When he received news on October 9th that his 1,322 votes had won him election to his first full term on the Regional Council, I doubt Wairoa’s Fenton Wilson’s first thought was … “Aha! Now I can depose Alan Dick as Chair.”

And when Alan Dick received word that his 10,134 votes had secured his re-election, I’m equally certain his first thought was not … “Uh Oh! Now I’ll need to fend off a challenge to my chairmanship from Fenton Wilson.”

But that’s the way it played out over the past two weeks, culminating in Wilson’s 5-4 election today as Chair, with only Councillors Dick, Kirton, Remmerswaal and McGregor voting to retain Alan Dick.

The opportunity landed in Wilson’s lap, as the least offensive compromise candidate, when a group of three Councillors (Eileen von Dadelszen, Christine Scott and Kevin Rose) — motivated mostly by personal gripes and ambitions — were joined by Tim Gilbertson (a minimalist who worries that Dick’s grand ambitions for HBRC distracted the Council from its core business) to vote for a change in leadership.

You would need to be a regular observer of the Regional Council to appreciate the irony of this “change” coalition. The four instigators can hardly bear each other. Hence the need for Wilson as the least offensive and threatening candidate.

Both he and Alan Dick, in their “campaign” presentations to their colleagues, noted the dysfunction of the Council brought about by heaps of petty jealousies, personal dislikes, chronic disrespect to one another, and constant consequent in-fighting.

Wilson in his comments referred to “bickering and disharmony beneath the dignity of this Council.” He presented himself as a peacemaker.

Dick described a Council that over the past six years has been “plagued with internal conflict and poor interpersonal relationships between members,” which, he continued, resulted in “caucus predetermination, public arguments and general discontent” and consequent “wasted energy in trying to keep the peace.”

He noted that such behaviour cannot be fixed by the Chairman alone, saying: “It can only be fixed by nine people, notably by the six who have been here for the last two terms, individually and collectively having a good hard look at themselves and considering whether they are here for personal gratification and power, or to work conscientiously and consistently for the benefit of the region.”

My, my, my! If I had offered this kind of indictment — the Regional Council is a bunch of juveniles — during the campaign, I would have been accused of “playing the man, not the ball”!

It’s unfortunate that the voters were cheated out of such candid self-assessment by the Regional Councillors themselves during their campaigns! Keep in mind, no incumbents were defeated. [Although Christine Scott and Kevin Rose have pledged not to run again.]

Former Chair Dick offered a impressive case (even to the normally critical BayBuzz) that the Council had indeed made positive strides during his leadership, effectively challenging his colleagues with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” argument. As I saw it, his opponents made no rebuttal to his argument or any substantive case for a firing squad.

Their “case” was essentially that Fenton Wilson is a nice fellow.

So here we are, like it or not, with our fourth HBRC Chair in as many years.

Whether Wilson will be a pawn or a king — or a peacemaker or disciplinarian — remains to be seen.

But he is now the Chair. And he deserves — and should be supported in — his opportunity to banish the conflict, demonstrate independence, and provide substantive leadership on a par with (or better than) his predecessor. The region needs him to succeed.

Tom Belford

P.S. The coup plotters might have triggered more change than they were counting on. With the coalition shifting, Councillor Scott was then removed as Vice-Chair, being replaced by Ewan McGregor in that role. If this coalition persists, we might welcome new Chairs for the HBRC’s Environmental Management Committee and its Asset Management Committee when those votes are taken next week. Change has a way of getting out of control!

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5 Comments

  1. Eileen von Dadelszen, Christine Scott, Kevin Rose & the court jester himself;Tim Gilbertson have by this action once again proved their unsuitability to represent people of this region on the HBRC.

    The only good things that have happened in the last 2 years on the council have been insigated by Alan Dick and a first term councillor [who thankfully got re-elected].

    I have heard these people on council and answered their questions following the giving of a submission. I was left with the impression that a group of college students could have done a better job.

    It seems that the fact that alan Dick got a huge number of votes [ which represents the voters high opinion of him] was lost of this sad, tired old group of has beens.

    But the sad fact is that this move will not cause more than a brief ripple around Hawkes Bay. Maybe a few resignations would not go amiss.

  2. Dave Bosley – If Alan Dick had not been doing such a good job as Chairman and if it were not for some of the ‘natives revolting’ then I might agree with you. It appears to me that Alan had to lead some of the councillors[screaming and shouting -well at least Tim] in the right direction and they did not like it.
    Democracy my rs – I bet they had been scheming this since before the election.

  3. So there is such a thing as what goes around -comes around! Regardless, the people made their democratic choice of representatives. And amongst those elected, they made their democratic choice of Chairman.

    Personally, I believe it would be an insult to the general voting public, if any disgruntled councillor threw his or her toys out the pram and resigned. Same as name calling helps none!

    For the greater benefit of the whole of the Hawke's Bay region, I believe it's high time all members worked collectively, harmoniously together………………. or have I had too much sun, drink or whatever to wish for that?

    Sincerely David Bosley

  4. Strange goings on in the Kingdom of Hawke! After two years of continuous skirmishing the trienniel battle of words ended in a stalemate – but in the first joust of the year young Fenton from the Town of Fraser on a dark horse unseated old King Dick. The repercussions were widely felt, with Neil the Venturer being severely kirtailed, and Liz of Havvers left wondering what had happened. Were the Dastardly Dowagers Christine and Eileen involved with Kevin of Willowbank and Tim the Jester to upset King Dick, or is Fenton the Dark smarter than people think? Meanwhile, how on earth did that canny old warhorse Ewen McTaringa sneak through as crown prince?

  5. Go Dave! Play the man, not the ball.

    Personal attacks are a very poor subsitute for substantive arguments. The reality is, we live in a democracy in which there are varieties of political and philospophical views. The democratic system gave us the councillors we have and they make their decisions. Pity the poor sods who live under totalitarian systems such as Marxism, where people are ridiculed and abused, where the powers of the state are used to try and exterminate those with the temerity to believe something different from the Party Line..

    I don't always appreciate what democracy gives us, but it's still better than all the rest.

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