The debacle that is the Craggy Range-initiated zigzag scar up the eastern face of Te Mata is the gift that keeps on giving.

Except it's us, the ordinary ratepayers, who are being forced to give.

We hear it could cost up to half a million dollars of our rates for what can only be a veritable army of consultants advising Hastings District Council on what to do.
Plus perhaps another $300,000 to then remediate it.

And the madness continues: it could be another $50-60,000 to remove a top section of the track that is considered dangerous to life and limb, a bill the council is paying.

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These costs are for something citizens were not consulted over, and which seem to lack any good reason why council should be spending anything at all on it.

Oh, except maybe the fact they cocked up big time in granting the winery consent for the track in the first place.

If this is the "transparent and consensual" brand of leadership under Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst, then all I can say is, please God give us Lawrence back!

Because it seems to be a completely opaque shambles.

First the mayor seemed to have no opinion, then she wanted all of our opinions, then she belatedly encouraged hapu/iwi opinion, then she said it was a process everyone was working through collectively and we could expect a result soon, and now our council has committed we ratepayers to potentially paying a ridiculous sum to have various "experts" proffer their opinions. Leadership?

Let's be clear: regardless of what "value" the track may or may not have, granting consent for it in the first place was, in my opinion, a fundamentally inappropriate and almost-unbelievably stupid decision by someone within HDC.

I don't care if that ruffles some "professional" feathers.

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Thinking it is okay to modify "the most iconic landscape feature" in Hawke's Bay, with no consultation, must have involved at least one moment of stupidity.

If I was mayor, I'd have immediately fronted the community and apologised unreservedly for stuffing up. Didn't happen.

Then, because this farce makes fools of everyone concerned, I would have pounded on then-CEO Ross McLeod's desk demanding he at least censure whoever made that call.

Only then would I look to engage with tangata whenua over whether it were possible to ameliorate the damage and perhaps come up with a viable alternative – or whether the whole project should simply be remediated as soon as practicable and, hopefully, forgotten.

Again, didn't happen. Instead, iwi and the winery were left to try to chart their own path to a solution, while the council fluffed about with made-to-order protest and supporter groups and tried to appear blameless.

Blameless they certainly are not. No-one should be fooled into thinking otherwise.

What concerns me most about all this is that HDC's responses to the issue as it has unfolded hint at a systemic inability to take ownership of a mistake in an open and accountable way.

Potentially buying up to $500,000 worth of "accountability" so they can finally tell us what they're doing is an inordinate waste of money for something they should have dealt with immediately.

* Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet. Views expressed are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's.