Just got home from the HBRC’s “Let’s Talk Tukituki” meeting … it’s after 11pm … so this report will be brief.

Nice to see many BayBuzzers in the crowd. In fact, the biggest meeting room at the Havelock North Community Center was packed to the walls … I’d guesstimate 200 or so in attendance.

I’ll give HBRC credit for three things …

1. They had the meeting.

2. They promoted it.

3. And after monopolizing virtually all the allotted time with staff presentations, they kept the lights on for another hour+ of discussion and debate.

Other than that, they blew it.

1. No wonder the HBRC is going to fund additional communications/marketing help! From political tone deafness to remarkable inability to respond to pointed questions to plain mumbling and atrocious Powerpoints, each person representing the Council tonight needed communications coaching.

2. They didn’t make any friends or converts. To the contrary, the Council’s defensiveness rang through. And their reluctance to really open up the meeting to debate irritated many. Unfortunately, by the time the discussion was finally opened up about 9:45, nearly half the audience had left.

3. If I were coaching the HBRC team, I would have urged them at least to present themselves as “sharing the pain” of aggrieved citizens and appear to want to get ahead of the curve on these water quality and supply challenges.

But here they did the reverse. Staff simply stared back at — and occasionally argued with — firsthand observations and complaints from the floor about poor water quality and diminished flows. And their policy message remained … the water’s OK and anyway, our hands are tied by either THE PLAN (as in: “We can’t do more than the plan, or consent, we codified a few years back”) or unwillingness to commit money to accelerate solutions.

Anyone hoping for an inspirational, or merely proactive-sounding — “here are some steps we can take with urgency to improve Tukituki water quality or get on top of supply issues” — unfortunately came to the wrong meeting.

If anything is to be gained from tonight’s meeting, hopefully it might be some new appreciation by HBRC Councillors (it was nice to see 6 of 9 in attendance) and CEO Newman of the intensity of concern surrounding management of the Tukituki.

And even better, building on that appreciation (but now we’re really pushing it), some fresh determination to lead on the issue, versus being dragged out of denial.


P.S. Good to see Hastings Councillors Kimber, Bradshaw and Bowers there too.

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