I spent many hours in June watching our councils deal with public submissions to their Long Term Plans (LTPs).

It’s a spectacle that underscores the need to consolidate our local bodies. Time after time submitters were forced to plead the same case before two or three councils; councils were repeatedly at odds with and sniping at one another; or they simply played ping pong (or pass the baton) with submitters’ requests and proposals.

Here’s just a sampling of the many issues where inconsistency, buck-passing and/or lack of regional cohesion frustrated submitters and good government alike …

International hockey turf — 3 councils, 3 points of view. Temporary (?) stalemate.

Tourism support — Hawke’s Bay Tourism begs for bucks to support a regional events strategy (two years in the making) that supposedly all councils support … all decline to fund. Instead, Mayors Yule and Arnott float the idea of a bed tax to generate HB promotion funding; but HBRC rejects outright.

Haumoana beach protection — HDC effectively kicks the decision out of touch till after next election (which actually represents a victory for Haumoana property owners), while complaining that HBRC has been inappropriately removed from (if not hostile to) arriving at a consensus solution to the problem. HBRC blows the property owners off … no surprise.

Public health issues — DHB staff dutifully trudge around to each council to submit, trying to make the same underlying concerns look ‘unique’ to each council.

Sport Hawke’s Bay — ditto.

And ditto to Sustaining Hawke’s Bay Trust and other groups.

Te Mata Peak Visitor Centre — high drama as the only regional project deserving of the term ‘regional’ fights for funding, which threatens a ‘no trespassing’ deal which HDC has orchestrated with HBRC (HDC wanting its share of the HBRC ‘regional facilities’ booty fully allocated to the above-mentioned international hockey turf — i.e., no money for the Visitor Centre). Ultimately, HBRC bows to the merits of the Centre, and awards it $500k. The case needs to be made three times to three councils (not counting a second time to NCC, which has a tendency to loose paperwork).

Film Hawke’s Bay — a group that tries on an oily rag to lure film, TV and commercial makers to Hawke’s Bay, where they can spend hundreds of thousands on the ground. Pleads to three councils, only one sees the logic and partly funds, leaving FHB with less than a third of its needed resourcing.

GE-Free Hawke’s Bay — HDC, which has most of the farmland at risk, responds warmly, talking about rules in its District Plan and even providing national leadership. HBRC more or less yawns, not quite ‘getting’ the case for protecting and even enhancing the value of the region’s agricultural output (even though it proposes a $500 million+ dam to that end), but agrees to participate in forum to discuss the issues.

Airport runway extension — same submission to two councils that own shares. Too much jet noise falling on deaf ears.

Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga — multiple issues, multiple councils.

Anti-fracking — presented to all who would listen. Not surprisingly, councils happy to deflect concerns to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Different body language at different councils.

There’s still more. One day, another council-watcher showed me an even more extensive spreadsheet he had compiled listing all the presenters to multiple councils.

Speaking of council-watching reminds me to mention webcasting of council meetings. I presented that proposition to the Hastings and Regional Councils, and both approved in different forms (different computer systems, etc, why not different webcasting systems too?!).

Oddly, the tiny HBRC meeting room costs more to outfit than the amply-proportioned HDC chambers. Different vendors consulted? Different questions asked? You get the picture … let’s cover all the ground twice … make it three times if NCC ever gets the urge to invite the public to participate digitally.

But this is mere small potatoes dysfunction compared to some of the big ticket/huge ramification items on this list.

That said, the whole point of webcasting is to allow you the option of conveniently viewing in your home the cacophony I had to sit through in person. And if you watched just a portion, you would begin to better understand the parochialism, missed opportunities and transaction costs caused by our multi-body governance arrangement.

Tom Belford

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10 Comments

  1. What an appalling waste of time and resources continuing to support the unsupportable . The days of 64 elected representatives and 5 dysfunctional councils is rapidly coming to an end thanks to ABHB and it's many supporters. There will be no crocodile tears from me when the useless and the hopeless line up for the dole in 2013. The damage they have inflicted on the region is immeasurable with projects delayed or cancelled with the resultant jobs and opportunities lost forever. Worse, while still able to plunder our rates on monuments to themselves some councils have ensured that the new united authority will be forever funding the ongoing losses on such projects as the Aquarium and Museum in Napier.

    At least with one authority the on-going and expensive litigation between the NCC and the HBRC will cease. Pity for the lawyers involved in this profitable practice– yeah right!

  2. Normally, your short "Sample of Issues" would be enough to teach the unteachable, reach the unreachable and convert the sceptics, that the reform of Local Governance in our divisive region, is in most pressing and greatest need! Sadly the way we run our affairs just ain't normal. One day, not too soon, will we all be able to say with pride "I come fropm Hawkes Bay" ? Be it a City, District or maybe even a Province!

  3. Better still, let's appoint a (benign of course!) Dictator to run the whole province! That would streamline all processes, reduce bureacracy, limit the building of monuments to those immortalising just one Person, stop this parochial bleating, and submitters would only have to grovel once before Their Munificence – or even better, submissions would only be allowed from those who agreed with Our Leader's Long Term Plan (which would save time, money, paper, postage etc)!

    In this economic downturn, representative democracy is an old-fashioned luxury we can no longer afford, and the time saved in having no debating of the issues, no community boards, ward councillors, committee chairs, locally-focused departments, expensive elections and no council meetings could bring immediate Prosperity to the whole region!

    That would leave the way open to joining the central government in selling our assets – especially council housing, libraries, swimming pools, plus the port and airport – put an immediate stop to all the PC Community development claptrap, lay off most of the surplus staff (if needed could be rehired on the minimum wage) and focus just on roads, sewers and building consents.

    It's a job made for tried-and-true born-to-rule ACTers like John Banks, or Rodney Hide, or – who better! – our Revered Sir Roger Douglas!

    Why not?!!

  4. I knew I would get a rise out of someone from the NCC, so I was thrilled that they have the knack of being the gift that keeps on giving.

    Apparently Maxine et al long for the days when we had 8 councils governing the Bay with one elected representative for every 1,500 residents.

    How may I wonder still pine for a separate Mayor, councillors and staff for Waipawa, Taradale and Havelock North?

    Going on Maxine's theory that would be great for " representative democracy."

    Indeed why not go further and have a Mayor and council for every suburb– would that make things better Maxine?

    The days of having the highest number of representatives for any similar sized area in NZ — while producing the worst outcomes due to the dysfunctional relationships between the councils is coming to an end and Maxine and her collegues know it.

    Indeed, thanks to their ineptitude they have only themselves to blame by continually kicking " own goals".

    Prattling on about ACT and Sir Roger Douglas is even more amusing . This is typical of the whining of the bloated local government team, both elected and staff.

    Perhaps she can point to just one piece of his over 40 bills introduced into legislation that was repealed by the left wing Labour/Greens coalition, or even indeed by National and it's supporting parties over the last 25 years.

    After all Maxine is old enough to remember when the Government owned and operated hotels, bars, restaurants,printing and telecom companies,trucking and bus buisnesses.

    Maxine, clearly wishes for "the good old days" when useless politicians and their staff considered themselves Warren Buffett's of the universe when all they were doing was "create work" and drive the country broke.

    If she cannot– and she can't point to one instance of repeal then one can safetly conclude that everyone is in step except Maxine and her collegues.

    Keep it up Maxine, because every time such nonsence is promulgated the number of supporters to ABHB increases.

    The time for looking after ones self interest is over.

    It is time to look after the interest of the region as a whole, even though that will mean an early retirement for many in " representative democracy".

  5. oops – sorry John, I inadvertently left your name off that list! As the region's most outspoken advocate for amalgamation, you're an obvious front runner to be elected, correction, appointed to this position!

  6. Good point Maxine,about a benign dictator — with the right person its far and away the best form of govt. The problem of course is finding the right person. The easy part is disqualifying anybody for the position who has shown any interest in the job, the only dictator worth having is one who wants to sort things out and then get out. Therefore all electorial candidates are disqualified.

  7. They must be desperate!

    I see where the anti almagamation NCC "spokesperson", Cr Dalton (complete with (a way outdated) coloured photograpgh on the flyer, is puting his NCC "spin" on local body amalgmation to the elderly (hopefully most will be fortunate enough to dozing) residents of Princess Alexandra Retirement Village : healined Local Body Amalgamation – an alternative view by Bill.

    Being over the hill -retirement village next stop for Bill, is no doubt how Bill happened to get the invite) obviously feeling s-t scared at the prospect, (like Cr Boag unemployable) of losing their council wages and chances of himself ever becoming mayor of Barbaraville has clearly driven him and his fellow "compliant" rubber stamps trough dwelling colleagues to shear desperation! And they woke up!!

    Can I suggest, if ever former NCC Cr JJ Harrison, is ever afforded the invitation to speak to the residents of a ( pakeha pa ) retirement village on the topic of the "stream-lining" of local government, and getting rid of the dead wood and duplication of services, save any over "excitement" a doctor be on hand.

    David Bosley

  8. JJH – Labour and the Greens have never been in coalition – suggest you get your facts right.

  9. Paul, yes you are absolutely right.

    Suffering from the heat wave in NYC so the few neurons I still have are diminishing.

    PLUS I have to keep a few errant councillors honest !

    Not an easy job, but always cause for much mirth.

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