Regional Councillor Ewan McGregor has taken me to the woodshed for a paddling.

He says BayBuzz is being too unkind to Mayor Yule, by “attacking” the Mayor for being politically motivated and ambitious, criticising — even poking fun at — certain of his ideas, declaring the 2010 campaign already launched, “playing the man not the ball” and other offences.

Because we do indeed have a year of pre-election posing — especially by incumbent officeholders — ahead of us, and because Mayor Yule has in fact declared he is running for the office again (which is classically how a campaign begins), yes, I’ll admit, BayBuzz is heading into election mode.

But I’d like to do a decent job of it, so I’m open to criticisms and suggestions … starting with Councillor McGregor. Below I’ve published his comments in full. Let me know what you think. I’d prefer you post public comments using the comment feature at the end of this article, so we can all have the benefit of your views. But otherwise, you can email me at tom@baybuzz.co.nz. I’ll reflect upon your comments and respond next week.

Meanwhile, here’s Ewan:

“Tom, In a short time you have through your resources, talent and experience developed BayBuzz into a very professional publication which adds considerably to the debate on local issues. Accordingly, you’ve established much influence in the last couple of years and there’s no law against that; this is a free democracy.

You actively comment on local issues and the performance and policies of councils, and those that hold office. Much of your comment is well informed and I think fair, and, unsurprisingly, some I disagree with. Increasingly though, your criticisms are personalised, often laced with threads of condescension, sarcasm and ridicule.

A week or so ago Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule announced he would be standing again and would be advocating amalgamation in some form of local bodies in Hawke’s Bay (but that any decision would be made by the public). You responded with a piece on your blog that was an attack on Yule from start to finish. I have no brief to defend Lawrence Yule – he can look after himself – but I found the spirit of it totally offensive. (At time of writing it is still on line and readers can read or re-read it and draw their own conclusions.)

You challenged his mandate to so much as promote the idea, as his opponents in the last election polled 45% of the vote. Well, many mayors in this country have been elected with less, and sometimes quite a bit less than 50% but they must nevertheless be the highest polling candidate. This secures them in office under our rules. (This doesn’t apply, incidentally, to the election of the U S President, as Al Gore found out. Bush with just 47.5% of the vote can unleash an illegal war to secure oil, but you come out here and lecture us that a mayor elected with 55% of the vote hasn’t the mandate to unleash an idea.)

You cynically see this is as a ploy to get elected as the first mayor of HB. So what if that is his ambition? If I was in his position it would be mine. And what’s wrong with ambition anyway? It’s the driver of human progress. If he is to achieve it he has to cross three bridges to get there, and it’s a democratic process all the way:

1. Get re-elected as Mayor of Hastings
2. Have the people of Hawke’s Bay vote for amalgamation
3. Get elected Mayor of Hawke’s Bay.

Have you ever considered that he just might sincerely believe in local government amalgamation? He’s nailed his colours to the mast on an issue that I suspect he believes in. It’s a pity more politicians don’t have the courage and the purpose to do the same.

Soon after you followed this with a (presumably meant to be) humorous piece entitled ‘Yule to buy Napier’. Such is likely to massage the fear that many in Napier have that this is all about a Hastings takeover of Napier, which of course is nonsense. I don’t think that this dignifies a debate that may lead to the most important decision on local government that the people of Hawke’s Bay will democratically make. (The 1876 and 1989 reorganisations were driven nationally.) But then some of the mockery of a cause might rub off onto its promoter.

If we’ve got 12 months of you attacking Lawrence Yule ahead of us, it’s not going to be pretty. To me it has become tiresome; worse, it’s starting to show the hallmarks of a vendetta. Play the ball Tom, not the man.

If candidates and office-holders you don’t approve of are going to be subjected to these personal attacks where ideas are belittled and motives cynically suspected for the year ahead, then I think the electoral process will be done a disservice.

Lawrence didn’t announce the opening of his election campaign, you did. (“Let the election begin!”) He merely said he was standing again and in doing so he would pursue amalgamation. Office holders have a year’s hard work ahead of us doing what we were elected to do last time and don’t need to have to look over our shoulders for you stirring things up (and no, this is not to say that we be immune from robust and fair criticism). Well okay, the politicians may have to accept this, but what has the public done to deserve a year of electioneering inflicted upon them?

But what are your motives? Are you intending to put a candidate up against Yule, yourself perhaps? If so then I think you should declare your interest sooner rather than later, otherwise such a purpose remains ulterior.

Still, with BayBuzz you’re giving people like me a platform to have a say, and good on you for that.

Ewan McGregor

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9 Comments

  1. I agree with councillor Ewan… I am not a local and have always struggled with the twin city concept, therefore totally approve of anything to bring the 2 cities together…and the less councils we have the better….yeah? Lawrence is a great public figure to help this process along and I felt pure joy when I read the headline announcing his intentions. I don't care if Lawrence gains personally out of this, its got to be good for the Bay. My support of Bay Buzz waned a little because of the spirit of your editorial, this issue is way bigger than Lawrence.

  2. What, in fact, is our local democracy? While I care about what happens in my community, like many voters (and unlike Tom Belford), I am not sufficiently passionate to be willing to devote most of my evenings to attending Council meetings or wading through obtuse official documents. This is a failure on my part but there is also a failure on the part of local government to make itself more accessible to citizens like myself who might become more engaged if the threshold was lower. Add to this the utter failure of our appalling local newspaper to provide any kind of real political reporting or critical investigative journalism at all, and I for one am extremely grateful to Tom and BayBuzz. At least there is one source of readily obtainable information about what is actually going on here. Maybe it is not complete and maybe it is not unbiased, but it is sure a hell of a lot better than the Auckland-run rag supposedly ‘edited’ by some outback emu with her head up her bum.

    Because local politics are not accountable in any meaningful way to the majority of us unengaged citizens, they remain in effect a self-serving old boys club mainly devoted to large land-owners and other vested interests. Of course my opinion is relatively uninformed, except for a little BayBuzz garnishment, but my vote counts as much as Ewan McGregor’s and in politics it’s all about perception anyway.

    My perception of Mayor Yule is that I don’t know him well enough to dislike him as a person, though my instinct is to dislike him very much as a politician. More to the point, I deeply distrust many of the major policy decisions the Hastings District Council has taken or supported since I have lived here. I also don’t get the impression that the distinctive character of Havelock North has particularly improved under HDC stewardship. The salient point here being that if amalgamation is to take place, it will effectively mean HDC running things for the most part. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. The problem for me is I’m just not convinced when I look around that HDC is all that good at running things. For me, the problem doesn’t lie so much with Yule becoming ubermayor, as it does with the fact that I don’t especially trust the current political establishment to do a very good job. Until HDC becomes more competent, more responsive, more transparent, and more efficient, why on earth would anyone want to see it scaled up? The last thing I would vote for is giving some of these arrogant idiots even more power of patronage.

    Satire and caricature are extremely valuable and time-honoured tools for penetrating political rhetoric and obfuscation. They help keep political debate honest. They make up part of the landscape that politicians in a democratic society have to learn to navigate. Yet it seems Ewan McGregor would prefer us to go back to doffing our caps to our betters and shuffling our feet in gratitude when they deign to take notice of us at all.

    It also seems he doesn’t have much of a sense of humour.

  3. Tom,

    When you first posted the pathetic article about Mayor Yule buying Napier. I said my peice about you (Baybuz 'and your cronies continually mocking and taking the Mickey out of Mayor Yule. And your stupid article about Mayor Yule buying Napier, would only make any, however "well" intentioned debate on amalgamation between Napier & Hastings, an even more "rockier" road! And you chose not to post it! Why Tom? Because it so obviously does not suit your own "personal" agenda. So much for balance -and freedom of speech. You only posted Cr McGregor's Tom-to save what credibility you have in your "own" mind!

    They say -what goes round -comes round.

  4. Baybuz: Impartiality? Ulterior motives?Balance! Truth! Democracy -freedom of speech! Tom owner of Baybuz will burn that bridge when he comes to it. He's doing a better job than "Pravda" or "Tass" (communist state owned' controlled newspapers ever did. Sure Comrade Hyde would agree!

  5. Congratulations to Brendan Webb and to Mark Sweet on their excellent articles on the front and back page of Bay Buzz. I appreciate their ability to write and to get so much information across. I laughed my way through "Lawrencus Yulus – so clever – and not too hard on our Mayor. He has been empire building for some time now and richly deserves this send-up.

    On the Nelson Park issue, all the possible bad things that could have gone wrong with this ill-advised big box retail – relocation of the sports park facilities has.

    After a good laugh, I felt quite sober at the madness that has happened to our planning for a sustainable future in Hawke's Bay.

  6. In response to the comment by Euan McGregor's comment that Bay Buzz adds considerably to the debate on local issues – I am not aware of any other source of debate on local issues than Bay Buzz.

  7. Strange… here's a Regional Councillor defending a Mayor who would do away with the entire Regional Council. Does Ewan think so little of the body to which he's elected that he does not even attempt to defend it, too?

    Perhaps he believes himself so secure he can win the one (likely) seat available for "Southern Hawke's Bay" on a Bay-wide council. Or maybe his wife Cynthia has her eyes on that … after all, she's in thickest with Lawrence as it is.

  8. Well, well, well. Tom your article has certainly hit more than a few raw nerves.

    In contrast to Cr McGregor's view (aka husband of Hastings District Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers, aka fellow member of the National Party with Bowers and Yule, aka the promoter of a Local Government amalgamation several terms ago…), I applaud the debate Bay Buzz has inspired and equally applaud the fact that on occasion there is a good dose of humour as part and parcel.

    I remember many political debates locally and nationally and always took the view that when certain sectors of the community spoke you should always question their motives and ask what's in it for them. As I would always do when it came to Cr McGregor.

    The irony as Brice Bisset has pointed out is that Cr McGregor is a member of an authority who in my view are populated by incompetent political representatives, ripe for take over! Go Lawrence…..

  9. Ewan McGregor should be grateful Mayor Yule is in the spotlight & not him and others on the HBRC.

    Buybuzz has done much to activate local interest in those who purport to represent us.

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