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The big amalgamation debate is pretty emotional and will continue on to the bitter end.
Anyone for the plan is branded as power crazy and wanting it to happen for their own evil ends. Not to mention the conspiracy theorists that see amalgamation as a plot by the Government to get more control of the regions.
So it’s difficult, pretty much impossible, to say let’s look at the facts … because for a huge number of people it depends on where the facts come from or who created them. Depending on where you sit in the debate, unless the ‘facts’ say what you want them to say, then they are rubbish!
As a new Hastings District councillor I have been heartened on the few occasions that I have been in meetings with councillors from the other councils. Everyone is representing their people for all the right reasons because there is a huge amount of time required and there is certainly not much money or any glory to be had. In most cases there is a genuine intent to serve the people who voted for them and to work for the greater good of the region.
Jeff Whittaker is a Havelock businessman, ex-National MP, and the last remaining councillor from the old Havelock North Borough Council. He recalls it as being a very emotional and stressful time. He was vehemently opposed to merging Hastings and Havelock North in 1989, and according to a poll at the time so were 92% of Havelock North voters. He recalls that there was much heated debate at the time around the notion that if amalgamation was to happen then it should be one unitary council including Hastings and Napier; he was in favour of this happening as were a number of fellow councillors.
As far back as 1963, the Havelock North News* warned that Havelock North and Taradale would become “the innocent victims of the Hastings/Napier ratrace” and “Until the civic administrators of both Napier and Hastings are prepared in all sincerity to work for the province as a whole instead of their own parochial interests, they should receive no encouragement in the pursuit of their bigoted policies of self-interest.” Sound familiar?
Whether we like it or understand it, each ‘town’ or ‘village’ has a brand and it is those brands that need to be nurtured within the bigger entity. Both Havelock North and Taradale have managed to do this over the years and hold onto ‘who’ they are by keeping a central tight CBD and offering a distinctive ‘lifestyle’ within the bigger city and region.
Havelock North and Taradale could be compared in the present debate to Wairoa and Central Hawke’s Bay. I think distance is the difference in the present situation and I don’t think the two smaller players should be in the new Hawke’s Bay Council. Lawrence Yule was strong on leaving them out at the beginning of the debate three years ago.
Why bully them into participating when the three main players need to get organised into a cohesive body? That may take a little time depending on who is voted onto the Hawke’s Bay Council and who the leader or mayor is of that entity.
There will be enough angst at the table without making the two smaller councils join under duress. Both mayors seem confident they can continue to operate as they do; how can anyone else who does not work within those Councils or communities argue the point?
The objective for me would be to get a consistent voice across the three urban councils and then have Wairoa and Central Hawke’s Bay join if the people of those areas can see a benefit. There are lots of ways to make this scenario work, especially if all the councils agree and add this to their submissions.
At least then we will have only two politicians – Mr Dalton and Mr Nash – reminding us all of the perceived negatives for Napier. I am optimistic, confident even, that there are a big number of Napier people who see the benefits of amalgamation and will vote accordingly.
*Source: Havelock North, The History of a Village, by Mathew Wright.