When I started this job I gave myself 60 days to settle in and to achieve certain objectives and highlight others.

Some of us had campaigned as a team with a shared vision for our region and the fact that we all got elected with an increased mandate has made the job much easier for me.

Our programme was a bit ambitious but because we have such an active and supported council many of our objectives have already been achieved.

It is my intention to use all of the experience and intellect around our table, delegate to the committees and run a portfolio culture.


We had seven main early objectives to be achieved by Christmas


To embrace the concept of a true working partnership with Tangata Whenua. We have inherited the Regional planning Committee (RPC) which, albeit doesn't have universal support in Kahungunu, is a good functioning legal platform to work from.

I am also very pleased that despite some opposition we have managed to keep the Maori Committee. The Maori committee gains its mana and mandate from the Taiwhenua which are mandated from the marae. It is an entirely different kaupapa from the RPC and we need both committees to be fully connected and informed.

2.Ruatnaiwha dam

Our second objective was to have a "cup of tea" on the Ruataniwha dam. We have been very fortunate that this coincided with the break in activity forced by the Forest & Bird legal challenge meaning that there is no economic impact created by the "cup of tea". All capital expenditure is on hold during this period.

The review was welcomed by a large section of our community and is of course still in progress.

3.Oil and Gas


The objective was to enact a ban on drilling for oil and gas on or near all our aquifers and water bodies in Hawkes Bay and the council endorsed this position last week.

4.HBRIC Board

I am very keen to see more diverse economic activity and a wider regional focus from HBRIC.

The current chair has resigned from the board and it was my intention to have a governance representation from our council and Debbie Hewitt and Peter Beaven have now been appointed to this board.

I would like to see HBRIC be active in other projects such as commercialising our Manuka IP, investigating the wider economic benefits of our rail initiative and developing a commercial relationship with Tangata Whenua.

We will appoint an interim chair and search for a new independent chair in the new year.

5. Water bottling

Our objective was to put the "hand brake" on any new water bottling consents in Heretaunga for two reasons.

We did not want to see unrestrained applications for water bottling plants on the Heretaunga plains which would mean a draw down of water throughout the year, including the winter months when the aquifer traditionally replenishes. The public are extremely concerned about water bottling and we believed that we all needed time to understand the issues better.

All water bottling consents will now have to be publicly notified.

6. Feedlots

This issue has really annoyed our team. We were very keen to see a resolution on these feedlots and have been very pleased that staff moved assertively on this issue.

The council has sent a message to these farmers that unconsented feedlots that are potentially polluting our environment will not be tolerated.

7. GMOs

Our aim was to support the Hastings District councils position on GMOs in Hawkes Bay and we are close to doing this.

Havelock water

This has been a difficult time for relationships. The mayor of Hastings has been a close friend of mine for many years and we have maintained our relationship despite the different views held by our respective staff in regard the cause of this crisis.

The public still do not understand why two of their councils were opposing each other in court. There is now a general acceptance that the HBRC had a statutory obligation to prosecute but they do not understand or accept that we had to prosecute now instead of waiting until after the board of inquiry had deliberated and reported.

Fortunately this is now resolved and we can move on together, support the commission and find out what happened.

As you are aware I have joined the Hastings mayor and the NKII chair in a process to share information with the public by way of a water symposium for Heretaunga in early March.

Despite this frantic pace we have only just begun and have really only "ticked off the low
hanging fruit". Our region is facing huge challenges with erosion clogging up our streams and rivers and destroying our estuaries. Ahuriri and lake Tutira are a mess, the estuary at Whakaki is no better.

Global warming and coastal erosion is going to be a major challenge for our region. We need to understand our fisheries a lot better and create a serious riparian planting programme and the list goes on.

Over the last 150 years we have created this mess. We deforested this land at world record pace, faster than anywhere else in the history of the world. It is nobody's fault, we all did it and we can't put the burden of fixing it on to any one sector, we are going to have to do this together.

Have a great Christmas

Rex Graham is chair of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council. He based this talking point on his first report as chair of the council.