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The ‘Big A’ Debate

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!

The referendum will sort it out once and for all and each individual voter will have a say, so it’s important that we really try to keep it all in perspective – yeah right!

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.

13 Responses to “The ‘Big A’ Debate”

  1. Brian Peter Drury

    on January 21st, 2014 9:37 pm

    A vote for amalgamation is simply a vote for less representation and rates increases.
    That’s what it is all about

  2. John J Harrison

    on January 22nd, 2014 8:30 am

    Arrant nonsense.
    Have you heard from Havelock North or Taradale residents complaining about lack of representation ?
    No.
    Rates will always increase–as will inflation.
    What Brian fails to appreciate is that the level of rate increases is far lower once a region is amalgamated–as is the case in Auckland.
    Here the 8 legacy councils were budgeting for an average rate increase of 5.7%. Once the successful amalgamation was complete the rate increases decreased markedly to the point where the latest one is only 2.9%.
    There are some councillors in Napier who wish for a councillor for every street and a mayor for each suburb–such is their cry for “representation”.
    As we have seen in the case of the NCC–quality is irrelevant, as long as you kowtow to the mayor–on all issues.

  3. Ian McIntosh

    on January 22nd, 2014 1:07 pm

    John,
    can you substantiate your claim that “There are some councillors in Napier who wish for a councillor for every street and a mayor for each suburb” ? Please name these people.
    Your final sentence could equally apply to amalgamated councils because their mayors have much greater powers, as is the case in Auckland. Have you not read about the councillors’ dissatisfaction at “being left out of the loop” in regard to Len Brown’s transport policy?

  4. Ian McIntosh

    on January 25th, 2014 10:28 pm

    John,
    I read your letter in HB Today of Sat 25th of January, commenting on the lack of “evidence” put forward by Mayor Dalton. Isn’t that a bit rich, when you are equally guilty? Which Napier Councillors want a councillor for each street and a Mayor for each suburb? Either front up or shut up, John.

  5. John J Harrison

    on January 26th, 2014 2:03 pm

    Ian, you have possibly missed previous posts of about 18 months ago when the prospect of reducing the number of councillors was canvased. Despite the NCC having nearly 4 times the number of councillors to head of population to Palmerston North or Hamilton etc there were howls protest from the incumbents with Boag and Pyke amongst the loudest.
    Comments that you object to were made during this ” discussion “.
    I am delighted you read my letter regarding the utterances of our mayor.
    Do you not think the time has arrived for him to back up his flowery rhetoric with facts ?
    His councillors don’t, as evidenced at meetings where they simply agree ad nauseum — despite his fact free rantings.
    Once he has supplied examples of a failure in the amalgamation of territorial authorities of which there have been hundreds over the past 25 years, it will simply be a case of letting the mayors of these ” failed” amalgamations to give their own opinion on Dalton’s rants.
    How many do you think will agree with the current mayor of Napier ?
    Perhaps, a councillor will assist with this tricky question–as they clearly agree with the mayor on this, and all other issues.
    I for one will not be holding my breath.

  6. Ian McIntosh

    on January 30th, 2014 1:37 pm

    Really John,
    you are testing my patience. All I asked you to do was supply the names of the Napier City Councillors who wanted “a councillor for every street and a mayor for each suburb”. The fact that the comment was made 18 months ago (by you?) during some other discussion does not answer the question. Again, front up or shut up.

    ian McIntosh

  7. John J Harrison

    on January 31st, 2014 11:54 am

    Ian, apologies for clearly stressing you out.
    All councillors in general were strident in their wish to retain their unsupportable numbers.
    The most strident were Cr Boag and Pyke.
    Perhaps when they respond they can also address the fallacious comments attributed to their mayor and by their silence, clearly support.

  8. David Bosley

    on January 31st, 2014 3:10 pm

    Tut, Tut, Tut, it appears the anti amalgamation, prolific letter writer, Mr McIntosh has no respect for a council, using Standing Orders which allows it to go into “committee”! In that, when politely asked to leave, the meeting room, Mr McIntosh point blank refused. What did Mr McIntosh achieve apart from upsetting the meeting? So much so that it had to be abandoned. And the police were called. Two policeman attended -although ( unlike in Russia) no arrest was made. And I have No doubts whatsoever the ever flogged tax payer will end up paying for Ian Mr McIntosh’s odious behavior!

    And the anti amalgamation brigade have the temerity to claim their DAD group is fighting for democracy!

    Obviously only when it suits -yeah right!

  9. Ian McIntosh

    on February 2nd, 2014 6:39 pm

    David, you got the following correct:
    1. Given their record, I have no respect for the Regional Council.
    2.The Police were indeed called.
    3. Two members of the Police attended( but only one was male).
    4. No arrest was made.
    You were wide of the mark in the following:
    1. I was not “politely asked to leave “, the Chairman issued an ultimatum involving a trespass order. I assumed he meant what he said.
    2. The meeting was adjourned and later resumed.
    3. The cost to the taxpayer will, as far as I know, be nil.
    4. The sex of the police persons.
    5. How did DAD get involved in this? I have no connection with that group.
    6. What has Russia got to do with anything involving the HBRC and the Police? Have I missed a connection there too?

    If you supply me with your email address I could send you copies of the email I sent to Councillors the day before the meeting and the email sent after the meeting. No hidden agendas here, David.

  10. Stuart Nash

    on February 9th, 2014 6:04 pm

    Adrienne, I have been calling for a business case on the benefits of amalgamation for five years now, and I still haven’t seen one. The Winder report was, quite frankly, rather substandard (and that’s being polite). A Better HB put out a pamphlet saying that amalgamation will solve child poverty and create 5,000 jobs – and even those in ABHB seemed a bit embarrassed about these outrageous claims. As you are, no doubt, finding; local government is about representing key communities and constituents. As you also alluded to, even with 12 district councillors, this is a challenge; just imagine how hard this would be with four councillors.! In fact, you couldn’t. And community boards have been shown in Akld to be pretty much powerless to influence any decision.

    So, provide me with a well written, peer reviewed business case that presents a clear and rationale argument outlining the benefits of amalgamation for cities in a similar situation to ours, and I might start taking the arguments of the amalgamationists seriously. Until that time, the only report worth its salt is the Dollery report – and it outlines a number of very good reasons why we wouldn’t amalgamate.

    Believe me, Bill Dalton and I are not the only people in Napier who have serious concerns about any form of amalgamation.!

  11. Ian McIntosh

    on February 11th, 2014 3:17 pm

    Stuart,
    amalgamation might not be of a direct financial benefit to local ratepayers, but it does have an upside, getting rid of the people presently in governance who are dedicated to their own personal advancement, manipulate information that should be in the public arena, and are often downright incompetent. The ‘local boards’ will merely take care of routine functions such as roading, drainage etc., using funds allocated on a per capita basis. Major regional programmes, such as municipal sewage, irrigation schemes, tourism, will be the responsiblity of the Hawkes Bay Council. Hopefully this arrangement will improve the level of service from some of the present councils who are riddled with incompetence, subject to influence, and treat ratepayers with contempt.

  12. Andrew Frame

    on February 12th, 2014 11:36 am

    Or, Ian, it means we end up with an even smaller, closed-off, out of touch, ingrained, entrenched, incompetent, self-interest, self-serving Hawke’s Bay Council who are even harder to influence (or remove!) in putting the needs of the many ahead of the wants of the money, while ignored and ineffectual Local Boards fight for the remaining scraps!

  13. Ian McIntosh

    on February 13th, 2014 7:30 pm

    True Andrew,

    but do you really think any National Party members would bother to stand? Aren’t they more interested in controlling Parliament?

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