Elsewhere in this Digest you’ll find a range of wise prognostications about promises to be kept, challenges to be met, trends to watch in 2010. I tend to focus on the Councils, so here’s my sense of where the political excitement will be found in the year ahead. I actually believe that political careers might rise or fall depending upon how some of these situations play out.

Local body elections
Of course, the October elections will be the most baldly political event of the year. The Hastings mayoral race will generate the most intensity. Clearly Mayor Yule’s strategy is to upset enough people that multiple candidates run against him, enabling him to squeak through to re-election with a narrow plurality. Once he gets back to the Council Chambers, however, he’s likely to see a surprising number of new faces around the table. Mayor Arnott will be easily re-coronated. Her Council? Does it matter? And at the Regional Council, expect a determined re-election push by incumbents as long-in-the-tooth Councillors unite under the slogan: “You don’t know what we do, but we could have done it worse”.

Regional resource co-governance

Expectations are that the Crown will soon announce a new “co-governance” arrangement whereby six Maori leaders, appointed by iwi, sit alongside six elected Regional Councillors as equals to decide resource management policy for Hawke’s Bay. The Resource Management Act gets amended in full, ugly public view with heaps of public consultation. “Co-governance”, on the other hand, will be sprung on unsuspecting locals before they know what’s happening! Whatever the merits involved in co-governance, it amounts to pretty radical change … effectively plotted in secret. Watch for major fireworks on this one.

Poo hits the fan

Sometime this year Hastings will need to turn on its new sewage treatment plant again. No one is praying harder than Engineer-in-Chief Lawrence Yule that it will work. But Hastings staff and consultants are running out of #8 wire and duct tape. Anyone want to take bets? And watching with nose pinched is Mayor Arnott, who’s committed Napier to the same foul technology.

National water policy

Around the middle of the year, central Government is expected to issue national freshwater quality standards, and address related water management issues, perhaps altering the distribution of power between Wellington and the regional councils. Imagine … thinking about water as a national strategic asset, instead of a first come, first served local commodity. Big implications for Hawke’s Bay.

Velodrome decision

Without a velodrome, the Regional Sports Park becomes, well, the Hastings athletic field. Unison and the Regional Council will put their checkbooks away (saving you as a Unison shareholder and you as a HBRC ratepayer a bit of cash). When a decision will arrive seems to be anybody’s guess … slipping into low gear, it’s been overdue since November.

HB Museum & Art Gallery redevelopment

Unlike the velodrome, funding for this edifice seems to be safely wired, with construction getting underway mid-year. Nothing should interfere with a 2012 ribbon-cutting. But then there’s distracting Marineland, still seeking its “Wow” factor … as in “Wow, it’s still there!”

Heretaunga Plains rescued

The Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy (HPUDS) will be adopted, probably pre-election so we can all be treated the group hug photo opp featuring Lawrence, Barbara and Alan. The Plan will be applauded enthusiastically by a dozen policy wonks and a small army of consultants. The rest of us can sleep at night reassured that the Bay’s rampant population growth of less than 300 people a year has been well planned for, possibly with some protection of our invaluable soils and coastline.

Amalgamation

Lucky beyond his wildest hopes, Mayor Yule will find an election opponent in Hastings who is against amalgamation, and spend his entire re-election campaign clobbering the poor bastard. In Napier, on the other hand, the reverse occurs. The validity of the election results is called into question when Barbara Arnott’s Lilleputian opponent, a champion of  amalgamation, apparently receives zero votes. Lots of fuss about amalgamation in 2010, but no action.

Tukituki & Mohaka clean-ups

The Regional Council has six or seven months to show that its various strategies for cleaning up the Tukituki and Mohaka Rivers are gaining any traction. Has the land purchase and resource consenting required to advance the effluent-to-land scheme proposed for the Tuki progressed? Is the Mohaka stakeholders group actually putting a lid on the dairy crap, or is it sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya? The more inaction or slow motion is perceived, the more energetic the campaign to change the team will be.

“Test” year for Venture HB

Here’s another situation where performance must surpass planning in the coming year. Smart, bold plans – and VHB has some – can fail if there’s too much sand in the gears. For VHB, 2010 must be a year of successful execution and constituency rapprochement. Do or die!

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