Arnott reflects on legacy

By Doug Laing

Rightly or wrongly, opponents and supporters of long-serving Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott draw comparisons with Iron Lady and British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher.

Whatever, after the destructive council personality issues which became a nightmare for predecessor Alan Dick in the late 1990s, the city needed a Man of Steel to take the city through the first decade of the new millennium.

Barbara Arnott was the woman for the job, the first woman to wear the mayoral chains of either Napier or Hastings.

With the saving of Napier Hospital a lost cause by the time she stepped up to the mayoralty in 2001 after six years as a councillor, she was to spend much of her time also putting to bed the ghost of Marineland.

The whole of New Zealand, she says, in nurturing the clean green image, anti-whaling, et al, had "spoken for us," and she was more into "partnerships and working together".

She focused on it for the first three years, and a "collaborative" council formed, resulting, she says, in "significant achievements based on team work and common sense".

Announcing her retirement from the role, she talks first of the "substantial enhancements" to the transport network: the Expressway and its Meeanee Rd overbridge, and the western ring road, Prebensen Dr.

She speaks also of long-term storm and waste water infrastructure, and of sports and recreation facilities, from a new McLean Park grandstand, to the building of Pettigrew-Green Arena at Taradale, to new playgrounds on Marine Parade, where further developments are under way.

And then she speaks of the one perhaps most likely to bear her name, like a street or drive, although she says: "I don't need to have a legacy like that."

As Cr Arnott, she championed off-road pathways which, like Art Deco, became an unlikely success story.

The first stage on the Marine Parade foreshore was a millennium project, celebrating the arrival of the year 2000 and funded mainly by the Eastern and Central Community Trust.

Then followed Westshore to Bay View in 2003, and now, with the support of the Rotary Pathways Trust, and a major recent bequest, the network will extend to more than 180km throughout Hawke's Bay.

She also championed museum and arty gallery redevelopments, for which she promised $18 million could be found.

Rebranded MTG Hawke's Bay, it is near complete and, after the re-establishment of displays and exhibits, will reopen in September.

But, apart from what she believes is a community passionate about its city, some of her proudest statements surround fiscal status, with the city "independently assessed as the most financially sustainable city in New Zealand".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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