March 8, 2014
Isn’t it interesting that all the bad news being reported from Hawke’s Bay councils in the past week or so was actually known last year — as in, pre-election?!
At the Regional Council, Andrew Newman’s performance evaluation and pay raise was on the agenda of the 25 September 2013 meeting. But the then-councillors, apparently not keen to award pay raises while facing re-election, deferred the matter. Probably most of those sitting at the table at the time expected to be there for a routine approval at the October meeting.
Over at the Hastings Council, the bad news about potential earthquake risk of the Opera House first surfaced in July of last year. A closer look was recommended. But the HDC seemed to go into ‘let’s not hurry’ mode. And so the further review, resulting in abrupt closure of the Opera House as unsafe, only arrived last week.
And at the Napier Council, internal concerns that the new museum would not be able to store the bulk of its collection surfaced as early as June 2012. In July, museum director Douglas Lloyd Jenkins echoed the assessment of Opus Consultants. Councillors were informed at least by October 2012 — in public excluded session, of course. The matter was discussed at another public excluded session in February 2013. And then the matter went dead.
The minutes of the October 2012 meeting referred to “a major storage problem“.
The chairman of the Napier Council’s Finance Committee throughout this period was Bill Dalton. Yet, despite two reports, what does he have to say?
“I had absolutely no idea of the potential size of the problem until just a couple of weeks ago.”
Remarkable … or should I say outrageous!? Here’s an $18 million civic project (partly funded by HBRC and HDC) and the chairman of the Finance Committee claims he was unaware of the serious magnitude of the problem.
Either Mr Dalton has a ‘failure of recollection’ or was simply asleep at the wheel. In fairness though, the previous Napier Council in its entirety was simply a stage prop for Mayor Arnott and then-Chief Executive Neil Taylor. No one on that make-believe council questioned anything. It remains to be seen whether any of the newly elected councillors view their role as anything other than passive onlookers.
Suppressed information … public excluded sessions … staff running the show — it’s all part of what has been business-as-usual in local government Hawke’s Bay.
And no transparency equates to no accountability.
When councillors become mere cheerleaders for whatever their mayors, CEOs and council staffs are championing, instead of serving as reasonably independent watchdogs, then the public had better be worried … whether it’s an opera house, a museum, or a dam.
And with five councils operating this way in Hawke’s Bay, it’s far more than our region’s handful of citizen watchdogs can keep track of or scrutinize.
As I see it, another reason for Transparent Hawke’s Bay.
And another reason for amalgamation.
P.S. Find this too depressing? Here’s an antidote …
Redwoods Concert, Sun 9 March at 3pm
2 comments »
February 20, 2014
Yesterday, John Buck, owner of Te Mata Estate Winery, asked Councillor Rex Graham to share this message with other Regional Councillors …
“The blog Whale Oil, currently the most widely read of New Zealand’s blogs, yesterday carried a colour photograph of human excrement being discharged from the Waipawa effluent ponds in to the Waipawa River. The accompanying text quotes a Steve Thrush who claims that despite making adjustments the plant is still meeting the conditions of its resource consent.
As the owner of a premium Hawke’s Bay consumable brand, exported to over 40 countries, I find such practices, which undermine our years of investment and hard hard work in a place we love to boast about, as compelling evidence for the self-interest of vested community groups, and in this case also two of our Councils
Why are we even contemplating building a dam for the benefit of a few when we are not prepared to fix a sewerage system which undermines any quality message inherent in the regional brand which underlies the prosperity of our total community?
Is this our equivalent of Fonterra’s problems in China? Its human effluent, so please tell your fellow Councillors to delay the dam until they’ve fixed the sewerage and put the ratepayers money into that.
Marlborough claims it can farm Wasabi because it’s water is so pure. What can we claim? When the pictorial evidence and banal, arse-saving responses prove the contrary. Our competitors for the consumer dollars just love this.”
Here’s the photo in question.
At last week’s HBRC Environment Committee meeting, I asked for staff to report on the CHB sewage management situation, given that the CHB District Council (CHBDC) must meet significantly stricter environmental standards later this year (as ordered several years ago by the Environment Court) and have deployed a new ‘floating wetlands’ system — of unproven capacity — to meet these standards.
Two simple questions: Is the system working or not? Is CHBDC on track to meet the tougher standards?
A full report was promised. So far, we’ve been told by HBRC staff only that CHBDC is meeting its current inadequate standards.
I suggest Mayor Peter Butler should quit beating up on Maori, Lawrence Yule, A Better Hawke’s Bay, and amalgamation, and forget about bleating for ratepayers throughout Hawke’s Bay to pay for his CHB dam, and instead get his CHBDC shit together. As John Buck writes, first things first.
P.S. Here’s the statement HBRC Chairman Fenton Wilson made at the 29 January Council meeting regarding Butler’s remarks about Maori (you can view this portion of the meeting here, beginning at 1:30 into the meeting … unfortunately the Chairman’s remarks were not reported in the media):
“There’s been a lot of interest in…media interest in comments made by the mayor of Central Hawke’s Bay in recent days. I’d just like to take an opportunity to, you know for the record, state that the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council does not agree with his sentiments and we see a lot of value in our relationship, and our ongoing relationship, with Chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana and Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and an opportunity to build on recent memorandums, Kaitiaki committees that have been formed to provide an overview for hapu and iwi on the Tukituki catchment in relation to the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme should it go ahead and obviously plan change 6. The comments are unfortunate. Obviously if the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme does go ahead there will be many jobs and we hope to see a resurgence of local population. We hope to see opportunities for all people of Hawke’s Bay to get employment and obviously the comments by Mayor Butler do not fit with that premise and obviously are not part of the thinking of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. So I just want to be clear on that as we go forward.”
6 comments »
February 7, 2014
God help us if land use intensification brings more cows to Hawke’s Bay.
The Regional Council can’t keep track of the ones we have already.
The cows pictured below celebrated Waitangi Day with a wade in the Tukituki, just downstream of the Red Bridge. Not the first time … indeed this seems to be a favourite watering hole of the bovine bathers.
Three weeks ago we featured cows in the Tutaekuri. Maybe they’re all part of the same scofflaw herd!
Roy Boonen, who spotted the Tutaekuri cows in Clive (neither of these locations is exactly at a remote fringe of the region), raised the obvious question: “…if the HBRC cannot even manage to keep it’s own cows out of the rivers within it’s own ‘backyard’, then what confidence can we have in their ability to manage the safety of HB rivers when they are planning to dramatically increase the number of cows in the Hawke’s Bay?”
Tom Belford2 comments »
February 5, 2014
As councillors get into gear for the coming year, it’s clear that secrecy will be the preferred modus operandi of the HB Regional Council.
At our first meeting on 29 January, the precedent has already been set.
At that meeting, we deliberated two agenda items in ‘public-excluded’ session.
The outcome of the first item has now been announced to the public. In that matter, we commissioned two independent reports that will be critical to evaluating the financial and economic viability of the proposed dam. One study, to be completed by Deloitte, will examine the financial/economic case for the dam and the risks involved in a HBRC (i.e., ratepayer) investment (if any) of $80 million in it. A second study, to be completed by Nimmo-Bell, will identify and evaluate alternative investments of scale that could be made to advance the strategic goals of the Regional Council.
There is absolutely no reason why the terms of reference for these studies could not have been released to the public in advance, and councillors’ interrogation of the candidate firms be witnessed. Indeed, public observation of the process would have been reassuring to skeptics of the proposed scheme. Financial terms and councillors’ deliberations over the candidates could have readily been kept private.
I’m comfortable with the assignments that have been awarded. However, I am not comfortable with the extremely short window the consultants have been given — essentially one month — to complete their assignments. This is just another example of the groundless determination of HBRC/HBRIC to hurry, hurry, hurry. Here’s where ‘hurry’ takes you …
Even the Board of Inquiry has asked for additional time to complete its deliberations … and that time has been granted. If the BOI needs more time after seven months to do its job well, surely so do these consultants need more than four weeks.
The second item considered in public excluded was publicly titled: “HBRIC Ltd Staff Remuneration Request”.
I can say nothing about the content of that item at this time. However, a number of councillors, myself included, are challenging the Council’s handling of the matter. We will fight to make public the decision taken, its documentation, and the votes cast. Watch this space.
The penchant for secrecy didn’t end there on the 29th.
Once the public excluded portion of the meeting was declared ended, thereby ending the official Council meeting (of course with media and the public long since gone), Chairman Fenton Wilson offered councillors the ‘opportunity’ to receive an update briefing on the dam from HBRIC Chairman Andy Pearce, who had been on hand for the second public excluded agenda item, and was still present.
Pearce began a presentation, but it was quickly noted that the ground rules were murky as to whether this briefing was to be considered public or confidential. Indeed, what was the official status of the ‘meeting’ at that point?
You’ll recall that Councillors Barker, Beaven, Graham and myself have been asking for a full public de-brief on the scheme ever since we were elected … a request that was re-issued days before the 29 January meeting and to which Chairman Pearce acceded. But, we were told, the briefing couldn’t be accommodated on that day.
After a bit of posturing by various councillors, it became clear that I was the party regarded with suspicion. [Councillor Barker had left immediately at the close of the official meeting to catch a plane.] The question on the table: If other councillors wished to proceed with an informal confidential briefing, would I pledge to report nothing of it?
I declined to participate in a rump private meeting. I gave my view that it’s past time for the public to have a wide-open look at the total scheme, with all its aspects and assumptions on the table. It’s time to take off the veil.
So I left the ‘meeting’ — or whatever it was — and the briefing commenced.
For me, the principle of transparency is paramount. I made that as clear as I possibly could during my election campaign and voters responded positively.
My intention is to press the HBRC towards transparency — the only basis of public accountability — at every opportunity. I intend to press the boundaries … vigorously. Anything less and I would be failing to keep faith with my constituency.
11 comments »
February 3, 2014
The Board of Inquiry (BOI) charged with the fate of the Tukituki catchment has requested a delay in making its decision.
The BOI proposes an end date of 28 May for the overall process, with a draft decision promised by 15 April. Previously it was expected that the BOI would release a draft decision in the first week of March.
The decision to delay rests in the hands of the Environment and Conservation Ministers, who presumably will respond with dispatch.
In its request (you can read it here), the BOI stresses the complexity of the issues involved and the scope of technical disagreement on key points regarding water quality, water quantity and effects of land use intensification. The Board further notes the far-reaching implications of this decision for other waterways in Hawke’s Bay, as well as the precedent-setting importance of the decision for all of New Zealand.
These are precisely the reasons many in Hawke’s Bay — Ngati Kahungunu, Fish & Game, the entire environmental community, Transparent Hawke’s Bay and others — sought a delay before triggering a Board of Inquiry in the first place. Of course that request fell on deaf ears at the then-HBRC as well as EPA.
The BOI’s delay request will — one hopes — carry more weight!
If nothing else, it signals that opponents of the Regional Council’s lame water quality approach and skeptics of the dam are not simply a bunch of ‘nutters’ after all. The BOI appears to be taking them seriously.
Tom Belfordno comments yet »
January 26, 2014
And so can his Maori mates!
That’s how I understand the attitude of CHB Mayor Peter Butler.
But decide for yourself. Here are Butler’s exact words, as delivered in an email to his councillors last Friday:
“What I want to know is how many of Ngahiwi Tomoana’s mates are employed because of these four properties and when did you last see one of his mates swimming in the Waipawa or Tuki Tuki Rivers, let alone fishing in them!!! If “The Dam” goes ahead he and his mates should be banned from any employment pertaining to it!!”
The “four properties” are four farming operations described earlier in Butler’s email, where he’s describing a ‘show and tell’ trip around the proposed CHB dam footprint he hosted to persuade HB Today’s reporter of the wisdom of the project.
In short, because Ngahiwi Tomoana, the elected chairman of Ngati Kahungunu, the largest iwi in Hawke’s Bay, has the conviction — audacity, as Butler sees it — to challenge the Regional Council’s proposed plans for the Tukituki catchment, bully Butler wants him and his mates blacklisted in retaliation.
There’s a pattern here. Butler attempted, unsuccessfully, to have me kicked off the stakeholders group established to advise HBRC on its Tukituki plans, when he decided I was too critical of the plans being presented. He tried to do it before I arrived at one of our stakeholder meetings … a real classy guy. Among his complaints, he said I didn’t represent anyone. A miscalculation!
NKKI has responded to Butler’s comments with admirable restraint. Here’s their media release:
“Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi is very disappointed at the negative comments of the Central Hawkes Bay Mayor Peter Butler regarding Iwi involvement with the Tukituki River and the Dam proposal.
He has said “If ‘The Dam’ goes ahead Ngahiwi Tomoana and his mates should be banned from any employment pertaining to it!”
For the last ten years we have supported wānanga for youth on water safety, guardianship, and whakapapa on the Tukituki river supported by the Police, Ngā Whenua Rahui (DoC), Water Safety NZ, Ministry of Primary Industries, Youth Quest Trust and Waka Moemoea Trust to name a few. This year the wānanga was attended by 102 youth, 30 mentors and 20 supporting experts.
All those that attended the Tukituki Board of Inquiry at Matahiwi marae were fed whitebait, flounders, eels and fish caught from the very waters that Kahungunu whānau are seeking to protect.
Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi invested over $16 million in 2013 purchasing Tautane Station located in Central Hawkes Bay/Tararua and have secured Taratahi Agricultural Training to provide training on site. We have a lifetime commitment to this region and that has never changed.
Can we trust this community leader to be the steward of $80 million of government money, $80 million of tax payers’ money and $80 million of investment money dispersing the benefits equitably?
Peter Butler has only singled out Māori and not mentioned or referred to Fish & Game, Forest & Bird or the Environmental Defence Society which strongly suggests his statements are race based, which is a disappointing statement from a leader.”
I will seek to have the Regional Council explicitly and publicly disassociate itself with Butler’s remarks and to immediately arrange a governance level meeting, as chairman Tomoana has requested, between HBRC Councillors and NKII … hopefully to avert a further meltdown in HBRC-Maori relations.
P.S. And how is Butler handling this situation? Not by apologising for his appalling comments. Rather by trying to identify the “slimeball” who disclosed his remarks … looking for someone else to bully.9 comments »
January 22, 2014
At the Te Mata Park fundraiser … February 1 at the Black Barn Market. Tickets $35 each. Here are the details.
Black Barn are proud to present The Nudge, Tropical Downbeat Orchestra, Ben Throp and Intimate Strangers and Brother Charlie for one-off intimate concert in the summer market round on Saturday February 1st.
The Tropical Downbeat Orchestra are infamous in The Bay. Their music is brooding, hypnotic, with jazz-infused notes and sophisticated improvisations weave seamlessly with an extremely well ‘greased’ rhythm section creating something sounding utterly fresh and ne
Ben Throp and The Intimate Strangers are fresh from the recent release of his latest album “House Warming” and are a blend clever elements of folk, blues, reggae, funk and jazz, delivered with thoughtful yet accessible lyrics.
Bring in DJ Brother Charlie a.k.a Rakai Karaitiana to bring raise the mood and you have a formidable group of musicians that will bring a concert like no other within the surrounds of the summer market round.
As part of this event Black Barn Vineyards are proud to support Te Mata Park and their significant efforts to bring to fruition the visitor centre.
The Te Mata Park Trust has long had a vision of establishing a Visitor & Education Centre within the Park to ensure the value of this wonderful community asset is maintained and protected. Partnering with Black Barn and other local stakeholders the trust is holding the concert as a fundraiser.no comments yet »