One Hawke's Bay will strengthen local and regional decision making and service delivery
Unifying the Hawkes Bays five councils to create a single Hawkes Bay unitary authority supported by nine councillors and 37 local board representatives across five wards will strengthen local decision making and better meet the long term needs of the regional community, says Stephen Selwood of the NZ Council for Infrastructure Development.
Under existing governance arrangements, ownership and decision making rights and responsibilities are so fractured that they undermine local democracy.
All residents of the region, for example, share ownership and shape decision making for the Port of Napier, but only the residents of Napier and Hastings possess the same rights over the Hawkes Bay airport. Napier meanwhile, carries responsibility for managing McLean Park and Hastings has to maintain local roads to and around its major manufacturing plants so that residents outside the district can get to work.
Yet, one would have to question how less dependent a resident of Wairoa is on the airport or why a Central Hawkes Bay rugby fan should be less responsible for maintaining McLean Park.
Bringing these interdependent entities under a single regional umbrella and recognising the common facilities and activities of residents will enhance regional decision making for everyone in the Hawkes Bay.
The Hawkes Bay Council, which will include rural and urban representation in proportionate numbers, will be accountable for services to the whole region not just to the urban centres as has been suggested by some local commentators. That will require councillors to recognise and support the interdependency between town and country.
Local decisions, meanwhile, can be passed over to community boards, strengthening the ability for residents to influence those decisions which truly are theirs to make.
Restructuring the region as proposed by the Local Government Commission will not just improve democratic decision making, it will also better reflect the economic relationships binding the area.
The split between the two more urbanised territorial authorities, Napier and Hastings, and the two more rural districts, Wairoa and Central Hawkes Bay, unfairly reflects the important role that the hinterlands play in supporting urban centres and is unhealthy for the future of the region.
Manufacturing plays a greater role in the Hawkes Bay than in any other region across New Zealand, but that industry is heavily dependent upon produce sourced from rural areas in and around the urban centres.
It is not economically sustainable to sit back and watch as the Wairoa district loses a further 17 per cent of its population over the next 20 years while Hastings grows almost 10 per cent.
A central decision making body with the scale and expertise to identify issues, implement solutions and seize opportunities is much better placed to address the long term challenges of the two rural districts and continue to foster growth in Napier and Hastings.
The Auckland example shows just how much impact a single voice for a region can have on the investment decisions of central government and the attractiveness of a destination for capital. Separate and sometimes opposing tourism, marketing and economic objectives across the Hawkes Bay are fracturing the message conveyed outside the area and reducing investment opportunities.
What the region sorely needs is strong, unified leadership, a single plan and the capacity to deliver. Current governance arrangements inhibit progress and it is positive to see the Local Government Commission is taking the bold steps necessary to improve the future for all Hawkes Bay residents, Selwood says.