Jacoby Poulain: Signs annoying part of elections

By Jacoby Poulain

It's that time again - where all those annoying election signs pop up like mushrooms across our region.

Drive home from work and there's three more to greet you, smack you in the eyeball, smile enticingly at you or possibly even give you a cheeky little wink.

As annoying as some of these may be, they are important as they advertise the pool of candidates from which we as a region elect whom will represent us on our major local government organisations over the next three years and who will work on our important issues, of which there are plenty of.

Hawke's Bay regional performance in the terms of health, education, economic growth and household income is behind most of New Zealand. The performance of the region in these matters was reviewed last year in a study commissioned on behalf of Hawke's Bay Councils, the report colloquially named the Winder Report. It basically spells out that we stink in certain areas and it's only going to get worse unless we change things. In that context, lobby group A Better Hawke's Bay jumped on the issue seeking reorganisation to the structure of local government within Hawke's Bay, by bringing all councils together, as the answer to Hawke's Bays dire predicament.

The change in particular is designed to address the structure of local government in such a way that would provide opportunities for efficiencies and cost savings and productivity improvements for those who interact with the local authority.

Further, it is argued, this would give the opportunity to consolidate region-wide leadership, making it more effective to engage with government, and through this address economic growth and social issues within the wider Hawke's Bay community.

Hastings Council supports a move towards such a unitary authority however Napier seem not so convinced. It's interesting to note that in 1999 when a referendum of Napier and Hastings residents on the issue of amalgamation was held, 75 per cent of Napier residents opposed amalgamation while 67 per cent of Hastings residents supported it.

However contrast this with a 2011 poll by Wellington Company Curia and results reveal 39 per cent of Napier residents are in support of one governing authority for the region. The poll showed 46 per cent opposed amalgamation of Napier City Council, Hawke's Bay Regional Council and the Hastings District Council. This was significantly less than the 75 per cent that said no in the 1999 referendum.

A poll is likely again for this issue in our region but not likely to be held much sooner than the end of next year. It'll be interesting to see the outcome of the poll and its implications for this region, just as it will be interesting to see the outcome of these local elections across the board.

The Napier mayoralty race is lively with a long line of contenders and the regional council race is heating up with contenders both for and against the dam jumping out of the woodwork. Then there is the fluoride debate keeping things hot in Hastings. Many are supportive but many are fiercely opposed as well. A referendum will be held on whether to continue adding fluoride to the Hastings public water supply at this election.

I am standing for election at the October's election and for that reason, other than highlighting the situations and major issues above, I refrain from giving my personal or professional opinion. Rather, my intention here is to encourage you to have your say by way of vote in the elections. I will be standing down from this column until at least after elections. I wish everyone all the best.

Jacoby Poulain is a Hastings District Council Flaxmere ward councillor. This will be her last column until after the elections.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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