Bruce Bisset’s HB Today column of 13 September offered his view of the candidates and the stakes. I don’t always…
As signs around the community indicate, I am standing again for the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, seeking to represent Hastings, Havelock North and Flaxmere.
In this current term, I have had the privilege to work with a team of councillors united in purpose – refocusing the regional council on its primary mission — protecting the environment.
The changes we have made have required heaps of ‘course correction’ at the Regional Council over the past three years, the most obvious being ‘moving on’ from two previous councils’ ill-conceived and all-consuming devotion to building a $300 million dam in CHB. And restoring basic trust in Council decision-making.
What are the results of this team effort?
We candidly front-footed the unmet and urgent needs of the region for environmental renewal. We proposed a step-change in focus and funding for environmental initiatives in our new long-term plan, and were strongly supported by most ratepayers.
Supplementing our own investment, we have secured over $55 million in Government funding in support of our leading-edge environmental initiatives.
For example, we are committing $30 million over ten years, alongside funding from property owners and the Government, for erosion control, riparian planting and stock exclusion from waterways. Real action for healthy, swimmable waters.
With an unrelenting focus on water quality, we have pressured our territorial authorities to step-up and speed-up their upgrading of woefully inadequate wastewater treatment and stormwater systems.
This tough stance doesn’t endear the HBRC to our fellow councils, but it is absolutely essential to improving the health of key water bodies like the Tukituki and the Ahuriri Estuary. To say nothing of creating the modern urban water infrastructure we need for safe – chlorine-free – drinking water.
We have also developed a new water quality and allocation plan for the Heretaunga Plains, soon to be notified, which will underpin environmentally-sustainable future food production in our region’s economic heartland.
Since before becoming a councillor, I have championed a Hawke’s Bay Future Farming Initiative, finally winning approval for it in our long-term plan, and now serving on its governing Trust. This farmer-led initiative aims to make our province NZ’s leader in adopting and celebrating ‘state of the art’ food production approaches that marry superior productivity with sound environmental practices.
We have ensured the capacity of Napier Port to support our growing export economy (at no cost to ratepayers), while maintaining HBRC control, attracting nearly 8,000 local ratepayer investors, de-risking the Council’s asset concentration, and, with over $100 million in net proceeds to invest, providing increased financial earnings for HBRC to apply to further environmental improvements.
And most crucial for the long haul, a journey already overdue, our Council has committed to carbon neutrality by 2040 for the region, recognizing the steeply accelerating threat posed by global warming and our moral and practical obligations to mitigate its impacts. Our action plan will begin right at the Council, lessening our energy use and travel and sponsoring prudent forestry, but then expand outward as we aim to mobilise all ages, institutions and companies in the region for this cause.
So, with that record, for the term ahead, I hope voters will endorse my candidacy and the positive direction our current team has taken for HBRC, and capitalise on our present momentum.
Personally, I am challenged and energised by the opportunities ahead.
The region’s environment and growth challenges are not issues that simply ‘pop up’ on my agenda at election time or because I’m bored with retirement. And they are not issues that can be resolved by casual attention, off-the-cuff analysis and behind-the-curve thinking, and ‘drop-in’ councillors.
As a two-term regional councillor, I listen daily to people’s concerns, including the critics. As chair of the Environment Committee, I’ve done the homework, read the reports, challenged staff, dug into the issues, and provided particular leadership on water quality, sustainable farming, and climate change. And, as editor of BayBuzz, I’ve reported on these difficult issues with depth, independence and persistence.
I live these issues.
What are the opportunities ahead?
If given another term on the Regional Council, I will focus on:
Getting it right on water, whether the issue is ecosystem protection and mauri, safe drinking water, swimmable rivers and beaches, water bottling, chlorine, protecting aquifers and marine fisheries, or water security for growers.
Protecting and enhancing our irreplaceable soils, which should serve as water and carbon sponges, but now erode by millions of tonnes per year into our rivers and ultimately our marine environment, fouling both.
Helping our food producers prosper by creating more sustainable long-term value.
Making Hawke’s Bay the leading region in NZ in terms of responding to global warming.
I ask for your support.
P.S. On Council, my role has been to serve as chair of the Environment Committee, and represent HBRC on the HB Tourism Board, the new Future Farming Trust, the TANK community team addressing Heretaunga water issues, and the Joint Drinking Water Committee.