Two council elections in 12 months for Hawke's Bay

By Lawrence Gullery

Hawke's Bay may be asked to hold two council elections within 12 months, forcing out candidates who can't afford to fund dual campaigns.

The Local Government Commission has accepted A Better Hawke's Bay's application to merge the region's five councils, Wairoa, Napier, Hastings, Central Hawke's Bay and Hawke's Bay regional. The commission will publicly notify the application and call for alternative proposals by May 3.

People will be asked to comment and, then, based on that feedback, a draft plan will be made to show what a new Hawke's Bay council could look like. A hearing will allow further submissions and a final plan released, probably by the end of this year. A region-wide poll will be held, maybe in April 2014 and, if supported, an election will be held to form the new-look council, possible in September or October 2014.

Hawke's Bay regional councillor Alan Dick said there would likely be fewer candidates at this year's October election, given they'd have to go through the process again in a year's time.

"It's going to be detrimental for some in terms of the cost, stress and hassle over contesting two elections.

"Even if they do stand in October, and get voted in, they will potentially only be in for two years (before 2016 elections) which is not satisfactory but those are the rules we have to work with. "

Mr Dick, a former mayor of Napier, said he understood election candidates spent between $3000 and $30,000 on their campaigns.

"I always pay for my own campaign and it has cost between $5000 and $6000 at times."

The regional council had not made a decision on whether it would put forward an alternative council merger plan.

"My personal view is the regional council will have to take a position on it and I don't believe it will be a unanimous decision."

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule agreed there was "a real possibility" of a second election being held within a year of the October poll. "Some people will be weighing up whether they want to stand. There are costs and time issues involved and that is one of the downsides of the current legislation.

"The only way an election could be delayed was if the final proposal (for new council) was handed in before the October election. That was my preference but it's not going to happen so, under the legislation, we may have two elections in a short period of time."

The Hastings District Council had not made a decision on whether it would put in an alternative merger plan. Mr Yule said he would make a decision in two weeks whether he would stand again at the October election or contest the likely election for a new merged council in 2014.

Former Hawke's Bay regional council staff have formed a "ticket group" to put forward candidates to contest seats across the region at October's local government election.

The group is similar to Greater Dunedin, a local government ticket formed in 2007 to contest the 2010 Dunedin elections, winning six seats including the mayoralty.

Chris Perley and Megan Rose are hoping for similar success in Hawke's Bay with their ticket group and will meet in Clive next month to sign up supporters or candidates. Mr Perley was the land management manager at the regional council from 2008 to 2011 while Miss Rose was the regional council's healthy homes programme manager.

"I think the important message here is that we are trying to inspire fresh thinking and change. Hawke's Bay is my home and when I came back five years ago I found the leadership in councils lacking," said Mr Perley.

"I truly believe Hawke's Bay can be brilliant but we need more positive long-term thinking and leadership."

Mr Perley said he was not motivated "by sour grapes" and there were plenty of "good councillors" whom he hoped would join the group.


- Hawkes Bay Today

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