Hawke’s Bay is to get a new regional recovery director who will work alongside government agencies, iwi, and businesses to coordinate, support and lead a range of recovery projects set in motion by the five councils.

The senior executive level role, with a salary of up to $150,000, was advertised by the HB Regional Council (HBRC) partly as an operational requirement under the Civil Defence Act, but also to help maintain the regional flavour throughout the initial recovery process.

This 12-month role will consult with stakeholders and the community with an overview of the region’s Covid-19 and drought recovery activities.

“How we understand recovery from a pandemic point of view is a lot broader than a traditional civil defence emergency and part of a far wider response to social and economic recovery,” says Alex Walker, Central Hawke’s Bay District mayor and chair of the HB Mayors Forum.

The successful candidate will end up working alongside the HB Civil Defence and Emergency team but connect into the Matariki HB Regional Economic Development (REDS) framework being led by BusinessHB.

“My vision is that local communities are going to be crucial for recovery efforts and when we are coordinated we can add one and one and get three and amplify what happens at a regional level,” says Walker.

Covid brings out best

The impact of Covid-19 has enhanced connections between the region’s councils. “We already had good relationships but when you are put into an emergency situation it bought out the best in people … we evolved even stronger,” she says.

“We work together on Civil Defence all the time and in the early stages of Level 4 we were meeting daily via Zoom so we all absolutely understood what was happening on the ground and our response right across the region.”

The main focus as the recovery effort moves into top gear is to make sure everything remains coordinated. “We’re certainly looking at how do we do things differently. We’ve been forced to think how to take a new view on the world” and look at what ‘business as usual’ now means.

Part of that will mean planning together and where needed removing obstacles. “We know there’ll be some visionary thinking that comes from our people and our businesses and industry about how to move the region forward.”

One example is the ‘Bay-cation’ campaign launched by Hawke’s Bay Tourism to bring Wellington people to the region to boost our local tourism and hospitality businesses.

She says councils see the way they invest in work and infrastructure and projects as important for creating employment. “We need to know what projects are there, how to plan and have places for employment where people can improve their skills and transition into what the future of work looks like in Hawke’s Bay.”

Matariki framework pivotal

The beauty of the Matariki regional framework, she says, is that it’s a way to share data, observations, ideas and opportunities and “connect them up, coordinate or amplify where possible”.

The core goals to work toward are: a pipeline of infrastructure and investment projects; a pathway of skills identification and development with redeployment into work; and a procurement approach with clear programmes developed to advance local businesses, contractors, entrepreneurs, employees, and particularly Maori and youth.

Walker says the primary sector will continue to be a crucial part of the Hawke’s Bay economy. “We are food producers and there are changes happening through diversification and different high value crops and horticulture which are going to be an incredible steadying factor for our economy.”

And the hard hit farming community needs special attention, particularly in Central Hawke’s Bay. “Their main focus has simply been one foot after the other”.

“Farming businesses rely on an annual cycle. They can’t change their cashflow from week to week or month to month based on short-term actions. Everything they do has long-term consequences – they will recover but it will take time.”

It’s crucial for councils to think about how they can work with their primary sector. “The compliance [challenge] they face, including new compliance, is significant,” says Walker.

She commends local councils for stepping up to support farmers financially and transporting feed during the drought well before central government did.

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