Central Hawke’s Bay is a beautiful place. Lush, green, peaceful and productive – an incredibly fertile place where the magic of soil, water, climate and clever people come together to grow healthy and tasty food.

As economic unrest comes upon us due to global pandemic, it is clear that Central Hawke’s Bay is the place to be and the envy of many both here and around the world. Rural, food producers, un-cluttered and un-crowded lives, with tight-knit whanau and community that rally around to protect and care for each other.

But we, like the rest of society, still have the choice of what to leave behind from our ‘old lives’ and what to take forward into the new normal. Change brings opportunity.

We need to bring forward the sudden growth of a sustainable local economy – local land and local food providing for local people.

Right now in Central Hawke’s Bay there are families eating meat from Patangata Station and Waipawa Butchery; accompanied by vegetables from Bucks Vege Shop; they are having Hendon’s Eggs for breakfast; and good slick of Kintail honey across the morning toast. All delivered to the door in a way that has been accessible for a while, but is now a necessity.

We need to bring forward our vital and mature conversations about water security and the role of water storage.

I have to acknowledge that at this point Central Hawke’s Bay is in a place of double-pain. A record-breaking drought has pushed our soil moisture deficit into terrifying territory, and many of our farms are now staring down the barrel of long-term financial losses. Culling of capital stock, minimal winter feed (as it has either not grown or has had to be fed to stock already), vegetable crops that couldn’t be planted or grown. Put that alongside the other natural and social pains from lack of water and this is a threat that will not just go away.

But with threat comes opportunity. An opportunity to diversify what we grow. To create a Central Hawke’s Bay which is not just green, but a kaleidoscope of colours, textures, farmers and communities. Investing in not just what we grow, but how we grow it – and water is a vital and valuable ingredient that we must secure for the future.

We need to bring forward new vision for our mainstreet spaces in our small towns.

Hindered by both lack of trade due to lockdown, and the pending investment required to meet earthquake standards, the future of these spaces is an exciting opportunity. We have small but important retail and hospitality industries that are vital for keeping local money local and giving our communities vitality and energy.

And finally, we must bring forward our beautiful, rural story as we promote not only our place, but also the food that we grow and sell. Global economic unrest is going to open huge opportunity for us as food producers. Our rural, un-cluttered and un-crowded lives, our tight-knit whanau and community are the envy of many.

As Mayor, I am leading a conversation at our Council table and in our community about what short-term action and long-term development look like in what is being called our “Post-Covid World”.

Our community in Central Hawke’s Bay is unique. We share challenges with many, but the reality is that our communities, our Council and our economy are unique to us. This is why we must make careful short-term decisions to respond to this economic unrest in the most relevant way for our district, but then follow it up with the right bold visions that we can unite behind to ensure that we all thrive into the future.

Watch this space.

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  1. I agree with the concept of water storage as a drought protection measure, but not as a means to increase production on inappropriate land. The risks to the integrity of the aquifer water through increased nitrate levels are too great.

  2. Totally agree with George Harper – do not try to revive the old defeated format of the RWS or there really WILL be ‘economic unrest’

  3. Hi George! Water storage in Central Hawke’s Bay MUST be about protection from the dry first! And for maintaining the ecosystems in our rivers with ample water flow. The Tukituki Catchment plan (aka Plan Change 6) is the crucial mechanism for guiding land use to that which does not increase sediment, phosphorous or nitrogen. Interestingly some of the crops that may help us meet these obligations require consistency of water supply over the growing season (at the time we often don’t have water). Some vegetable markets will not contract supply from farms where there is not a guaranteed water supply for the entire season

  4. well folks we have lived here for only 9years but every year we have water restrictions, we spend a lot of hard earned money on our plants and garden, thenn we loose them to the lack of water again, This is 2020 and we are expanding the population with the same old utilities, we need to grow and sustain the basic water supply for our needs,not buy bottled water. A great place to live,the best in the world we have found

  5. We cannot make it rain when it is needed most but targeted irrigation from water storage is an entirely different matter. Why not make the granting of consents (new and renewals) for irrigation on the plains conditional on a change of land use away from farming dairy cows, which generally have done CHB no good at all. Swap cows for milking sheep or dairy goats. Stop pine trees going out as unprocessed logs and instead, support new high tech local saw mills established close to the forests. Grow manuka on marginal land. Grow hemp. Grow medicinal cannabis.

  6. Alex, in my view you’ve been the best mayor we’ve had in CHB for a long time, and I don’t say that lightly. We’ve had our differences in the past, but I do believe that you’re genuinely interested in listening (a rare skill!) and learning from as wide a cross-section of the CHB community as possible. Re water storage/security, I’m seriously concerned that by this you mean another RWSS, or similar, which we don’t need. On-farm water storage to meet the needs of that particular farm’s land use is fine, provided it does not result in increased leaching of nutrients into the aquifer – regrettably, this has happened in the past, and continues up to the present with every farm that has intensified their land-use. Have you read Doug Avery’s book, “The Resilient Farmer”? An object lesson in overcoming droughts, amongst other things. I’d suggest it as compulsory reading for all councillors. Also recommend an article in the November 2 edition, 2015, of NZ Farmers Weekly, “Dryland farms still an option” by Annette Scott, highlighting Prof Derrick Moot’s work around overcoming and coping with droughts. As to your reply to George Harper above, it’s worth having a conversation about that sometime. Kia ora!

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