The trials of consultation

One of the things I just love about Hawke’s Bay is the way in which we are happy to express views on important issues. Whilst many may talk about political apathy the recent Craggy Range walk way debarcle demonstrates to me that people are not apathetic about everything.


I think many of the arguments on both sides are valid. Some are not. Firstly I fully support property rights. We should be able to do what we like on our own property so long as it causes no harm to others. This is why we have plans, consent requirements, and all that other bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. To ensure we do no harm to others. I also happen to believe that over time the track would meld into the landscape. How soon that would happen who knows? But like all good things it just takes time.


Where I think it all went terribly wrong was in the inability of Hastings District Council to suggest to Craggy Range that they should consult with Tangata Whenua. Who knows now what the outcome of such consultation would have been but there is no point in dwelling on the past.


Te Mata

The decision by Craggy Range to close the track was a brave one. To my mind it demonstrated that Craggy Range, like many businesses who are intrenched in our community, just wanted to do the right thing. It’s why I retain confidence that the biggest environmental challenges we face remain solvable. Most people have a strong ethical compass, they just need the courage and resources to do the right thing.


That is why it is unfortunate that this project has become embroiled in such controversy. I am pleased that Craggy Range took the time to consult with Ngati Kahungunu. It speaks of their strong ethics and their desire to retain their social right to operate. I doubt we will ever know the true reason why they made the decision to close the track but clearly they have come an understanding about the significance of Te Mata Peak to both Maori and Pakeha.


What is sad is the lack of understanding by many people of the significance Maori hold for the landscape. There are so many stories to be told of the history of Hawke’s Bay which aren’t well known because, to be frank, we have not been taught them. I have to admit though that my children’s generation are far better grounded in this respect. It’s just that my generation missed out.


One of the benefits of being a Regional Councillor is that I get the opportunity to hear some of these stories, straight from the horses mouth so to speak. They remind me of the bedtime stories my grandfather used to tell me when I would overnight with my grandparents. These are the stories, as well as yarns about things my father and I did, that I repeated to my children and will eventually tell to my grandchildren.



I believe this is how we develop our connection with the landscape. By knowing about the history behind those special places. It makes them special to us. For example, as Ambassador for Tutira I have been amazed by how many people throughout New Zealand have said what a special place it is for them. They all seem to have stories about Tutira that they hold close to their hearts.



So I have trouble understanding why some are saying that because Craggy Range had property rights that it shouldn’t have been necessary to consult with Tangata Whenua. The only thing I can put it down to is ignorance. Not willfull ignorance mind you. Just an indication of how lacking our education was because I’m in the same boat as everyone else on that one.


Hopefully, in much the way as the dam debate increased peoples understanding of the  water challenges facing Hawke’s Bay, the track will make people more aware of the importance of planning processes, realise the shortcomings of allowing these sorts of decisions to be made in splendid isolation from the politicians, and become more aware of just how dangerous it is to say something is right simply because all the boxes have been ticked. But most importantly I hope that it motivates people to learn more about our local history. That is something that would be well worth making a New Years resolution to do. It’s so very rewarding.


Talking point submitted 29/12/17

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First 12 months on HBRC

It has been just over 12 months since I was elected to the Regional Council. I have to say it has been a most interesting journey. First up we had to figure out how to best deal with the dam. Any number of people had said to me that they did not have enough information to make a decision on it being a good or bad idea. That’s why I was happy to support a review of the scheme. In the end the dam failed to procure all the land required to be flooded so following the Supreme Court decision the only option we were left with was to end the scheme.
As a community we should never forget the dangers of group think. We have written off some $14 million of dam costs and I suspect there will be another $7 million to come. All because the scheme continued to proceed even though access to the land to be flooded had not been obtained. It does not matter how confident the supporters of the dam were of their position. The fact is that the decision to proceed will cost the ratepayers of Hawke’s Bay some $21 million. Such are the dangers of group think.
The appointment of James Palmer as CEO was a key moment for this council. For me James ticked a lot of boxes. We now have a captain with his hands on the tiller steering in the direction we require. Sticking to our knitting. Maintaining or enhancing the environment. The new direction of council should be obvious to everyone following our ‘Hot Spots’ consultation. I’m really excited about what is likely to be in our Long Term Plan. Here’s hoping you agree. None of this would have been possible without James in charge.
One issue which I was aware of, but had no idea about it’s importance was councils relationship with local Tangata Whenua. Living and breathing Te Tiriti is a challenge for any council dominated by a pakeha world view. But we are required by statute to deal with this issue. Last week’s decision by the Regional Planning Committee (RPC) to not proceed with an amendment to Plan Change 6 should be a wakeup call for everyone. This is not a decision that can be overturned by Regional Council so it stands. What I think many people do not realise is the power that resides in the RPC. The RPC is tasked with making recommendations about resource management planning issues to council. Council can only accept or decline the recommendation. It cannot change the recommendation at all. So when the TANK Plan Change comes to the RPC heaven help the TANK group if it hasn’t given sufficient thought or consideration to Te Tiriti or the overall Maori view of the world.
To my mind the issue for us about the RPC is that we need to properly learn how consensus decision making works. It is not just a matter of gaining a sufficient majority around the table, it is also about understanding each others point of view. Of the four RPC members who voted against the proposal last week, there were two for whom I have no idea why they did so. This is just not good enough in a consensus decision making process. I am confident that we can, and will, improve as we go along.
But in saying that because the RPC also consists of the nine councillors then a balance needs to be found that everyone can work with. Personally I’m up for the challenge. It has been fascinating discovering what the Maori world view means. I’ll never forget the lesson that we don’t fix Lake Tutira, we restore the health of Tutira. Subtle I know, but that’s the level of understanding we need to come to.
For my sins I was appointed ambassador for Tutira. I was told that this was a bit of a hospital pass. Nothing could be further from the truth. Firstly everyone involved wants the same outcome, a healthy Tutira.  So motivated people are involved.  Secondly Te Waiu o Tutira was already up and running. This partnership between the Maungaharuru-Tangitu Trust and the Regional Council is really paying dividends. There has also been much work done by farmers and landowners in the catchment already. I’m just riding the wave. But I’ll take it.
But it’s not all a box of fluffys. There are challenges in front of us that I know cause some angst in the community. Where is the Port going to find the money needed for it’s proposed expansion? How are we going to deal with Plan Change 6 without the dam? Are we going to be able to handle the ever increasing public expectations over the environment? Will I ever be able to take my kids swimming with confidence in Ahuriri Estuary? As I said to begin with, a most interesting journey. I’m just so grateful for being given the opportunity to be around the table. I’ll never forget those who gave me that mandate. Thank you all so much.
Talking Point Submitted 7/11/17
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I expect better from the Mayor

I am not a dog person. Never have been. But I understand peoples connection with their pets. What I do have in common with dog owners is a concern for animal welfare. For this reason I’ve been watching with some interest the debate about the management of Napier City Council’s pound.

Recent comments by the Mayor should not go unpassed. With respect to concerns raised by Watchdog! he was quoted as saying “If they simply got positive about things then the whole place would be a lot better” and that he treated Watchdog! with “the utter contempt they deserve

The first quote begs the question what was wrong with the way the pound had been managed in the first place. Why else say that the whole place would be a lot better? To my mind the words ‘a lot better’ imply that management of the pound is currently less than perfect. In short the Mayor has acknowledged that Watchdog! has a point.

In his second quote the Mayor shows a complete lack of empathy for the concerns raised by Watchdog! and by association, all of the members of the public who support their work in raising concerns about animal welfare. I’m sorry Mr Mayor but I think you go too far.

It is unfortunate that the Mayor has gone down this path. He is far better than this. But I get the feeling that his continued support of the CEO has put him under some pressure. It is clear that the public have become frustrated with the council and it’s CEO in recent times. The velodrome, Skatezone, a lack of swimming facilities and now the pound are just some of the issues in which the public feel they have been treated with contempt. Is it any wonder that Watchdog! called upon the CEO to resign? It may well be they will be but the first group to make this call.

Submitted 11/01/17

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