Former minister stands for council

By Lawrence Gullery

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Former Hastings and Tukituki Labour MP Rick Barker is standing as a candidate for the Hawke's Bay Regional Council at this year's local government election.

Mr Barker was a high-profile member of Helen Clark's Labour government. He spent 18 years from 1993 in central government including six as a minister before deciding to step down after the 2011 general elections.

He said he had been approached by people to stand for regional council following sitting councillor Eileen von Dadelszen's resignation last week, to take up a role with the Environment Court.

"Eileen has been an outstanding councillor and chair for the regional council and I am certain she will be an asset for the Environment Court. She has my best wishes for her new position."

Mr Barker lived in Hastings and said he would contest the Hastings constituency of the regional council. Amalgamation of Hawke's Bay's councils and the Ruataniwha water storage project were two of the big issues ahead of the elections.

Mr Barker admitted to being "pro-amalgamation" and believed Hawke's Bay would be better served with a single voice.

"This is based on experience which has shown me that the fractured nature of our local government structure has been at times to our disadvantage. One plan for the Bay to reach its potential will better serve us all than five, sometimes differing, plans."

The Ruataniwha dam proposal was "a bold plan" with potential but environmental issues must be carefully weighed and considered along with a convincing financial analysis.

"Both issues need to be well understood by the public who will bear the costs of any mistakes and ratepayers need to also be convinced of the dam's merits as well as understanding the risks."

Mr Barker recently completed a Masters Degree in Public Policy and has been working as a consultant in Hastings, including as a chief Crown negotiator for the government on Treaty of Waitangi issues.

"I have a broad and detailed understanding of this community and its needs. I will bring a good understanding of how central government works, something which I think will add value to the mix of councillors. I have experience of governance and of developing and implementing policy."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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