What's in a name?

Can anyone think of anything more foolish or insulting than the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's decision to consider changing its name to Environment Hawkes Bay?

Granted, it keeps deputy chairman Rick Barker's name in the public eye.

But mainly it seems designed, like John Key's new flag proposal, to divert public and media attention from important and critical issues.


As Cr Barker well knows, Hawke's Bay is very dry and if present low rainfall trends continue, there is quite possibly a major drought looming in the not too distant future.

The drought of 2006/07 cost the East Coast $700 million and the economic costs this time will be similar.

The regional council's answer to drought has been to dismiss or delay attempts to find solutions.

Instead, three years ago, it created the Future Farming Trust with a budget of $600,000.

The trust's core assumption is that you can farm without water by planting lucerne, growing drought-resistant grass and crops, and building soil fertility.

None of these propositions has yet been demonstrated anywhere successfully as a long-term, large-scale solution to the problems of water scarcity.

Furthermore, the regional council has for years raised little or no objection to district and city councils consenting urban development marginally above the high tide level despite an official policy recognising that sea levels will rise by at least 50 centimetres by 2050.

Whether the regional council has the legal powers to forbid such actions by territorial authorities is a moot point, but it is surely a failure of leadership to sit back and watch your fellow councils allow themselves to be dropped in the drink at some not too distant time?


Already insurance companies are looking at massive increases in premiums in vulnerable coastal areas, with consequent destruction of property values.

This double-whammy, one immediate and one medium-term, represents the failure of the HBRC to do its basic job which, as Cr Barker points out, is to protect the environment and safeguard the economic base of the province.

Concentrating on meaningless political smokescreens at the expense of real problem-solving will not bring the rain, nor slow global warming and sea level rise.

It will give the illusion of action while councillors hold meetings and put out press statements.

It is a classic case of wasting time and money on inessential trivia.

"What did you do in the climates wars, Daddy? ", our children will ask us.

"I changed the name of the council, son."

That will hardly cut it.

Tim Gilbertson is a former regional councillor and was a 2019 local body election candidate.