Looking back over 2015 I think it has been a year of big wins for Hawkes Bay. It might not seem like it at first but to my mind I think we need to recall some of the significant events that happened.
- The people of Hawkes Bay rediscovered the value of commons with the revelation that our water was been given away to foreign corporations for export to China and other parts. I wonder how many will turn their hoses off when the next watering ban is imposed.
- Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc won a significant court case against HBRC. It made very clear that HBRC is legally obligated to maintain or enhance the quality of water in our aquifers. There is no wriggle room for HBRC to say a little more pollution here is ok if we improve water quality in a different place.
- After all appeals had been dealt with it was made clear that all farmers have to comply with the 0.8 dissolved nitrogen limit set out in Plan Change 6. It was especially gratifying to see that HBRC’s legal opinion differed from that of HBRIC’s. In essence dam customers do not have any more right to pollute the Tukituki than their neighbour. Perhaps this is why HBRIC is finding it so difficult to get farmers to sign up. This is the issue which is at the heart of the poacher turned game keeper scenario with HBRC being both promoter (through HBRIC) and regulator of the dam.
- It was pleasing to see the Hawke’s Bay Regional Planning Committee Bill pass through the committee stages in Parliament. For me it goes some way towards redressing the balance between the Treaty of Waitangi partners locally. I look forward to local Maori having a big say in future planning decisions.
- 2015 seemed to be the year for renaming. Ahuriri Hawkes Bay Airport sounds just as right to me as Perfume Point. Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, whilst a mouth full, recognises history in much the same as renaming Napier Hill Mataruahou does.
- TAG Oil’s intention to pull out of the East Coast spoke volumes about the fickle nature of this industry. One has to wonder why further offshore blocks are even been put out for tender. The most surprising thing about the oil & gas industry was Councillor Alan Dick arguing that having oil rigs ruining the vista of our pristine Hawke’s Bay horizon was not a problem.
- Hastings District Council’s decision to ban the use of GMOs in Hawkes Bay was a real boost for our local producers. It came as no surprise that lobby group Federated Farmers are appealing this decision. It speaks volumes for their leadership.
- The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released a report showing that at its most benign sea level rise will directly effect 1,300 Napier properties, and potentially up to 8,000. This is not a do nothing issue. We need to take action now to alleviate the effects of climate change. Are we up to the challenge?
- The amalgamation debate was settled, but at the same time not settled. To me the proposal put before us was so illogical it proved to be a donkey. The way the debate became personal over time was disappointing as it detracted from the real issue of how much do we value local democracy? Perhaps any future proposals will be far better thought out.
- Napier City council agreed to put a playground in at the Rose Garden. They also made a welcome adjustment to the Kennedy Road crossing at the Marewa Shops. This makes it safer to cross the road. Very local gains I know but then again it is the community I live in.
There are of course a number of unanswered questions looking forward to 2016. What will be final decision on the land swap deal? Will HBRIC ever sign up enough farmers? Will HBRIC find outside investors? Will Napier City Council take positive steps to stop 1,300 Napier properties being inundated by rising sea levels? Will the TANK group ever finish it’s deliberations?
But I think the million dollar question will be how will the people of Hawkes Bay react to these issues in the local body elections in 2016. Are they beginning to see what a financial and environmental risk the dam is to all rate payers of Hawkes Bay, and has the issue of the common right to use water sunk in enough. If these remain the big issues for Hawkes Bay for 2016 then I predict we will see changing of the guard at HBRC. Without the distraction of a Mayoral race in Napier who represents Napier around the Regional Council table will come to the fore. 19th century thinking, or 21st century thinking? It will be interesting to see.