As you know, I support A Better Hawke’s Bay (ABHB), now with 1,000 supporters, in its advocacy of a comprehensive study of Hawke’s Bay’s performance — one that includes re-examining the suitability of our local/regional governance arrangements going forward.

Yesterday we might have made significant progress … but we won’t know for sure until next Monday. Waiting with bated breath!

On Wednesday, Stuart McLauchlan made the case to both the full Regional and Napier Councils on behalf of A Better Hawke’s Bay. And in both cases a couple of dozen ABHB backers were on hand to show their support.

At the Regional Council, the mission was to reinforce the Council in the direction it has already signaled — a comprehensive study that includes governance — given that other councils (with the exception of Hastings) have been less certain about the nature of their commitment. In short, the message to HBRC and Chairman Fenton Wilson was … hold firm if other councils waver in their support of a comprehensive, independent study.

At the Napier Council, the mission was to smoke out exactly where that Council stood on the matter, given media accounts that have been vague or contradictory. Deputy Mayor Kathie Furlong, speaking for the Council (Mayor Arnott was attending a DHB Board meeting), was emphatic in stating that the NCC indeed supported a comprehensive study as proposed by the Regional and Hastings Councils. Great news for Hawke’s Bay.

However, the rubber meets the road next Monday the 28th, when the region’s four mayors and the regional council chair convene to negotiate the terms of reference and process for the study exercise. That’s when the true spirit and agendas these five leaders bring to the table will be displayed.

A Better Hawke’s Bay has been clear about what we believe the region needs and expects. Before politicians head off for the holidays, we would like to see our five leaders:

  1. Agree on draft terms of reference for the study, including governance;
  2. Commit that the study will present independent and objective recommendations (that is, not be controlled or steered by councils in any pre-conceived direction);
  3. Agree that the study will be directed by an independent person with appropriate skills, credibility and mana, such that the result commands respect in the community; and,
  4. Commit to adequate funding for the project, so that a thorough and high quality study is produced.

A Better Hawke’s Bay believes that — if our five elected leaders come to the table in the right spirit — this progress can be achieved on November 28th.

As for BayBuzz, we look forward to a terrific photo opportunity when the group emerges from its meeting on Monday with smiling faces and approved study charter in hand!

Tom Belford

P.S. But just in case, I urge you to fire off an email to your mayor and to Fenton Wilson. Here are their email addresses:

Fenton Wilson:
Barbara Arnott:
Lawrence Yule:
Peter Butler:
Les Probert:

Take a moment to send your email now.

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  1. My understanding is that any changes to governance will be under the Local Government Act which would require public consultation. What I don't understand is why this element of the process isn't regarded as a first step.

    If the ABHB initiative follows the usual HB process, experts will be called in from outside, who after many months will produce a report costing many thousands. And we'll go through the agony of debating ideas which aren't in tune, because they don't come from here.

    I'd like ABHB and the politicians to see the value of engaging the public right from the start. Before calling in the $150/hour consultants, let the public answer the terms of reference, and let those ideas be the foundations of the called for changes.

  2. When BHB presented to us (Napier City Council) with their demands last week, I asked them why didnt they run a slate in the last Local Body elections? Then they could have been part of the decision-making process we are currently involved in.

    But they didnt, and even with the 1,000 or so who have signed up from the ads, BHB does not have the mandate to dictate to elected representatives their pro-amalgamation agenda.

    We were given a mandate in the 2010 election to serve the people of Napier. Recent polling has showed quite clearly that 60 per cent of Napier's residents are opposed to amalgamation.

    ABHB is a lobby group, led by the Chamber of Commerce, and good on them for pushing their demands with their full-page ads across the media. Other lobby groups – Grey Power for example – have different priorities and beliefs, especially on amalgamation. We need to listen respectfully to them all.

    The decisions today will be by the elected mayors of elected councils. Lobby groups have their place, but we are ultimately responsible for serving the wider community, and BHB represents only a particular interest group in the community we are elected to serve.

  3. To Maxine,

    Only at the Napier Council would it be considered "dictating" to make your views known in a public session of the Council.

    Further, you need only actually examine the list of supporters of ABHB — please do — to see that it is not led by the Chamber of Commerce. In fact, I'd argue that ABHB has the most diversified supporter group of any organization in Hawke's Bay — with the exception, of course, of BayBuzz!

    To Mark,

    Coming up with the terms of reference for a study is indeed just the first step in a process that will (or should … that's one of ABHB's key points) ultimately have extensive public consultation. In fact, ABHB has argued that whoever directs the study should seek other input even as they organize their workplan.


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