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1+1+1 = 3 hours

April 22, 2012

I went to a Hastings District Council meeting last week, which began at 1pm.

I was interested in watching Councillors come full circle on the matter of relocating (or not) the Waimarama community hall. By now you probably know the steps in this process …

1. Go to Waimarama, host a community meeting with incomplete information, get a mandate from the multitude based on specious grounds to move the hall to a particular new location. Call that democracy.

2. Come back to Council chambers to deliberate, and decide instead to look at an additional location for the move.

3. Come back to Council chambers a second time and vote 11-1 not to move the hall after all, because new information provides a compelling case for sticking with the present location.

4. However, get self-conscious midway through the debate, and agree to a fuzzy caveat that another community meeting be held in Waimarama. Whether this is a meeting to announce and sell the decision, or to consult on the decision as though it were not an adopted decision, is unclear. I’m asking for a copy of the resolution.

But I’m digressing from my real point.

The first item on the Council’s agenda that day concerned a proposal to add a wee bit of cafe space on Heretaunga Street without a net loss of a single parking space on that block. The staff had found a way to promote latte’s (taking away a space) while adding one space on the other side of the street. Despite this elegant solution to an impasse that surely would have stymied economic development in the Bay, Hastings Councillors took just shy of one hour to accept the staff proposal (with two dissenting votes)!

Then they addressed agenda item #2 — to move the hall or not. That decision (or was it a decision?) took another hour.

By now it was 3pm … time for weary heads to take a tea break.

The third item on the agenda involved the fate of one plane tree on Fitzroy Avenue. I didn’t have the mental stamina to endure another hour of Council debate on such a vexing matter.

1 parking space + 1 community hall + 1 plane tree = 3 hours. With a full complement of senior staff on hand for the duration to guide Councillors on their voyage into the policy-making abyss.

I’m told that later in the meeting, Councillors did find time to accept the raises given them by the Compensation Commission.

Clearly, no member of the Commission has ever attended an actual Council meeting!

I don’t mean, however, to give the impression that the Hastings Council is unique in its behavior.

Each of our local councils has its quirks. The Napier Council meetings rarely last more than 15 minutes. There, even a debate over a single tree would be refreshing. Meetings over 15 minutes are reserved for bashing the Hastings Council and, even better, Mayor Yule. At the Regional Council, the same amount of time can be spent arguing over points of order as is spent discussing an issue like fracking or water allocation.

But at least when the Regional Council does get wound up, it’s deciding matters like $500 million dam projects. The stakes are high enough to warrant the meeting!

All of which leads me to flirt with a different concept — not amalgamation, but extermination.

Perhaps we should just eliminate the Hastings and Napier Councils (and does anyone possibly imagine the CHB and Wairoa Councils are any different?). Wipe them off the map, and take our chances that a newly empowered Regional Council might attract candidates commensurate with the responsibility.

It’s a gamble, I know. But there’s nowhere to go but up.

Tom Belford

Comments

8 Responses to “1+1+1 = 3 hours”

  1. David Belcher

    on April 23rd, 2012 7:12 pm

    I would like to remind the community that the name "Waimarama Hall or Community Hall" is not its correct title.

    When established, it was named the "Waimarama – Maraetotara Memorial Hall".

  2. Mark Sweet

    on April 24th, 2012 12:22 am

    Tom, I too was at the Council meeting that decided to over-rule their earlier decision, and the wishes of the Waimarama community.

    You are incorrect in saying the reasons to move the hall were specious (wrong). The same reasons apply now as they did then. What changed the decision was the virulent objection of a few holiday home owners who hired solicitors to threaten Council with legal action if the hall was moved to Gilray Place. The revised Report to Council was is not robust and doesn't address the issues of safety if the hall remains in it's current position.

    After the meeting, His Worship, the Mayor, was grinning with satisfaction while being back-slapped and hand-shook by the aggrieved holiday home owners, and it was painfully obvious that he represented their interests, and not the wishes of the wider Waimarama community.

    HDC are not coming back to Waimarama for consultation. If they do hold a meeting it will be to tell us all the spurious data that had them change their minds. But they wont tell the truth. What really changed their decision was Lawrence Yule shamelessly siding with a few holiday home owners against the wishes of the resident community at Waimarama.

  3. Mark Sweet

    on April 24th, 2012 12:36 am

    Tom, I too was at the Council meeting that decided to over-rule their earlier decision, and the wishes of the Waimarama community.

    You are incorrect in saying the reasons to move the hall were specious (wrong). The same reasons apply now as they did then. What changed the decision was the virulent objection of a few holiday home owners who hired solicitors to threaten Council with legal action if the hall was moved to Gilray Place. The revised Report to Council is not robust and doesn't address the issues of safety if the hall remains in it's current position.

    After the meeting, His Worship, the Mayor, was grinning with satisfaction while being back-slapped and hand-shook by the aggrieved holiday home owners, and it was painfully obvious that he represented their interests, and not the wishes of the wider Waimarama community.

    HDC are not coming back to Waimarama for consultation. If they do hold a meeting it will be to tell us all the spurious data that had them change their minds. But they wont tell the truth. What really changed their decision was Lawrence Yule shamelessly siding with a few holiday home owners against the wishes of the resident community at Waimarama.

  4. Andrew Frame

    on April 24th, 2012 1:32 am

    I fear that maths is not a strong subject amongst Hawke's Bay's councillors.

    In a HB Today article online today:
    http://www.hawkesbaytoday.co.nz/news/no-move-on-c
    Hastings Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers is quoted as saying (In relation to the local government pay reviews) "..There's only about 120 MPs and we've probably got more [councillors] than that just in Hawke's Bay," she said.

    Hmmmm….. 5 councils at <12 councillors per council =……

    Do we really have over 120 councillors? Or does it just feel like it?

    I did some (slightly more accurate) maths the other day and found Napier's city councillors have been in power for, collectively, over 44 terms (The NCC website only noted Mayor Arnott's terms as mayor, not as a councillor previously). At three years per term, that’s over 132 years of ruling Napier! The same theme runs through other HB local government bodies.

    Is this why they are so focussed on their "Ten Year Plans"? Because, once elected, we seem stuck with the same councillors for over a decade?

    You have to ask if or when the words "Term Limits" should start becoming an area of focus to the progression of the region.

    The problem with that, however, is when voters come to their senses, do a bit of “councillor spring cleaning” and the new batch is saddled with unburdening themselves from the expenses, projects and monuments their predecessors accrued for and to themselves.

  5. Angelika

    on April 24th, 2012 5:24 am

    As one of the residents of Gilray Place in Waimarama, I'd like to challenge Mark Sweet's observations.

    We are Hawke's Bay residents and Rate Payers in Hastings twice over and consider ourselves locals rather than just holiday home owners.

    As a midwife I furthermore consider myself to be providing essential local services to the community of Waimarama.

    When we purchased the house at Gilray we did research into the adjoining reserve and were assured that as a recreational reserve it served outdoor pursuits and the preservation of open spaces. It was not an area intended for development.

    We also contributed substantially to the purchase of the Domain with the intention of preserving for the community the much treasured Reserve and green space.

    At the last council meeting there was certainly no backslapping or even hand shaking. The decision to probably leave the Waimarama/ Maraetotara memorial hall at its original site appears to be simply the path of least resistance and least expense.

    I would suggest that every single resident in Waimarama would object to the prospect of having a 400m2 Hall placed in front of their property and obstructing a rather marvelous view.

  6. Keith

    on April 24th, 2012 12:10 pm

    Angelika

    In reply to your letter.

    As long as i have lived in Waimarama the land in front of our beach house, that you call a reserve has never been known or used as such.

    It has been known to be council land on which they have dumped rubbish and people have grazed their cattle but never as a reserve.

    I'm sure if it was known to be a public reserve it would get more use maybe as a skate bowl, tennis court or even a mini put put course.

  7. Linda

    on April 24th, 2012 9:46 pm

    Or what about one of those go-kart tracks! Or a local swimming pool? Now that we know that it is a public reserve, (surprise, surprise!) options are really unlimited! Yeah.

  8. Sarah

    on April 25th, 2012 7:43 am

    That really made me laugh Tom! Thanks! What a funny and may be, a little disturbing, world we live in!

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