Departing Hastings councillors reflect on time in office

By Nicki Harper

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John Roil says he experienced frustration over his six years with the council but none of his battles were personal.
John Roil says he experienced frustration over his six years with the council but none of his battles were personal.

Three Hastings District councillors are not seeking re-election to a Hastings seat this year and shared some thoughts about their time in council at the final meeting of the current term on Thursday.

The longest-serving councillor, Cynthia Bowers, who is standing instead for the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, noted how things had changed since she was first elected in 1995.

At that time the Hastings District Council was still new, the Tomoana freezing works was a year away from closing, there was no Splash Planet, no cycleways, few inner city plantings, the CBD still had the remnants of the old ring road through it, and sewage was discharged raw into Hawke Bay, she recollected.

"There's not a lot that I wish I had done differently. Splash Planet was very controversial at the time ... and the sewerage plant at East Clive was a major breakthrough.

"The CBD has taken a lot of effort and is not finished yet but opening up the streets has made for better traffic patterns."

She said one of the biggest disappointments was the Opera House closing, and she asked councillors to remember the Hastings district was a mix of rural and urban constituents and to keep a balanced focus on their needs.

Mick Lester was standing down after 15 years and said that he had enjoyed working with a great team who supported each other outside council.

Having just finished the 10-year district plan review he thanked the policy and planning team, and said having worked around the country, Hastings was lucky to have good staff compared to some other regions.

John Roil said he entered council six years ago from a private business background and from that perspective had experienced frustration with the council.

"I have tried to change things but have not been as successful as I could have been," he said, citing the example of spending $20m to $50m on the arts community but not being prepared to put services in ahead of time for the residential or industrial community.

Despite this, he said he had respect for the staff and other councillors, the battles with whom were not personal.

Mayor Lawrence Yule also had some parting words for the councillors who he thanked for their efforts while in office.

Mr Roil had been a champion of business during his six years in council, Mr Yule said, and had been an asset to the community.

"You have not always got your own way and seen the progress you wished, but you have been genuine in helping economic activity, although frustrated with council processes."

He said Mr Lester had been a strong advocate for the rural community through his role on the community board and had showed leadership around hearings and consent processing as well as the setting of the district plan.

"Your dedication to those hearings showed your commitment both locally and nationally where you have made a difference."

He then thanked Ms Bowers for her support in the role of deputy mayor for 15 years, stepping in to help when he was away on Local Government New Zealand business.

"You have been very hard working, passionate and strong, and always strived to do the right thing regardless how tough.

"You have done an outstanding job over a long time."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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