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Bisset on HBRC election

BayBuzz13 September 2019

Bruce Bisset’s HB Today column of 13 September offered his view of the candidates and the stakes. I don’t always agree with Bruce, but in this case, here’s my favourite part:

“With current chairman Rex Graham and two of his stalwarts, Rick Barker and in my view the council’s hardest worker, Tom Belford, standing again in Hastings, you’d have bet good money they’d all be safely returned – prior, that is, to Foss standing.

Sure, there are eight in that field, but the ex-MP is the only one who might threaten an upset.

At least it’s a very clear choice: one, in my opinion, lightweight who nevertheless helped the previous National government ruin a good part of New Zealand’s clean green image versus three who have proved they’re fully committed to restoring it. I’d like to think it’s no contest, but who knows.”

And here’s the entire article:

“As refreshing as Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s improved performance has been this term, much work remains to be done and it would be unfortunate if voters let it slip into its past bad habits.

Having displaced the single focus pro-dam junta with a majority who take a much wider environmental view, voters need to exercise their mandate carefully if they wish that more caring and effective approach to continue.

Yes, they’ve sold half Napier Port, and as a socialist I fundamentally disagreed with that.

But the sale monies will be going into much-needed protection and enhancement of our at-risk environment, not some significantly-flawed billion-dollar scheme that could have bankrupted the council and lost the port regardless.

However, former chairman and die-in-the-ditch dam supporter Fenton Wilson is still there, representing Wairoa, and while Debbie Hewitt from CHB has given up, along with Alan Dick vacating one of Napier’s three seats, new broom backer Peter Beaven has also retired from the Ngaruroro constituency and it’s not inconceivable the present 6-3 majority could be endangered.

Especially with former MP Craig Foss in Hastings, and former pro-dam lawyer Martin Williams in Napier, in the running.

Williams has been attempting to rebrand himself as a pro-environmentalist, but while he may have “only” been the former council’s hired gun, why did he extend that role to be so vocally pro-dam in the media?

The problem for the two likely to be jostling with him for a seat – Nichola Nicholson and Hinewai Orsmby – is while both have genuine environmental cred, they’re likely to be splitting the same votes. Not to mention both are young women, one Māori, up against a Pākehā male.

Orsmby has been working very hard at her first election and probably has the edge; but is Napier up to electing her?

Otherwise it would be a major surprise if either Neil Kirton or Paul Bailey, who have both put in the hard yards this term, failed to get re-elected.

With current chairman Rex Graham and two of his stalwarts, Rick Barker and in my view the council’s hardest worker, Tom Belford, standing again in Hastings, you’d have bet good money they’d all be safely returned – prior, that is, to Foss standing.

Sure, there are eight in that field, but the ex-MP is the only one who might threaten an upset.

At least it’s a very clear choice: one, in my opinion, lightweight who nevertheless helped the previous National government ruin a good part of New Zealand’s clean green image versus three who have proved they’re fully committed to restoring it. I’d like to think it’s no contest, but who knows.

In CHB, prominent Federated Farmers member Will Foley has, I’m assured, become much more sustainably-focused, but I’m dubious given he continues to deny climate change is a major problem.

Personally, on balance I’d plump for self-described “gardener” Tony Kuklinski who seems just that bit more clued-up than Will.

The Ngaruroro vacancy is being fought over by Hastings businessman Guy Wellwood, whose environmental stance is patchy at best, and Twyford cherry-grower Jerf van Beek, who has a solid track-record of input into the TANK process and is respected as a “bridge builder” – making him prime political material.

Meanwhile ex-chairman Wilson faces perhaps his toughest test yet to hold on to the Wairoa seat against the challenge of well-known local identity Charles Lambert.

You can guess where my preference sits on this one, but it may take a big turnout for Lambert to carry it off.

So what one side may gain, the other may lose. A fascinating battle; let’s just hope it’s our environment that wins overall.”

BayBuzz13 September 2019

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