In his latest e-newsletter, Regional Councillor Ewan McGregor bemoans what he considers to be the degrading state of political debate in Hawke’s Bay. This is a recurring theme for Councillor McGregor. I only wish he spent as much time worrying about the degrading state of the Tukituki!

Of course, the villain in McGregor’s plot is BayBuzz and yours truly, “Tom Belford, a recent American immigrant…” This reference to my dubious pedigree mirrors a comment made publicly in a Hastings Council session by Mark von Dadelszen, husband of course of Regional Councillor Eileen von Dadelszen. It seems that only multi-generation, NZ born and bred Kiwi citizens are suitable for public service in the estimation of patch-protectors like von Dadelszen and McGregor.

I hope you will help me defeat this kind of thinking by helping elect me to the Regional Council in the coming weeks. I don’t particularly care which of these two Councillors you help me defeat … either would be fine!

Here is McGregor’s BayBuzz/Belford critique, from his article, The Age of Political Innocence: RIP.

Then there is the presence of BayBuzz. The originator and (I presume) owner is Tom Belford, a recent American immigrant from the States who has a talent for written communications, but if election meetings are anything to go by, not verbal. He is apparently well resourced, although, it seems, not well enough to run for the Regional Council without begging for donations.

But Tom is also the BayBuzz editor, and chief reporter. He, as indicated, is also a candidate. This is a massive conflict of interest and I submit completely without precedent in Hawke’s Bay’s, and quite possibly New Zealand’s political history. Tom has been a de facto campaigner for about three years, targeting selected councillors (von Dadelszen, Rose and McGregor) and anointing his pet (Remmerswaal) as being devoid of fault.

True, he has stimulated much public debate and perhaps has filled a void there, but his stock-in-trade is mockery and denigration. He is cavalier about representing his opponents correctly and when challenged simply ignores emails. (I’ve thrice asked if he will subject BayBuzz to the judgement of the NZ Press Council but have received no response. So much for his much-vaunted demand for accountability.) His blog is, I concede, a platform for public debate, but it is also a bullhorn for nastiness. I think Mr Belford has brought a tone to public discourse in Hawke’s Bay that we could well do without.”

My response:

“recent American immigrant” – I confess. Although a New Zealand citizen, I’ve only been here going on six years. By the way, is coming to Hawke’s Bay from the States worse than coming from Auckland?

“talent for written communications … not verbal.” – I hope to put my verbal skills to the test as a Regional Councillor. If informed comment and a strong voice are what voters are looking for, I can guarantee you that I’ll raise the current standard at the Council table.

“begging for donations” – I see Lawrence Yule inviting contributions on his campaign website … I thought that made it OK.

“massive conflict of interest” – are publishers barred from running for office under some obscure law I haven’t heard of? My candidacy has been fully and repeatedly disclosed in BayBuzz. With that knowledge, readers can embrace or dispute what they read as they see fit. It’s called “form your own opinion” (in election season, “democracy”), Ewan.

“mockery and denigration” – the worst thing I’ve ever said about Ewan and his fellow Regional Councillors is that they’ve been “asleep at the wheel” as Hawke’s Bay’s environment – its soil, water and air – has deteriorated during their watch. That deterioration is well-documented in the Council’s own State of Environment Report — 2005-2008, which I cite constantly to the Councillors’ apparent embarrassment.

“when challenged, simply ignores emails” – the BayBuzz website is an open book in which McGregor knows full well he can comment at any time. He could even have published his diatribe there, instead of leaving it to me. His Press Council reference runs to a question along the lines of: “If the court finds you guilty of assaulting your wife, will you accept its verdict?” Hmmm? Despite the faulty premise, in the spirit of upholding our civil society, I guess so, Ewan. Complain away … it’s your right.

“bullhorn for nastiness” – for every single Ewan McGregor who takes that view, I’ll put up 100 who consider BayBuzz a long overdue breathe of fresh air in Hawke’s Bay.

What do I want readers to take away from this exchange?

That Ewan and his fellow Regional Councillors have been “asleep at the wheel” as Hawke’s Bay’s environment – its soil, water and air – has deteriorated during their watch. McGregor, von Dadelszen and Rose have had their chance to get it right. They failed. And now they’re running scared. Hence attacks like Ewan’s.

It’s time for some new faces and fresh thinking on the Regional Council.

Tom Belford

P.S. For more on why I’d like to be a Regional Councillor, please visit my campaign website.

Join the Conversation


  1. Ewan is just suffering from grumpy old man dis-ease, compounded by being hard of hearing – and i mean that in the broadest possible way.

    His conceit is to think "conservationist" equals "environmentalist", and can't understand why people don't believe he's the latter (given his efforts as the former). But a quick survey of his decisions makes the distinction clear!

    Fundamentally he's too entrenched in the established "order" to change, so voters will have to make the change for him.

    Difficult, given the power bloc he and his wife weild between them, but for the sake of the future hopefully not impossible.

    There now; was that enough bullhorn?

  2. oh, ps re Ewan's title: the irony is that the "innocence" of kiwi voters has allowed people like Ewan to rule the roost for decades without serious challenge, and consequently they can't see that thinking their ingrained way is the only right way is as fascist as the dogmas their fathers fought against. Hence, when called to account, they get vicious.

  3. I have faith that people in this region are able to identify the usage of prejudice as a ploy only used by those who are scared they are going to lose. The term recent American immigrant would no thave been used if you were Samoan or a South Islander or from China, (the latter being too blatantly racist).

  4. Me thinks one Ewan McGregor is getting a bit worried. At least if Tom [when Tom] gets elected it won't be the same jack-up that got Ewan on the HBRC unelected in the first place.

    I only hope we can toss off a couple of Napier HBRC encumbents as well.

  5. The interesting point about McGregor's dribble, is that the same moronic base arguements are of the same type used by those of his 'intellectual' ability against many progressive changes over the years.

    Tom, you may indeed have recently become a 'new kiwi'; but your contribution far outweights McGregor's as he is one of those right wing half wits who would never hesitate to compromise political principle at the expence of the greater good.

    McGregor and his ilk have failed in their obligation to protect Hawkes Bay, he should be embarrassed even considering to seek a further term on Council and hopefully the electors will bring this fool to heal.

    Good grief, maybe he'll have to get a real job!

  6. I have acknowledged that the BayBuzz blog is a platform for debate, and good on it for that, but what I object to is the way it facilitates public comment which diminishes the individual.

    For instance Dean Hyde’s recent commit on the Hearings Committee, or most of his other comments for that matter. And Tom calling the Hearings Committee ‘sick’ – the same Hearings committee that made the historic decision to remove the waste water from the river altogether, and he’s be taunting me on its quality ever since!.

    His attack on Lawrence Yule when he announced that he was standing on a platform of amalgamation which I felt was way below the belt. And for example, to ridicule Eileen von Dadlezsen for ‘setting a record by moving 15 points of order’ may be satire but it’s nonsense and unworthy of someone who has given such Stirling and dignified service to Hawkes Bay.

    I believe that many of the comments posted re Cranford’s problem were uncalled for – one referring to an executive who couldn’t answer back as a ‘twat’.

    Even the Regional Council staff are not immune, when about 6 months ago they issued a publication with councillor’s portraits the size of postage stamps along the bottom; ‘And don’t you just love those cute pictures – must be an election coming up’, or words to that effect.

    There are many more examples but those are ones that come to mind. They are not aimed at the issues but the individual.

    I invite readers to read my comments in context on my website Click on newsletters and No 21. You can compare my approach, which I seek to be good humoured and constructive, with Tom Belford’s, which, while stimulating debate (that’s obvious) are largely negative.

  7. What has happened ? Why has Ewan McGregor 'flipped his lid'? Such a level of vitriol should surely be reserved for really serious enemies.The degree of pure nastiness and personal attack is something unexpected in local body politics.

    It does seem that there is indeed a wind of change blowing through Hawke's Bay and that what has been a comfortable Old Boy network for over a hundred years, is faced with the realities of the internet, free and open discussion, and most of all, criticism. Perhaps that is what Ewan and to be fair, some other local politicians are finding difficult.

    Foremost in the charge for open discussion has been BayBuzz. Tom Belford, a committed environmentalist, has endured hours of mind numbing council meetings and reported them faithfully to us long suffering ratepayers – – – a task seemingly abandoned by what passes for a newspaper in H.Bay. No longer have councillors the comfort of knowing that decisions affecting all of us will remain unchallenged. The BayBuzz website, owned and paid for by Tom, has delivered a wealth of information to those of us that subscribe and for folk not on the internet, there has been the regular publication of a broadsheet. We should all be grateful for the energy and dedication that this "recent American' immigrant" has brought to keeping us informed.

    Let's hope we are not to have more of such unpleasant attacks from Ewan or any other candidate. The real discussion is on levels much higher than that.

  8. I have this horrible feeling that: contrary to what he says in his, blog, Ewan spends his spare time finding ways to inflate his case of old man dis-ease. Get well soon.

  9. Immigrants

    Is New Zealand not a land of Immigrants

    The Community needs Elected members from all walks of life including American Immigrants to represent New Zealand's diversity.

    We need NEW members who maybe will manager our resources far better , and protect our environment , the Rivers of Hawke's Bay are in rapid decline and need this protection now.

    Its Time for Change new blood is needed

  10. Dear Tom

    As a recent immigrant you will no doubt have noticed that we smirk at your accent and kindly point out when you have got the vocabulary ("lingo" to you) wrong. It's "bonnet" not "hood", "boot" not "trunk", etc.

    And of course, being American, you can't help the occasional social gaffe.

    We're fairly tolerant that way, and understand that being a "gringo" you are genetically programmed to be rude. Most of us understand that.

    It's part of our in-bred native racial profiling ability, that stands us in in such good stead in H.B.

    So in your social-linguistic lesson of today I would just like to point out (kindly) the proper traditional 'Kiwi' response to Mr McGregor.

    You made the mistake of actually taking him at face value and answering him. If you were a "genuine Kiwi' and not just a 'used import', you would know that the proper response is a modicum of disdain coupled with "Awwwwww – Diddums".

    I trust you will find this useful in the unlikely event that Mr McGregor is re-elected along with you to HBRC.

    Of course it may all be a simple mis-understanding, and it happens that Mr McGregor is hard of reading.

    Though you could be forgiven for quoting one of your Presidents : "If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen"

    As a response to H Stephen (above) being an old man is not of itself a disease, though it may well be a symptom.

  11. Those who cast aspersions on anothers cultural background for political gain surely must be wallowing if not drowning at the bottom of a self confindence quagmire. As voters we seek and elect the "Man for the Job". Alas this will not be you Mr McGregor!!

  12. Personally I am not really worried about Ewan McGregors deafness so much as his eyesight.

    Ewan McGregor is quoted in the HB Today some time ago that in the 50 years that he lived on the banks of the TukiTuki River he had not noticed any change in the river.

    Now this is either rose tinted spectacle syndrome or myopia.

    I fished the river for nigh on 40 years and I saw the river water quality deteriorate and the slime left behind when the river flow receded in summer. As you walked up the river the stench from the slime as you trod on the stuff was and is foul.

    The drying slime was wet underneath and this in the heat of summer summer did not help wonderful fecal aroma of human excrement.

    Get off the grass Mr McGregor or whatever you ingest to stay in a state of euphoria as it were.

  13. "who has a talent for written communications, but if election meetings are anything to go by, not verbal."

    By the way Tom … in this country is is considered bad manners not to SPEAK UP so that all can hear you. Do try to remember that in future …..

  14. Ewan McGregor simply sounds like a worried man and to be fair, he has good cause to worry. I for one, am more than happy to give my vote to "a recent American Immigrant", who is dedicated to the cause, hard working, passionate and above all else, speaks the truth.

  15. I'm sorry Tom but I must protest at the implication that that my comment that you are a 'recent American immigrant' is a discrimination. I merely state a fact, and I did so because this is unusual, even unique in our polical represenation. Indeed, I was brought up in a pro-American household, my father having served with them during the War.

  16. Not sure if you are aware Ewan McGregor the number of "imports" Hawkes Bay now houses. I am one of those imports, and take exception to you implying that an "import" is not wothy of representing what the community wants. The region is prosperous because of "imports". What you bleat, is discrimination and nasty tactics.

    McGregor you are out of order – you won't be getting my vote.

  17. Should it matter if T. Belford is from the States? -unusual or not. I am just concerned that despite Tom's voluntary efforts to, what he believes will, improve Hawkes bay, you try to convince your readers that his voice is something “we could well do without.”

    Have we forgotten Tom’s active part in the Tuki Tuki clean up, or the protest against building at ocean beach? Tom may or may not have more of a talent for ‘written communications’, but he’s the one that wants to get things done-exactly what we need in Hawkes bay.

  18. Frankly Mr McGregor I don't care if one of our councillors comes from the moon if they: 1)fulfill their pre-election promises, 2) inspect personally the areas most in need of improvement and 3) not just hear complaints but LISTEN to the problems people have and seek remedial action where possible.

  19. The old colonialists are never going to 'get' the new transparent, democratic system, which you and many others transcribe to, Tom. The wind of change is blowing through right now, and it's leaving them gasping. Too bad!

  20. It is unfortunate that most people never see our local body politicians engaged in their trade of representing us in council debating chambers. Meetings are not planned to be viewed by constituents. Luckily for us, Tom Belford and Baybuzz have provided a hugely important source of information and comment on how our elected champions are performing.

    This has certainly shown why we do need to replace some of these entrenched stalwarts such as Ewan McGregor,Kevin Rose and Eileen von Dadelszen.In recent letters ,talks at public meetings and particularly in

    blogs such as Ewans,there has been many alarming traits displayed. No one disputes their long combined dedication (well payed) but their arrogance and assumption that they know whats best for us and the environment is sadly out of date. It has only been through the efforts of Tom and many dedicated people that really care about our rivers,wetlands and outstanding natural features like Ocean Beach that action is slowly occurring.

    We cannot afford the delays and inactivity of recent years It always takes longer to repair damage to the environment than it does to create it.

    Please give some of these energetic new candidates a chance and Ewan,Kevin and Eileen retire and enjoy what gives you pleasure.Plant more trees ,write the lonely planet guide to somewhere and compose some arias or whatever.

  21. Oh Dear – if that is the best that Ewan can come up with (I see he is now trying to justify his comment) then it is obvious that the use by date has well and truly expired.

    The calibre is in the comment.

  22. Does this outburst from Mr McGregor remind anyone else of a certain Chris Carter? There is no conflict of interest here, at all.

    Ironically this scare-mongering, if we’re going to get into sterotypes, is exactly what I’d expect from Fox News. It’s race-based politicising. If it’s not, why bring it up?

    I applaud Tom for being more of a Kiwi than most of us. We all love Ocean Beach, and our region’s rivers. However, Tom’s actually getting off his arse and doing something about it.

    I hope he doesn’t stop at regional politics. This is the type of leadership we need.

  23. Tom is a HB resident and has every right to stand for election. Where he was born isn't relevant. His commitment to our region is. Walking the talk is the absolute minimum requirement of any of the candidates – Tom and myself included.

  24. Notwithstanding, Cr McGregor's ill-conceived comments regards Tom. Not least being negative, but after listening to ALL the talk going on around the traps, I sadly, but genuinely believe, unless this "sleep" walking NIT PICKY election gets some real "exciting" momentum to it, Mrs Arnott and A Dick, along with ALL their compliant bootlikers, will have No problem in getting themselves re-elected.

    David Bosley

  25. To all the above postees. Your protracted debate needs to end here. Action your opinions now for Hawke's Bay's future. This is the time to stand up and voice your true colours. Take your issues to the street instead of ducking behind faceless online forums.

  26. From my angle Tom with his BayBuzz encourages

    debate towards a more cohesive caring province of H.B.(Yank or no Yank,) thanks Tom. Changes for the better,just do not happen,and often we have to just sit back,sweat it out. while hoping for a fresh breeze of enlightenment.

    Well last Sunday Afternoon at Napier, "I got a real buzz of hope," I attended the "Meet the Candidates "

    facilatated by the Innercity Churches.

    It is common knowledge,that most of the Napier City Council, from the Mayor downwards , loath wards, want to get rid of wards, do not understand wards, even not aware in many countries wards are vital in reducing crime,when communities, do communicate. (Cr Maxine Boag, NCC, the only real ward battler, can endorse her positive ward experience)

    Well, the bonus of the afternnon for myself, was, the expression for change from the many new candidates who ably shared their lifes experiences.

    All the new candidates had business and community experience, with common sense. all were pro wards for the right reason, with youth and community as their main focus,

    Regardless of the election resutls, "Napier to me, now offers hope" I urge this group to stay around, and after the elections I will publish your names in Bay Buzz H,B, (if you are not elected this time up, anyway please hover around in the wings.

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