Yule under fire for comments at meeting

By Simon Hendery

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Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule is a strong supporter of amalgamation.
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule is a strong supporter of amalgamation.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule is sticking by comments he made at a closed-door amalgamation workshop which have been described as rude and inappropriate by the region's three other mayors.

Mr Yule raised eyebrows at the Tuesday meeting, which was attended by almost all Hawke's Bay councillors, when he said the gathering had been a waste of his time and that he did not support a proposal to repeat it. He also criticised the performance of the consultants facilitating the workshop.

Mr Yule's Napier counterpart, Bill Dalton, whose council initiated the workshop, described the Hastings Mayor's comments as rude.

That view was echoed by Wairoa Mayor Craig Little and Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Peter Butler yesterday, but refuted by Mr Yule.

"I was frank and I was honest," he said. "If people thought I was rude, I apologise for that. I was just trying to be honest about the situation."

He said his comment to the meeting had been to the effect that with councillors holding opposing views on amalgamation, it was a waste of time trying to get a unanimous view.

He said he had received support for the comments he had made at the meeting and Hawke's Bay Today yesterday spoke to several councillors who attended the meeting who agreed Mr Yule had simply stated the frustrations felt by many at the workshop.

Mr Yule and the other three mayors are at opposite ends of the amalgamation issue. Mr Dalton, Mr Little and Mr Butler have all argued strongly against a proposal, currently on the table from the Local Government Commission under which the regions for local territorial authorities, along with the regional council, would be merged into a single super council.

Mr Yule, a strong supporter of amalgamation, said he is focused on finding ways to resolve the concerns raised by those opposed to the commission's proposal.

He said the key concerns included the issue of how existing council debt would be handled by a single council, the reduced number of councillors on the proposed super council and possible council job losses.

Councils and the public have until March 7 to lodge submission on the proposal.

He said Hawke's Bay needed the "coherent vision, plan and leadership" advocated by the commission. "That's the space I'm in. I think that would make a fundamental difference but I equally get the fears and concerns that some have and I'm working really hard to resolve those issues, to get a submission to the Local Government Commission to fix those fears."

He had responded to an email from Mr Little criticising the "grilling" he had given consultants from Auckland firm Morrison Low by suggesting a meeting with Mr Little to discuss amalgamation issues.

He said he had a high regard for Morrison Low "but I felt their performance [at the workshop] was not as good as it could have been and I've relayed that to them."

Hasting District Council would honour its commitment to pay 30 per cent of the estimated $7000 cost of the workshop, Mr Yule said.

Morrison Low director Bruce Nicholson, who facilitated the workshop, declined to comment, referring the matter to the company's managing director, Malcolm Morrison.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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