It is commonly said that city and district councils take care of the three "R's": rates, rubbish and roading. But for the new chief executive of Hastings District Council, social issues are just as important.

Nigel Bickle, who will be starting at Hastings District Council in February, said he takes inspiration from former Prime Minister Norman Kirk, who said at a base level, what matters to New Zealanders is not that complicated.

"Kiwis don't really ask for a lot, at the end of the day they want someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for."

"That's the essence of me."


Bickle is from Porirua originally, but currently has two children based in Hawke's Bay.

He thought the chief executive role would see him tackling some of the same challenges on a community level as he does on a national level in his current role heading the Provincial Development Unit.

He said there were some interesting challenges in Hastings around planning for growth, but what impressed him about the council was the belief that everybody deserved to be part of a growing economy.

"They're serious about the concept that everyone's got to be able to participate and benefit from the economy."

He said social issues were one of the major challenges facing Hastings.

"When you've got a third of kids living below the poverty line and half of your kids living in benefit-dependent households, that feels like the long-term challenge, to really address that."

He wants to form strong partnerships with iwi, central government and business to tackle social issues and simultaneously make Hastings a place people want to invest in.

He said his social conscience was instilled in him by his father.


"I grew up on, particularly with my dad, the great thing about New Zealand is it's this egalitarian society.

"It doesn't matter who you are or where you live, or who you are born to, everyone had equality of opportunity to realise their potential.

"That's a really big part of my values."

He has worked in the public sector for 30 years including eight as deputy chief executive of Immigration New Zealand, a role which gave him a lot of experience with Hawke's Bay.

"I spent a lot of time up here with the horticulture and viticulture sector.

"I've interacted professionally with the district for quite a while."

Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the council was excited to have Bickle on board.

"He will lead a customer focused, can do council; a council that is aware of our community's needs and a council that will deliver the best results for our district.

"He has a love of Hastings and Hawke's Bay. His passion, skills, attitude and experience made him a standout candidate and our council is excited to have him lead our organisation."

Bickle will begin his role on February 11, taking over from acting chief executive Neil Taylor.