Ideally, election issues reflect the concerns of the community. The community then votes in the people best qualified for sorting them out.

Identifying the issues is therefore vital. It is also very difficult. Issues can be manufactured distorted and manipulated by interest groups, the press, the civil service and by politicians themselves. The machinery of government is especially dangerous. Councils and government have unlimited resources, giving them a huge head start in pushing debate and discussion in the particular direction that suits them, and in stifling or minimising areas of discussion that do not bear close or unwelcome scrutiny for whatever reason.

Clarity of thought, logical analysis, long term vision, serious cost-benefit analysis, and a holistic approach should rank high in both choice of issues and choice of representatives. But often inertia and apathy are the prime ingredients of electoral success.

So what are the current issues?

There is only one major long term issue, as far as I can see.

That is the slow, steady, downward spiral that provincial New Zealand has endured for the past forty years … and which shows no sign of abating. The cause is the centralising of political power in Wellington and economic power in Auckland. We can have the cleanest air, the purest water, the finest wine and the best gannet colony in the world, but as long as the population of Auckland and the civil service keep expanding, long term we are toast!

How do you counter that influence? By intelligent, united, and sustained advocacy and strong representation at both local/regional and national level, in conjunction with responsible, well-organised sector groups. Backed up by sound scholarship.

Everything else — cleaner water, fresher air, economic development, public transport, investment income — can be dealt with through existing processes and policies, which need to implemented rather than talked about. They will all be eventually solved, one way or another.

The wholesale decline of provincial New Zealand will not stop unless local citizens make a conscious and sustained effort to halt the decline, and re-establish Hawke’s Bay at the centre of the beating heartland of New Zealand.

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