Every citizen of Hawke's Bay will be looking forward to waking up on September 16 with no amalgamation sword hanging over their heads.
The amalgamation debate, crudely forced on us by a small, extremely well funded group of individuals, has been incredibly damaging to Hawke's Bay. Seeing how they spend money on advertising should be a warning to us all should they gain the control they seek. And it is all so unnecessary.
Every time there is good news in the press, the pro-amalgamation lobby either deny its existence or suggest it is a one-off bubble. Well, the good news is coming so thick and fast now that even those avidly pro-amalgamation have to acknowledge the progress we are making.
Good things are happening in Hawke's Bay because positive people are making them happen.
Hawke's Bay Today tells us our consumer confidence is the highest in the country. We have read that property prices have risen more than 7 per cent, home and farm sales are up 40 per cent and new house permits are up over 16 per cent.
The tourism industry is doing well with guest night figures up 18 per cent, again topping the country. Lawyers tell us their offices are a hive of conveyancing activity and builders say things are looking up.
Jetstar is coming to Hawke's Bay. The campaign to attract Jetstar is a perfect example of what can be achieved under our current structure. Private business interests, councils, HB Airport, agencies such as Tourism HB, Business HB and others, all came together at the HB Business Hub and put together a compelling argument to attract competition to our skies.
All this -- not only without amalgamation -- but during a period in our political history when we have had a divisive and disruptive amalgamation campaign inflicted on us. Imagine how much better we could have done if all shoulders could have been on the productive wheel.
These statistics don't suddenly improve on their own. Sure, we didn't have the boom that Taranaki had with skyrocketing prices of oil and dairy products and so now we are not suffering the bust. Things are looking up in the Bay because some of us, despite the distraction inflicted on our province, are getting on with the job of making Hawke's Bay a better place.
Accommodation guest night figures are improving because of the number of events we have brought to the Bay. The work that goes into bringing teams like the Melbourne Storm to provincial New Zealand is incredible but the impact on the Hawke's Bay economy is equally incredible. Ask the hotel and motel trade. Ask the caterers who supplied the hospitality venues. Ask the retailers and gas station proprietors.
Importantly, the visitor spend goes right across the region. The principal caterer is Havelock north based. The chairman of the Melbourne Storm flew the CEOs of the main sponsors out -- they stayed at Black Barn and played golf at the Cape. Those wealthy individuals were really impressed with Hawke's Bay and everything it has to offer. They will be back.
Good things are happening in Hawke's Bay because positive people are making them happen. While others are concentrating on the rear-view mirror full of historic negative statistics and 70-year-old myths about universities that were proven wrong years ago, some of us are concentrating on the road ahead.
Sure it's important to glance back now and then, but concentrating on it will get us nowhere.
It is vitally important that we keep this positive momentum going in Hawke's Bay.
We need to put the amalgamation debate and all its ugly consequences behind us and create a positive future.
Spending tens of millions of dollars replacing our councils with totally ineffective local boards will be counter productive and result in more debt being incurred.
And every single dollar will come out of the pockets of Hawke's Bay ratepayers who will be paying for the costly amalgamation process.
So why are we even contemplating amalgamation? It makes no sense.
A vote against the amalgamation proposal will allow our councils, who are close to their people and make good decisions on their behalf, to continue the momentum that is now so obvious in Hawke's Bay.
Bill Dalton is Mayor of Napier
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