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.