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