Isn’t it interesting that all the bad news being reported from Hawke’s Bay councils in the past week or so was actually known last year — as in, pre-election?!

At the Regional Council, Andrew Newman’s performance evaluation and pay raise was on the agenda of the 25 September 2013 meeting. But the then-councillors, apparently not keen to award pay raises while facing re-election, deferred the matter. Probably most of those sitting at the table at the time expected to be there for a routine approval at the October meeting.

Over at the Hastings Council, the bad news about potential earthquake risk of the Opera House first surfaced in July of last year. A closer look was recommended. But the HDC seemed to go into ‘let’s not hurry’ mode. And so the further review, resulting in abrupt closure of the Opera House as unsafe, only arrived last week.

And at the Napier Council, internal concerns that the new museum would not be able to store the bulk of its collection surfaced as early as June 2012. In July, museum director Douglas Lloyd Jenkins echoed the assessment of Opus Consultants. Councillors were informed at least by October 2012 — in public excluded session, of course. The matter was discussed at another public excluded session in February 2013. And then the matter went dead.

The minutes of the October 2012 meeting referred to “a major storage problem“.

The chairman of the Napier Council’s Finance Committee throughout this period was Bill Dalton. Yet, despite two reports, what does he have to say?

“I had absolutely no idea of the potential size of the problem until just a couple of weeks ago.”

Remarkable … or should I say outrageous!? Here’s an $18 million civic project (partly funded by HBRC and HDC) and the chairman of the Finance Committee claims he was unaware of the serious magnitude of the problem.

Either Mr Dalton has a ‘failure of recollection’ or was simply asleep at the wheel. In fairness though, the previous Napier Council in its entirety was simply a stage prop for Mayor Arnott and then-Chief Executive Neil Taylor. No one on that make-believe council questioned anything. It remains to be seen whether any of the newly elected councillors view their role as anything other than passive onlookers.

Suppressed information … public excluded sessions … staff running the show — it’s all part of what has been business-as-usual in local government Hawke’s Bay.

And no transparency equates to no accountability.

When councillors become mere cheerleaders for whatever their mayors, CEOs and council staffs are championing, instead of serving as reasonably independent watchdogs, then the public had better be worried … whether it’s an opera house, a museum, or a dam.

And with five councils operating this way in Hawke’s Bay, it’s far more than our region’s handful of citizen watchdogs can keep track of or scrutinize.

As I see it, another reason for Transparent Hawke’s Bay.

And another reason for amalgamation.

Tom Belford

P.S. Find this too depressing? Here’s an antidote …

Redwoods Concert, Sun 9 March at 3pm

Enjoy the beauty of the Te Mata Park Redwoods and great music from New Zealand’s top original blues band, Riverhead Slide, supported by Wyn Drabble. Bring your friends, a picnic and a rug to sit on for a very special concert in an amazing setting. Gates open at 2pm – enter the Park from the end of Tauroa Road and access to the Redwoods is a gentle 20 minute walk. A shuttle bus will be available for those less physically able. Gates sales only – please bring cash (no EFTPOS available).$10pp or $25 family of 4. Gates open 2.00pm. Enter from Tauroa Road.

Join the Conversation


  1. Tom, Brian Mackie certainly skewered Mayor Dalton with his letter today.
    Here, a member of the group overseeing the MTG project from whoa to go suddenly suffers a total ” brain fade “.
    At all times he was acutely aware of the projects reckless figures, both financial and the lack of storage.
    As with his colleagues, he was made fully aware of these facts by way of written and verbal submissions–well before the contract was let.
    Worse, he was reminded two years ago by way of written reports from council officers, consultants and the museum director.
    Either the submitters were wrong, as to the aforementioned or our mayor was asleep during the process.
    I remember well that he was awake, as he asked questions of the writer in the submission process.
    So, the question is, who exactly is telling porkies to cover their backside ?
    Meanwhile, he is whining that critics are not forthcoming with constructive advice !
    Well, I did, at some cost but was totally ignored.
    Now the chickens have come home to roost in a very big way and everyone concerned is either blaming others or running for cover.
    I wonder if he has advised his councillors of the trip this weekend to luxury resort in Taupo to discuss with other disenchanted mayors the actions of the LGC.
    The question also arises as to who is paying for this private affair–the ratepayers or himself.
    If it is the ratepayers then I suggest that he top-and-tails with Peter Butler to save costs.
    Perhaps a “selfie” can be taken and put up on his blog.

  2. After reading this and several other related articles, I would expect to see the Mayor of Napier’s resignation tabled to council on Monday, surely!!!! this is outrageous!!!!! this must be determined as blatant lies surely!!??

    On the other pay rise matter Mr Belford, do you realize that this bloke’s pay rise, and pay rise only!! far and away exceeds what 9.9/10ths of the HB population actually earns in any given year, his “Trotters” must be so far into the trough, his feet must be well clear of the ground, does the Prime Minister earn anywhere near that sort of income?? local politics is becoming very much a sick joke to the Home owners, except a very few.

  3. Again the same crap from the same magazine. Why not re label the bay buzz to ” brain wash propaganda for the abhb and it’s cronies. Why only one line about the massive idiocy of the Hastings council who spent 13.5 million dollars of our money on a building that is now useless. And who was at the helm? Same guy as now. Do you really think he should govern the whole district when he can’t see past his own bank balance. There is no case for amalgamation in Hawkes bay. We as a province are too spread out too diverse and have far differ me needs than the few people who regularly regurgitate propaganda to feather there own nests. I have nothing to gain from our council merging with napiers except for our Hastings council being even slower more painful more arrogant and harder to deal with than they currently are. There are better things to spend time doing than wasting paper on stupid fluff pieces designed to blow smoke up the incumbent mayors ass. Where is the neutrality a true journalist shows.

  4. Some good points Paul. I too can see nothing good coming from amalgamation. I believe in sharing resources and the Mayors meeting regularly to share their vision for the Bay – but NO to amalgamation, no way.

    Napier is too different from Hastings which is unlike Waipuk, Waipawa and Wairoa. Each area has their different needs depending on their location and socio-economic demographic needs of their citizens and businesses. Personally I would hate to see Napier deteriorate iand adopt the social and racial attitudes that pervade Hastings and Havelock North.

    Of course Napier is not without it’s stuff-ups and cover-ups with the white elephant of an MTG building and the Pania Hotel.

    Amalgamation offers nothing but slower and more difficult to deal with Council services than we already get. There will be a decline in our individual democratic voice and rights.

    One mayor, one CEO and a small crew of puppet councillors will have far too much control. With all the community boards proposed there will unlikely to be savings.

    We need more efficient Councils to be sure, they all need to get back to core basics – concentrate on doing their job well serving their citizens, ratepayers and maintaining assets.

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