Like so many families in Hawke's Bay, all of my children have left to find interesting and better-paid work elsewhere.
This is repeated time and again throughout the region; we lose our best brains and the talent of our young to other regions or countries because of lack of opportunity.
Divisive local environment that has failed to provide a united plan to attract businesses that deliver jobs of interest or sufficient reward is a major part of this failure. It's why Hawke's Bay lies second to bottom in regional performance in New Zealand, maybe soon to be the worst, yet we have the five councils talking about how well they are doing.
Why the mayors of Wairoa, Napier and Central Hawke's Bay argue for no change in local government -- by implication we are "doing all right mate", accepting the appalling statistics that apply to this region -- leaves me aghast, even at times contemplating leaving my home myself. Shame on them all! How disgraceful to hold on to decades of past failure as the solution for our future.
Demographics drive certainties. Without a catalyst for positive change, all of us may be condemned to the very bottom of New Zealand's economic performance statistics and, by definition, standard of living. By looking at the past, we can predict the future with a high degree of certainty.
Take the past two decades of failure. Napier City Council has failed to adequately grow the city's population, which stimulates its economy.
The 1996 census states Napier's population was 53,463 rising to 55,359 in 2006 and 57,240 in the 2013. This miserable 7.06 per cent change is spread over 17 years, less than 0.5 per cent per annum.
For all of New Zealand, the growth was twice that but is accelerating fast now, particularly Auckland, now accounting for over 65 per cent of North Island population growth. Betraying the fortress talk and bluster about looking after local community interests, Napier is falling behind the national averages on all counts. A demographic rot exists underneath past leaderships' vision failure.
Napier is not alone in drifting behind, the result of fragmented politics; Hastings is doing no better, while in Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay, population decline has set in and will accelerate even more, leading to the inevitable oblivion for those councils by staying separate.
Should Hawke's Bay do nothing, stay the same, all five councils are likely to be overrun with funding issues in a very short while, because our population is predicted to decline, just like Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay are now.
Demographic trends are predictable and undeniable, whatever your politics. The worst part about the population demographics in Hawke's Bay is that by far the greatest percentage of population is the 55-plus years, with the 65-plus being the biggest sector and growing fast.
Amalgamation is calculated by independent experts to save $10 million in administration costs. I can't think of a better place to invest the savings calculated in moulding five council bureaucracies into one than in providing incentives for businesses and people to relocate into Hawke's Bay.
Now is the time to strike, because the costs of being in Auckland beg, indeed scream out, for other regions to attract business away to a cheaper, better environment.
Five councils acting alone will only compete against each other, the fractured posturing assured to deliver worse outcomes than being united.
An ageing population earns less, has less income to spend. An ageing population has little or no incentive to invest in businesses to create jobs, improve infrastructure or develop regionally.
This region risks becoming an old-age retirement centre, making it even more certain that population renewal will not happen, and without population growth we have a problem. A council funding crisis is assured.
Evolving into a united region with a united plan to bring new businesses and new people to the region is absolutely necessary.
* Malcolm Eves is a retired Hawke's Bay financial adviser, who lives in Havelock North.
* Business and civic leaders, organisers, experts in their field and interest groups can contribute opinions. The views expressed here are not the newspaper's. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.