"A proud, prosperous district with strong communities and connected citizens who respect and celebrate nature."
This was the summation of how the Central Hawke's Bay district saw itself that was presented to about 90 people at a public meeting in Waipawa last night, there to hear back from the recent "Project Thrive" conducted in recent weeks.
Co-ordinated by Kobus Mentz of Urbanismplus, Project Thrive involved a series of community meetings across Central Hawke's Bay, which the CHB District Council held in place of consultation on this year's draft annual plan.
More than 300 people attended those meetings, and more than 3500 comments were harvested from attendees who were asked what they valued most about the district, what was holding the district back and what people wanted the district to look like in the future.
What came across as being valued most was the district's people, its facilities, natural beauty, diversity and central location and climate, Mr Mentz said.
He said there was a mature approach to the need to balance nature with agriculture, and Central Hawke's Bay people were very proud of their identity.
"You're not hankering to be Hastings' little brother, you are proud of the territory that defines your district."
Issues identified as holding the district back included lack of cellphone and internet coverage, not enough jobs, housing (especially for the elderly), water quality and supply and lack of growth.
"There is quite a big appetite for growth but not at the expense of community cohesion," Mr Mentz noted.
As for a vision for the future, he said people expressed a desire for bustling, vibrant towns and villages, new business and employment for youth, a healthy environment, and for Central Hawke's Bay to be a tourist destination.
Iwi were also consulted, and among other things wanted a stronger dialogue with the rest of the community, a desire for more recognition of iwi history and suggested initiatives such as an iwi trail and/or museum.
Mr Mentz said the next phase of the project would be to collate the information further and put forward some possible action plans for consideration during the upcoming Long Term Plan process.
"So far this is just a conversation, there's no peg in the ground.
"When the Long Term Plan is formulated consultation will happen, and when they do that the councillors will have the community ringing in their ears."
Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker said the way the community had responded and got involved was astounding, as were the numbers that participated.
"In the usual annual plan process you may have counted them on your two hands or maybe on one foot, but to have hundreds participate is exciting and an honour."
A report was expected to be completed and presented to the council by the end of May, and would be made available to the public.