With 2010 now upon us, let me wish you all a happy new year.
Firstly, I would like to applaud the Hastings Council for the new approach taken to the planned Customer Service Centre Building. Rather than build a new building (as was proposed) next to the current Council Building, it was decided to purchase Heretaunga House and create a Civic Precinct for the betterment of all.
This proposal has significant financial advantages and will provide opportunities for better community outcomes into the future. It was pleasing to see the Council accept and adopt new approaches from some of its Councillors.
“Democracy at work” – some might say. More of the same, is one of my goals for 2010.
In this pursuit, the Hastings Council needs to be more focussed on:
- Getting its ratepayers real competitive value for all ratepayers funds.
- Ensuring all contracts let are publicly tendered.
- Supporting local businesses whenever possible.
- Understanding what our role is and who we serving.
- Examining how we do business and seeking better ways.
- Determining what the community’s priorities are.
Talking about priorities, sometimes it pays to look at history to see how well the Council has served us in the past.
For example, economic development …
Back in 2001, businesses urged that Irongate and Omahu Road re-zoning was required to meet future industrial development demand in the Hastings District (approx 100 hectares +). But then the agenda got “crowded” with projects like the HDC-initiated Large Format Retail Zone (involving the sale of Nelson Park) and then the HDC-initiated Regional Sports Park. The result? Only in late 2009 did Irongate Road landholders finally have direct consultation with HDC, with anticipated notification to be made in March 2010. Omahu Road re-zoning still to be addressed.
I look forward to the Irongate Road re-zoning being finalised, but ponder what benefits might have been missed by not progressing it sooner, given the economic growth that was universally experienced over the bulk of the past decade.
We must ensure that the Council remains focussed on what it starts and does not jump from project to project, getting none completed. This practise serves no real purpose and adds significant costs onto the ratepayer. Once a project is started, get it completed so that the benefits can flow. We must also ensure that a level playing field exists for all project promoters, not just the Council.
Back to Looking Ahead
Considering all this, my personal priorities as a Councillor for the coming year are:
1. To carry through and achieve the indicative 5% efficiency target, which I introduced during last year’s LTCCP. To date, good progress appears to have been made, and if necessary the target could be lifted higher.
2. To formalise the Council’s relationship with both the Napier City Council and HB Regional Council to create real operational efficiencies between the Councils. I proposed this in last year’s LTCCP, with the support of Cr Dalton of Napier Council and Cr Rose of the Regional Council.
3. To improve the transparency of the information the Council makes available to the ratepayers – clear, concise and in simple English. After all, it is their assets that we as Councillors are charged with protecting.
4. To assist communities to build their capabilities, so that they can create solutions from within and take ownership of their environment.
5. To ensure that the areas of Marketing, Tourism, Economic Development and Business Investment finally have strategies and plans that can be implemented. After years of spending $3-$5M plus in these areas, it’s time we know what the Council wants to achieve.
With 2010 being an local body election year, it is important that ratepayers help set the Council agenda for this year and beyond.
This can be achieved by:
- Making submissions to Annual Plan and other Council Documents
- Voicing your aspirations/desires to Councillors
- Voting at the local body election in September/October 2010.
With only 41.6% of eligible Hastings District voters voting in the 2007 local body election, we need a sizeable increase in voter participation to ensure that the community is truly represented around the Council table.