The days of conflicting, staunch "town versus town" parochialism within our regions seemed to be waning, until the words "local government amalgamation" crept into our vernacular.

It caused the hairs to stand up on the backs of the necks of our rural towns, at the thought of an apparently more efficient local government system.

On paper it would arguably have resulted in efficiencies, but the fear of losing decision making power, and key services, were factors in it being kicked permanently to touch.

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Perhaps it was also a factor in Hawke's Bay's regional leaders not communicating or interacting as much as we might think. But that's changing.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council and its four constituent local authorities apparently broke new ground getting together this week.

That seems odd, given how logical it is.

The regional council has an operational perspective of the entire region, that is unique.

Given it's role in economic development, it seems obvious that someone like Craig Little would be right in the flight path of Rex Graham's loop.

The other benefit of a gathering like this, is breaking down the curious Napier v Hastings dynamic.

Talk to proponents of either and you will hear multiple views about events in Napier that Hastings should contribute funding to, or more funding, or vice versa.

The debate is spiced up by Hastings' wider reach, as a district council, compared to Napier's city focus.


A joint regional workshop on Wednesday was attended by the mayors of Napier, Hastings, Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay, councillors and chief executive officers.

It ended with a plan to make it an annual conference.

Central Hawke's Bay mayor and Mayoral Leaders Forum chairwoman Alex Walker says there has been "a lot of healing" since the local government amalgamation debate, in which a merger plan was rejected at a public referendum in 2015.

"A joint regional workshop like this one would never have been held three years ago, or even six years ago," Walker says.

Napier mayor Kirsten Wise says the community has moved on and people were now expecting local leaders to work together. She is right.

What is good for Napier's goose might be good for Hastings' gander. Or Wairoa's, or CHB's.

Our civic leaders getting together can only be a good thing, but there is an "if" or two.

An annual conference? Only if it produces goals or outcomes that people are held accountable for. Surely there is scope for something more regular?

Otherwise a room full of local body politicians is simply a talkfest.

It is one thing to signal to the region that our leaders are communicating, now we all look forward to the action that follows the talk.