overall population.
There are three particular implications of this growth — socioeconomic, cultural and political. The unfortunate reality is that many in this group will be less healthy, less educated and less economically self-sufficient than the rest of the population, placing more stress on local government (including DHB) to provide for basic needs. At the same time, it should be inevitable that with greater numbers, Maori will contribute more and more to the region’s cultural richness and diversity.
Politically, Maori will become more engaged in local government decision-making, both as a direct consequence of growth in numbers, but also because Treaty settlements in the region will further empower this growing population. As we reported here, in May 2009, a Lindisfarne alumnus, the Honourable Justice Joseph Williams of the High Court, formerly Chairman of the Waitangi Tribunal, spoke at a HB Regional Council forum. He addressed the growing role of Maori in public affairs, fueled both by aspiration and sheer population growth. More specifically, Justice Williams stressed the need for local government to engage Maori in decision-making better than it ever has. He commented: “If we have a situation in 2020-2030 with a Maori population that is completely disconnected from local government decision-making, we have a recipe for serious problems. It is a big enough problem now … in 15-20 years with a population in Hawke’s Bay that is one-third Maori and growing, it will be simply unsustainable.”
Grey — our age 65+ population will more than double from its present size, from about 18,000 in 2009 to 36,000 in 2045.
We’ve barely begun to realize the implications of this shift in HB’s population “centre of gravity”. And almost no local government planning has been done to prepare for it. The Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy flags the issue, chiefly with respect to housing needs, but doesn’t pretend to offer a comprehensive review of the broader demands (health care, home care, transportation, mobility, recreation and socialization, etc) this population segment will place on local government services (including DHB). And with this segment typically voting in greater proportion than younger cohorts, presumably those demands will be felt by local elected officials.
Green — as years go by, we place more stress, not less, on our natural resources and environment — soil, water, air quality, landscapes and protected areas, wetlands, productive land.
Correspondingly, it will become more and more important to protect our natural environment – so valuable for its own sake; for the primary production it supports as the core of our regional economy; and for its contribution to the ambiance that attracts visitors, smart businesses and entrepreneurs … hence, lifting our economy. Hopefully, we will recognize as a region that “green” and “growth” are interlocked … that’s what sustainability is all about.
Brown, grey, green … an easy frame of reference for the biggest challenges Hawke’s Bay will face moving into the future. Ask your council candidates to paint their vision of HB using these colours.