Here we go again. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Way back in the winter of 2000 there was a sense of deep frustration over the opportunities being missed and the lack of a cohesive vision for Hawke's Bay as a visitor destination.
There were something like a dozen separate tourism entities separately funded by the various councils and other parties all stumbling over each other, all turf watching, all competing for funds and all getting nowhere fast.
It was in this climate that under the guidance of Sir Graham Avery a small group of us got together and started to hatch a plan.
The resulting Hawke's Bay Wine Country brand was quickly embraced by the private sector and eventually, to varying degrees, by the various councils.
What became apparent, however, was that whilst private sector involvement was essential, the branding could never really take its place as the official tourism identity without commitment, funding and unified support from councils - and the logical conduit for this was Hawke's Bay Regional Council.
While the brand itself has naturally evolved over time, the cohesion and collective buy-in created has only strengthened.
As a result of Hawke's Bay finally promoting itself with some consistency, two important things happened.
Firstly, we attracted great talent to the task. George Hickton, then CEO of Tourism New Zealand became chairman, soon followed by Annie Dundas as GM - one of the most respected country managers for Tourism New Zealand at that time. And as is usually the case, they in turn attracted others with the right talent and skills.
Secondly, after many years of indifferent structures and proposals HBRC finally felt they were perhaps no longer throwing good money after bad. Funding was increased but even more importantly a consistent strategy for funding was planned for the future.
So finally, long-term strategies, promotions and event programming could be undertaken.
And now, just as we are starting to see some success, just as Tourism New Zealand, Air New Zealand and a world of travel media have confidence in how things are being organised in Hawke's Bay, just as some core events like FAWC, Art deco Weekend, the marathon and The Big Easy are starting to get critical traction - the HBRC is deciding this is a good time to reverse progress and wind us steadily back to where we were.
There are many more, but for the sake of space here are three reasons why I would implore a rethink on this.
Firstly, the private sector will not promote Hawke's Bay. If a regionally funded entity like Hawke's Bay Tourism doesn't do it, no one will.
At best we would create a fractured set of interest groups all trying to claim fame for their specific area of business – all at the detriment of a consistent message.
Secondly, we run the risk of destroying a long-fought-for working partnership between private and public sector in Hawke's Bay – each knowing their role and each playing an important part. I get exasperated by the accusation that the private sector needs to "step up".
Before Hawke's Bay Tourism found its feet many businesses were reluctant to give time, energy and effort. This is no longer the case.
Thirdly, if there is no respected, integrated tourism body officially representing the region, who is the Sydney Morning Herald, or Tourism New Zealand, or Conde Naste or Air New Zealand, or a rock star travel blogger from Shanghai going to call?
They're not going to call Black Barn or Splash Planet or the Aquarium, or "the council". They're going to call Queenstown or Wellington or Rotorua. This is how the world of tourism now works.
This is an increasingly complex process, with most therefore, increasingly looking for simplicity when finding their next story.
I know for a fact that a number of the names above have chosen Hawke's Bay over other New Zealand destinations recently because of the respect they have for Hawke's Bay Tourism.
They can now trust the efficiency and ease that can be wrapped around everything from an itinerary to the willingness of most operators to get alongside and add their enthusiastic and financial support.
In summary, after all the good work that has been put in for so long by so many to get us tentatively on the path towards success, it seems almost unbelievable that just as we have a plan that is starting to work we would decide to derail it.
The industry now knows where it is going and what needs to be done. It has the right structure, the right people and the right support in place. All that was only dreamed of nearly 20 years ago. HBRC has been a critical partner in that progress.
If the budget is cut year on year as proposed, this will obviously lead to many of the plans and projects also needing to be cut, which in turn will lead to the falling away of the talented people driving those plans, which in turn will lose the confidence of those powerful influencers who currently drive people to our region, which in turn will see a decline in visitors, which in turn will lose the confidence of the local operators who will start to see less people coming to their business, which in turn will have an impact that will reach far more deeply in to our region's economy than simply what we refer to as "the tourism industry".
Joni Mitchell once said "you don't know what you've got till it's gone" – true words. But we do know, we've been there before. Let's not go there again.
* Kim Thorp is co-owner of Black Barn Vineyards Hawke's Bay and is involved in various marketing and communications projects nationally.