Hat in hand, like us mere citizen submitters to various Council Annual Plans, Mayor Lawrence Yule has approached his fellow Councils to pitch them for some money. Having missed their submission deadlines, he needed their special dispensation.

Specifically, he wants the Regional and Napier Councils to co-sponsor with Hastings a study of the pros and cons of amalgamation. We’re talking about maybe a $150k project. Wairoa and CHB Councils are invited to the party too.

It sounds like his fellow Councils are not exactly panting to hear his pitch! Moreover, even if granting him an audience, the issue has been raised as to whether his presentation and Councillors’ discussion of it would be in public session.

How ridiculously patch-protecting can our local elected officials get?

Mayor Arnott pooh-poohs the whole notion of amalgamation and considers any study of the proposition as a waste of time and money. Amalgamation is the answer; what’s the question … she sniffs. She seems to forget that she and her Councillors are supposed to represent all of Napier’s citizens, including the significant minority who have voted in referendum for amalgamation in the past … and who might have even more allies today.

As for the Regional Council, even more of their constituents voted for amalgamation in the past, given that Hastings voters approved the proposition by roughly two to one. The hypocrisy of the situation is especially evident with respect to the Regional Council, which is happy to champion regional economic development, regional future scenarios, regional tourism, regional civil defence, regional land use and regional water policy (to name a few areas that really matter), but can’t abide consideration of regional governance as a better structure for addressing those issues.

Where does either Council get off brushing aside an in-depth, fresh look at the matter?

And on what conceivable — and legal — basis could it be justified that a discussion with Mayor Yule on the subject be held in public-excluded session?! Whose personal privacy would be disturbed? What commercial interests might be revealed? Nonsense. Private meetings are nothing more in this instance than an occasion for threatened Councillors to whine and complain that Yule has even dared to raise the issue.

What’s clear is that the Regional and Napier Councils in particular are simply determined to protect their patches. One can only conclude that they are petrified that an objective study of amalgamation pros and cons might actually wind up presenting a powerful case for reorganization.

Without doubt, there are ample funds privately available to finance a thorough examination of the amalgamation issue. But if that’s the road that ultimately must be taken for the issue to be seriously vetted, won’t that make a couple of dozen Councillors — sitting in their two respective fortresses in Napier — look like a sorry bunch of Lilliputians?

Councillors who want to oppose amalgamation should oppose amalgamation face-on … of course they have every right to. Courageously … in public. But they should not hide behind closed doors to block serious public examination of an issue that in fact seems meritorious to many Bay citizens … even in Napier.

Tom Belford

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  1. You and I often don't share common viewpoints Tom, but on this occasion I have to agree totally. There is zero basis for this to be discussed in a public excluded session. Some Councillors are clearly unhappy at voicing the reason for their opposition, the fact that they will lose their cushy job

  2. In relation to this topic Tom, I am speaking on the topic "Sibling Rivalry: Hastings vs. Napier – what chance of amalgamation?" The talk takes place at the Hastings War Memorial Library, Tuesday 14 June from 5.30pm until 6.30pm.

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