Mixed reaction to Prosperity Study

By Corey Charlton

The reactions of Hawke's Bay's leaders to the recently released Prosperity Study have been mixed.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said he wasn't shocked by its findings and it was one of the better reports on the region he had seen.

"I'm not surprised by what the report finds, but I do think it is a good, thorough, report," Mr Yule said.

He acknowledged the issues raised regarding youth, employment and education. He had previously spoken of an awareness of the issues highlighted.

There would be three options of council reorganisation to the mayors to consider in part two of the report, due for completion in late November, Mr Yule said. One option was full council amalgamation in Hawke's Bay. He also disputed the report's suggestion that an amalgamation could interfere with the delivery of the $230 million Ruataniwha Water Storage Project.

Effective leadership within the region was identified as crucial to prosperity within Hawke's Bay.

"I don't actually think it's a criticism of individuals, it's a criticism of how we've structured ourselves," Mr Yule said.

"I don't believe we have a long-term regional plan."

Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson said the leaders were lacking a "common theme".

"Leadership is that common theme and common voice, and that is what I took out of Peter's [Winder] report," he said. He recognised the need to work towards deciding where central government spending should go - identified as a major source of investment in Hawke's Bay.

The report said it was critically important for the Central Hawke's Bay (CHB) and Wairoa district councils (WDC) to be able to deal with complex and wide-ranging issues that their communities faced, and their ability to contribute to the large initiatives needed to boost the region.

This finding was subject to fierce criticism from CHB Mayor Peter Butler, who claimed only a handful of Central Hawke's Bay people were part of the report's interview process.

"I think they were very bloody harsh on Central Hawke's Bay and Wairoa," he said.

"To interview five people and do a study and come up with the extreme answers that they have come up with about CHB - I don't have much faith in the report."

Wairoa Mayor Les Probert also questioned aspects of the report, but said it was "useful".

"The next part of the study will be the important part," he said. "This is really just a gathering of information, there is quite a lot of assumptions in there." He said Wairoa District Council was no less viable than any other local body.

Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott could not be reached for comment.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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