Ex-schoolteacher, now councillor, Malcolm Dixon sought to provide a simple explanation (Hawkes Bay Today, August 10) about the role of the local boards in the proposed new governance structure for Hawke's Bay.
As another ex-schoolteacher turned councillor (now retired), I find his explanation misleading and condescending.
Cr Dixon says Local Boards will be responsible for local parks and reserves, arts and cultural facilities, libraries, community and cultural events, community grants, local transport infrastructure, waste and recycling facilities and local economic development initiatives. These Local Boards will "look after and care for you".
Well, excuse me, but as far as I'm aware, we already have a body which takes care of those functions ... it's called a council. It already has "local offices" and has "real power".
He goes on to say that the new amalgamated council will have responsibility for land use planning, infrastructure, roading, stormwater, sewerage, coastal erosion, building permits, resource management consents and rates for the whole of the Hawke's Bay region.
Is he not aware that already land use planning is covered by the regional document called the Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy to which both Napier and Hastings Councils agreed, and harmonisation of the District Plans is taking place for issues where it makes sense.
Does he not know that the Regional Transport Committee comprises members from all Hawke's Bay councils plus interest groups like Port of Napier, rail, the AA, heavy haulage industry, health and the police, who work with the NZ Transport Agency to plan roading priorities for the whole of the Hawke's Bay roading network?
Does he think one stormwater and one sewerage scheme is feasible for the whole of Hawke's Bay, given the distances between the four major communities, with several major rivers between? Experts looked at the possibility of a combined scheme for Napier and Hastings and came to the conclusion it was not viable, given the different waste streams and the need to cross rivers to reach coastal outfalls.
Does he not understand the responsible role of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council for coastal processes, air quality, water quality, pest control, flood control and other environmental concerns for the whole region?
We already have the structure to deliver the core business of local government while keeping in close touch with the communities that each council represents. We even had a means of dealing with the regional issues not covered above: the Mayoral Forum, comprising the four mayors, the chair of the regional council, their CEOs, and the members of parliament of the Hawke's Bay electorates. This forum met regularly and discussed regional issues and had the real potential to take a leadership role for the whole region until the mayor of Hastings signalled his intention to promote amalgamation.
From that point on, energies which could have been directed for the betterment of Hawke's Bay were turned to protecting the democratic rights of their communities. The mayors of Wairoa, Napier and Central Hawke's Bay have all been elected since the amalgamation process began and all made it clear they opposed amalgamation in their mayoral campaigns. Their communities elected them knowing they would stand up for their democratic rights.
When this issue is resolved by referendum on September 15, it will be high time these mayors are given a chance to reform the Mayoral Forum and return their energies to leadership of their communities and of Hawke's Bay as a whole. Everyone wants Hawke's Bay to prosper. Everyone wants the economy to grow and quality of life to improve for all. Not everyone thinks dismantling a system that is doing its job and replacing it with an untried, multi-layered structure not wanted anywhere else in the country is the right or sensible thing to do.
In conclusion, Cr Dixon says we need to get out of our comfort zones and vote for change as "change is coming our way whether we like it or not". This is not true, if he is talking about our governance structure. Change to that will only come if the people of Hawke's Bay vote for it. The Government would have to pass legislation similar to the Auckland Bill to force structural change. Given that both the North Auckland and Wellington amalgamation schemes were unsuccessful and no other areas are interested in amalgamation, it would be a brave government indeed who would move to forcibly amalgamate Hawke's Bay.
Your vote is important ... it will determine the future governance of Hawke's Bay.
-Kathie Furlong is a former Deputy Mayor of Napier
-Views expressed here are the writer's opinion, and not the newspaper's. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-Viewpoints on the Hawke's Bay amalgamation debate can be submitted for consideration and will be used as long as no council resources, money, time or expertise are used in their preparation. This is a requirement of the Local Government Act, 2002.