Don’t You Forget About HB

DFAHB

Kermit the Frog once sang “It’s Not Easy Being Green”.

Over recent years it’s also not been easy being regional New Zealand after almost a decade of neglect and lack of economic development from central government.

Just like in New Zealand’s media, main centres, especially Auckland, ruled supreme and sucked up all the infrastructure, attention and economic prosperity, whilst regional centres just didn’t matter.

In 2014 then Finance Minister, Bill English, was visiting Hawke’s Bay and was quoted saying:

“Hawke’s Bay’s seasonal low-wage economy “isn’t going to change in a hurry, so let’s get good at it.”

What a pathetic cop-out by the person supposedly tasked with looking after the whole country’s prosperity and economy!

Fortunately, (depending on your political stripes) we have just had a change in government and the incoming Labour / New Zealand First / Greens coalition campaigned on platforms of regional development.

Hopefully places like Hawke’s Bay will soon start to see the benefits of such policy.

Because, over recent years, Hawke’s Bay has been all too easily forgotten.

Non-Nation-Wide Tours

When I saw the headline that New Zealand’s own native songbird Lorde had announced a “New Zealand Tour” I thought “This would be cool – I hope she comes to Hawke’s Bay!”

Imagine a Mission Concert headlined by New Zealand’s latest great songstress!

Lordey2

But it wasn’t to be.

She was barely even scratching the surface of potential venues and destinations – more “whistle-stop” than nation-wide tour.

Lordey1

Media Misses the Mark

As you may have perceived, I have developed a growing lack of faith in New Zealand’s simulcast network media.

This was only deepened a year or so ago, when one such network held a “Provincial Pick Up” promotion.

Starting in Invercargill and taking the “path less travelled”, by visiting regional centres like Timaru, Ashburton and Blenheim it started reasonably well.

But having crossed Cook Strait and stopped in one of Wellington’s biggest suburban areas of Porirua, its next stop was… Taupo.

Not Levin, not Palmerston North, and CERTAINLY NOT Hawke’s Bay where, you would think bigger population bases would have provided more coverage, attention and contestants.

To rub salt into the wound the “map” that accompanied the competition’s page featured a rather clear indication that the Provincial Pick Up would be heading to New Plymouth, when this wasn’t the case.

Provincial

As part of its final leg, the tour would make at least four stops in (as far as you can get from provincial New Zealand)” Auckland.

We Even Get Left Out of Memes!

Coldaf

During a recent winter cold-snap the entire country shivered through some very bracing temperatures.

In true wise-cracking kiwi fashion someone made up an alternative weather map of New Zealand to illustrate just how cold we all were.

The majority of regions labelled “Cold AF” (or “Cold as F***” for those who took English class Pre-2010).

All but Hawke’s Bay!

Now, we are known for enjoying a far more temperate climate than the rest of New Zealand in Hawke’s Bay, but I was here during that time and I can confirm to being one VERY “Cold AF” (the far more “G” rated, name-related acronym, that is) during that time!

Hawke’s Bay – A Technological, Astronomical Region!

Many may have perceived “Regional Development” as “Rural Development” – focusing on farming and other primary industries.

This is not necessarily the case.

The combined population of Napier and Hastings is around 130,500 – making us the 5th largest population base in New Zealand (Hamilton = 150,000 Tauranga = 128,200) – far from the sort of small, rural town that gets ignored more often than not.

Fortunately Hawke’s Bay has a lot of smart, adaptable and ingenious people, so while we were ignored by external assistance, we took the words of Napier’s Douglas MacLean:

“A country made progress despite of its politicians”.

A prime example of this has been the creation of a “Tech Hub”, with anchor tenants Now and Xero opening in Napier’s seaside suburb of Ahuriri.

This has been something I’ve been passionate about and pushing for years – even since one of my first Napier in Frame posts.I would love to think I had some form of influence over such developments, but no one has told me so and I haven’t received any medals, certificates or knighthoods as a result, so I guess not 

But the fact Hawke’s Bay has still been able to make these technical and economic advances as a region is still great to hear.

And how many other New Zealand cities or regions have their own rocket launch facility?

So slap that old John Hughes classic in the VCR, crank some Simple Minds on the stereo and pump that fist in the air.

Because this region has just started going from strength to strength, so Don’t You Forget About HB!

jZgre

Bully-goat’s Bluff

Bull

Napier City Council Mayor, Bill Dalton, claimed in an email obtained by Fairfax last week that online criticism of his council, and in particular it’s CEO, Wayne Jack, potentially had the chance of NCC “being the first council to be destroyed by ill-informed social media”.

In the email he said councillors need to support the council’s CEO, who is re-applying for his position which is currently up for renewal.

This call to action has prompted a complaint to the Office of the Auditor General that it gives the impression of bias, or predetermination – something not allowed in local governance – in the council’s CEO selection process.

“Dalton told his councillors the recruitment agency had received a number of applications and he did not want to lose Jack, who he believed might seek higher pay elsewhere.”

“We need to be out in the community telling people about our successes and acknowledging the role Wayne and his rejuvenated team have played in those successes”

“The purpose of this letter is to ask you all to show support to your chief executive. To ask people you know to publicly, through social media and the newspapers, to acknowledge the progress we are making as a council. At this stage the negative team are winning the game,”

Wrote the mayor.

Soon after, NZME’s Hawke’s Bay Today picked up the story, but with one slight change that made a lot of difference in the eyes of many.

The “Criticism” reported on Stuff suddenly became “Bullying” and “Abuse” in its rival’s headlines and stories.

Quantifiable examples of this “criticism”/”abuse” were not given, rather just quotes from councilors, including those on the CEO selection panel, rallying around “their CEO”.

Reading through the numerous news and social media posts each day for the last few years there certainly has been a lot of criticism of recent NCC actions. Many would argue justifiably so.

The overwhelming majority of this criticism has been targeted at erroneous council decisions and ignoring what Napier ratepayers want.

Council’s handling of Napier’s War Memorial Conference Centre refurbishment and Multi-use Sports/Velodrome facility have certainly been sore points for many members of the public.

As the highest ranking representatives of elected and unelected council management, the Mayor and CEO receive the bulk of “air time” and press coverage, so what they say and do undergoes far more scrutiny and receives more criticism when things don’t go as their public sees fit.

For the greatest part, any criticism of a person holding a public position is usually along the lines of “statements/actions unbecoming a leader/elected official”. This is because the public hold their city officials in higher regard, and expect more from them.

“Personal attacks”, targeting individuals’ private lives and families, are few, far between and swiftly and severly dealt with by both moderators and fellow users on local discussion pages.

It is called “social” and not “anti-social” media for a reason.

So who is bullying whom?

With many members of the public feeling ostracised and ignored by central and local governments in recent years, and with social media overtaking mainstream and traditional forms of media for coverage and effect, numerous local groups have been set up on social media sites like Facebook as a way of spreading news and voicing opinions.

While criticism of recent council actions has featured prominently on Napier Facebook pages, there has also been a large amount of criticism of, well, criticism!

Many who have expressed concern over certain matters, or voiced opinions contrary to publicised council stances online or in local papers are often ridiculed as “moaners” or “nay-sayers” and been targets of abuse by council supporters – the likes Napier’s mayor asked city councillors to rally.

Taradale Ward councillor Tania Wright “feared that this kind of behaviour could discourage people from standing for public office.”

Those sentiments eerily mirrored a post Mayor Dalton put on a fellow councillor’s Facebook page recently condemning criticism of the city council, except his statement was worded rather more strongly.

“While residents were entitled to their opinion”, Ahuriri Councillor Larry Dallimore said, “it was unfair that elected representatives were being personally attacked.”

Councillor Dallimore knows what it’s like to be personally attacked on social and mainstream media because, as you may remember, when the now Ahuriri Ward representative was campaigning for a seat at the council table, Mr Dallimore himself was the target or criticism, some might even call it online abuse – From Napier’s Mayor!

In an opinion piece in the Hawke’s Bay Today, Dallimore pointed out

“Statistics New Zealand quite clearly announced the inflation rate up to the end of March (2016) was 0.4 and if you divide that into 4.4 (Napier rates for 2016/17 increased by between 3.6{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} and 4.4{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948}) you get 11 times,” he said. “There’s no argument.”

In response Napier Mayor Bill Dalton was quoted in the daily paper as saying Dallimore’s (mathematically correct) statement that Napier rates were increasing at up to 11 times that of inflation was “absolute hogwash”, saying the figures were “just nonsense” and accused Mr Dallimore of “scaremongering”.

All this occurred while Mr Dallimore, at the time just a member of the rate paying public, was in the middle of campaigning for election, whilst Mayor Dalton was safe in his unopposed mayoral position.

That sounds a fair bit like bullying, doesn’t it?

Local animal welfare group Watchdog! also found themselves on the end of similar tirades in mainstream Hawke’s Bay media when the Ministry of Primary Industry investigations the group had requested into Napier City Council’s pound discovered the facility had four major and two minor non-compliances:

In a letter to Hawke’s Bay Today this month, Mr Dalton said the council was aware of shortcomings “well before Ms Maxwell decided to make the matter her life” and urged Hawke’s Bay Today to ignore her “pathetic crusade”.

He even turned on Hawke’s Bay Today itself – the paper that gives council news and his own opinions so much print and online coverage in saying:

“Clearly Hawke’s Bay Today has bugger-all to talk about when they keep going on and on and on about a bloody dog pound.” (Run by the council he leads..)

I’m not making this stuff up!

These are ACTUAL QUOTES from our region’s newspaper!

Some have said these outbursts are just Napier’s mayor “calling a spade a spade”. Many more see it as statements/language unbecoming a leader or elected official.

It could also be seen as going against NCC’s Elected Members’ Code of Conduct:

According to Napier City Council’s code of conduct, statements from councillors should not “make personal criticism of the proper conduct of the council or of other elected members, officers of the council or members of the public”.

When I asked if this EMCC could be seen as “gagging” councillors, The mayor called my question “just nonsense”.

In our current world of “Post- Truth Politics” and “Alternative Facts” all these barbs and insults directed at members of the public by elected officials sound worryingly similar to a tactic called “Gaslighting.”

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation intended to spread doubt in individuals or members of a group. Using persistent denial, misdirection, and contradiction it attempts to destabilize and delegitimize its targets’ or the public’s beliefs.

That sounds disturbingly like the treatment of the Napier Skating Club and its “Sk8 Zone” park last year.

Denying anything was wrong with the city pound, then declaring “the council was aware of shortcomings” before Watchdog! shed more light on issues rings alarm bells of a similar vein.

After all the debate, all the press releases and all the ratepayer money spent on commissioned reports trying to justify the construction of a velodrome virtually no Napier ratepayers wanted or needed, Napier City Council shelved the project this week.

But in a parting shot at deflecting blame for wasted time and ratepayer money Mayor Dalton accused Sport New Zealand of “styming” the project, an emotive Hawke’s Bay Today headline declared.

However, further reading revealed:

“Sport New Zealand’s general manager of community sport Geoff Barry said at no point did his organisation support the project; rather supported them to develop a draft business case.

“We haven’t stymied the process. I think that we’ve been involved in a process and the Napier City Council are reflecting, I think, on the fact that they had an interpretation or perception that we were supporting the project and at no stage have we supported the project in the way that they say we have.”

If the council had been actually listening to its citizens over the two years of business case development they would have rather clearly heard a velodrome was not a project worth pursuing and ratepayers might have been benefitting from a new, Olympic-sized public swimming complex by now.

Exclusion can be another form of bullying and many Napier residents, ratepayers, war veterans and their families have felt excluded over the diabolical handling of Napier’s (now former) War Memorial Conference Centre.

Concerned Napier citizens saw an August public meeting as their first opportunity to discuss concerns over the council’s removal of the Eternal Flame and Roll of Honour from the facility when redevelopments began two years ago.

What they got instead was a presentation of the council’s three preferred new war memorial options, none of which included the returning of the artefacts to the conference centre site – something vociferously supported by the public of Napier, military veterans and relatives of those named on the Roll of Honour plaques.

With little time left at the end for questions from those gathered in attendance, it shut off much opportunity for actual public opinion, debate, or criticism of the council’s handling of the matter.

So it must have come as a surprise to only the convenor, elected council members and management staff when the statement “This community presentation hasn’t happened because of community pressure, but because it is part of council process” was met with laughter.

Many left the “presentation” just as, if not more, disgruntled than when they arrived.

At least concerns over the War Memorial Conference Centre are getting more attention and coverage.

Under previous council regimes dissent got even less recognition.

There were signs that little, if any, criticism, accountability, responsibility or blame would ever be taken within Napier City Council when NCC’s disastrous Art Deco Bus venture was sold off for a pittance of what it had cost the council.

Despite there never being any public demand from them, virtually no one riding on them and the ratepayer-borne cost of not only getting them roadworthy when they arrived, but continual on-going maintenance and overall issues cost the city $1.3 Million the project was only a dud:

“..because we have got one or two extremely vocal critics who are stirring the thing up.”

Yes, it was “the stirrers” fault.

And those who recognised and warned the construction, operational and visitor number issues with Napier’s new Museum, Theatre and Gallery would be bigger, longer lasting and more expensive than the council had led their public to believe were portrayed by the dismissive line: “the whole MTG issue had been blown out of proportion by some people who had expressed their feelings and opinions without “thinking it through”.

Napier’s illuminations once again flickered and there was the smell of LPG in the air…

Public Trust

All this boils down to a lack of trust between the people of Napier and their council.

If ratepayers can’t trust what their elected officials and council management are saying, then doubt and criticism are soon to follow.

Ignoring their public’s needs and requests, whether it be in person, in traditional, or social media; Continued deflection of blame, rather than accepting responsibility and accountability for city decisions that go wrong; and being disrespectful to the citizens of Napier who vote them in, pay their wages and fund council activities all add up very quickly and all undermine the trust a city has in its council.

As Deputy Mayor, Faye White, speaking of her sadness that “the mayor can’t send a confidential email (that began this post) to his councillors” without it being leaked, said:

“When the trust goes … it’s never quite the same.”

Indeed.

Napier deserves better!

The Truth Shall Make ye Fret

Napier ratepayers' fuses are running down over their council's treatment of the city's war memorial eternal flame.

Napier ratepayers’ fuses are running down over their council’s treatment of the city’s war memorial eternal flame.

“The truth shall make ye fret” Terry Pratchett “The Truth”

Albert Einstein once said “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

It certainly appears that public trust in what Napier City Council says is the truth is fading fast.

That NCC, normally so obliging for a positive-spin photo op, was not quickly forthcoming with access to the stored-away flame and Roll of Honour plaques (note – we haven’t seen a photo of them yet) erodes what little public trust they may still have even further.

Long-term, seat-warming councillors can express their regret, hindsight and sympathy all they want. But it doesn’t hide the fact that those same publically elected councillors voted to remove the “War Memorial” name from the Marine Parade conference venue (on the basis of marketing jargon from unelected council staff) and in doing so, consigned a sacred memorial to a council yard and the Eternal Flame to being sheltered by what appears to be a rubbish bin cover.

This is hardly new, though.

The likes of “Spin-Doctoring”, “Fake News”, “Alternative Facts” and “Dirty Politics” have been around long before #Hashtags made them fashionable on social media and American politics somehow made them standard operating procedure.

In recent years Napier ratepayers were told Art Deco Busses would be a great tourism attraction and money spinner. They weren’t.

We were told 680,000 people would visit the city’s new Museum, Theatre and Gallery. They didn’t.

The same facility was meant to be able to house the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust’s $44 million, 100,000 object collection. It still can’t.

Napier Skating Club was told that “SK8 Zone” would remain open and in place until the new, Council operated “Bay Skate” facility was opened. It didn’t.

When the council demolished Sk8 Zone ahead of what was previously stated, we were told they had found a temporary facility for the club. The week it was supposed to open we discovered that wouldn’t happen either.

Watchdog! claimed there were serious issues with the Napier Pound. Napier’s mayor called it a “pathetic crusade”. The Ministry of Primary Industries found otherwise.

Following a positive E.coli test and subsequent chlorination of Napier’s normally pure water supply in February this year, another positive test was returned in late May.

To ensure the waterborne bugs were killed off the council chose to chlorinate the whole system for “up to a month”.

That was still on track in mid-June when Napier’s water was due to return to normal “by the end of the month”.

Yet, here we are in July – six weeks later and it still smells like a swimming pool whenever I turn a tap on and our annual rates are up 4.9{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} for something that never used to be a problem.

And, of course, we’ve been told Napier “needs” a multi-million dollar velodrome, in fact it’s the “number one priority” for some in council and is sneaking back into agendas.

We don’t.

I’ve read through the “O’Connor Sinclair Participation Report 2014” and “Hawkes Bay Sports Regional Facilities Plan Feb 2015” reports which were being used as a basis for justifying this “need” and for the life on me, all I can find about a velodrome is that, Under “State of the Sport” for Cycling, quote: “There is no track cycling venue in HB” and under “Development Options”: “Explore future opportunities for a velodrome”. That’s it!

The same report stated that ”No additional development is required” for “Aquatics” (Swimming), despite “an increasing trend” in participation , current facilities closing due to earthquake strength issues, and lane pool demand outstripping supply.

During the last election the public very clearly voiced their opinion that what the city needed a public swimming pool like the old Onekawa Olympic Pool. Those running for re/election voiced almost universal approval for a pool and dismissal of the velodrome.

Even the mayor said the Velodrome/Public Pool issue was “not an either/or situation”.

Yet thousands of ratepayer dollars have been spent on viability reports for and promotion of a velodrome concept wanted by a very small minority, while there’s no sign of a new, publicly supported, competition / Olympic-sized swimming pool under construction and silence from its freshly elected ‘supporters’?

More recently, many a “Yeah, right!” has been muttered at revelations NCC’s offices were dangerously earthquake-prone, despite 2010/11 reports saying they were 100{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} up to code.

Many consider this timing all too auspicious, given NCC management were looking at selling the site off to hotel developers, relocating NCC HQ into the neighbouring library building and somehow squeezing Napier’s library into a much smaller space amidst Clive Square and yet more war memorials – Napier’s Women’s Rest building and the city’s cenotaph!

Throughout this, the senior, unelected, Napier City Council management behind many of these decisions have remained silent, while the city’s mayor attacks public, press and online questioning and criticism of his council’s decisions and actions, lambasting critics as “nay-sayers”, as if the rate-paying public who fund his salary were responsible for the problems.

It used to be that public servants took great pride in doing just that – serving the public.

More recently, and locally, it feels like there is an expectation that the public should be serving them.

The people of Napier want answers.

The people of Napier want the truth!

The people of Napier deserve better!

Good Riddance, 2016 (Time of your Life, 2017)

cyoa

“2016 is the year I shall fart rainbows and poop unicorns!”

That was the first line of the first entry in my diary for last year.

As it turned out there were a few rainbows, the odd, rare unicorn and a fair bit of poop.

Speaking of equines and poop, 2016 started with HB Ratepayers being asked to look their Gift Horse (of the Year) in the mouth, while mucking out the event’s financial stables.

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

In February I was feeling a little unloved and unappreciated as, even before #StuffMe merger hype and propaganda was ramping up, at least one of the proposed partners was proving they couldn’t even credit the right person when taking the mickey out of another media organisation’s portmanteau.

However, the power of social media showed that far more important people were listening to me when the Office of The Auditor General replied to I tweet I sent them over Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s on-going Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme fiasco.

oag-2

Everything was plodding along happily until March came along and tried to wipe me off the face of the planet.

A month in Hawke’s Bay and Wellington hospitals changed perspectives and gave me a lot of spare time to write what has been some of my best stuff.

BizWire

Recovery and getting back into normal life meant not much time for writing posts.

The recent upheavals could have been the reason for some retrospective maudlin in June and lack of self confidence and loss of direction in August.

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

But Mediaworks scrapping what I still consider one of the finest and longest-running television shows EVER could not go unchastised in June.

Health issues and uncertain immediate future scuppered any plans I may have had to run for Napier City Council this term.

But there were other, more concerning democratic issues clouding those hopes too.

g

My concerns actually made the local paper just before the election and did effect some change. Though the biggest concern I had – the “gagging” Code of Conduct still remains.

In September, after months of what I and many others considered Napier’s 60+ year old skating club getting some unfair treatment from Napier City Council, I wrote another piece that proved very popular and once again featured in the local paper.

Skating Fish

Ultimately, though, the skate club’s facility is long since demolished. The club has not been reimbursed and the errors it had put upon it are unresolved.

Those posts and their other printed pieces received a lot of attention, however, which was very welcome. Because it showed that local people STILL care very deeply about local news and issues – Something media networks and #StuffMe proponents still seem utterly oblivious to.

Those local concerns, this time over Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillors’ behaviour and the debt the organisation was set to burden all its ratepayers with for the benefit of a few in the Ruataniwha area, did at least see some positive local government change, with the balance of power tipping from pro-dam to anti-dam in this year’s elections.

db

I finally got my cool cyborg parts in October and we closed out the year with our traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness” menu review.

I would love to say I helped democracy and righted wrongs this year, but that wasn’t the case. I helped shed light on what I considered were problems and wrongdoings, but those issues STILL exist.

That’s a real disappointment.

Though, given the interruption my life had in March-May, I guess it wasn’t a bad run for the rest of the year.

And, as I’ve written many times this year already: “There’s always someone out there worse off than you”.

There is still 2017 (and hopefully many more years) to come to get some good achieved and points on the board.

Now, does anyone know of a good unicorn dealer in Hawke’s Bay?

dgf

Fishy Goings on at the Skate Bowl

Skating Fish

Something smells fishy about the way “Sk8 Zone” / The Napier Skating Club has been treated over recent months – and it’s not just the aquatic entrails of Marineland’s gutted carcass.

A couple of weeks ago, just as the school holidays were about to get underway, Napier City Council announced the “pop-up” site they had found and leased to temporarily house the club was now not “looking viable” due to structural concerns about the site.

It was the latest sprinkle of salt in a wound that had most recently flared when the council rather unceremoniously evicted the club and demolished their 61 year old premises – despite saying in August last year that SK8 Zone would remain open until the new park opened.

In Hawke’s Bay Today on July 19 NCC’s community strategies manager Natasha Carswell said “the council had spent considerable time searching for an appropriate venue and was pleased to have negotiated the (Salvation Army site) deal”.

Add to that another month’s worth of reconstruction and expense by Skating Club members and you have at least 8 weeks for Napier City Council to check and sort building reports, earthquake ratings, codes of compliance and change of usage for the temporary site they found for the Skating Club.

Yet the site was only discovered to be “unsafe” the weekend it was due to open?.

That doesn’t sound right.

Incidentally, what civic authority administers and controls such oversight of buildings in Napier? Oh, yes – Napier City Council!

In fact the Community Services and Compliance / Planning departments are a few minutes’ walk apart or mere speed dial away!

Council Community Services / Strategy departments expressed platitudes that this development was “really disheartening for both the team at council and the skate club.”

But the NCC Marineland skate park is not a redevelopment of “Sk8 Zone”, rather a replacement.

Whilst NCC CEO Wayne Jack had previously claimed that “We definitely need their input to make it a world-class facility… The club is instrumental to [the facility’s] success”, the council have previously stated they wanted to run the new facility because they felt Napier Skating Club does not have the “operational expertise” despite 61 years of operation.

You will, of course, remember how successful NCC’s recent “operational expertise” in MTG construction and Art Deco Bus operation proved.

You could easily be forgiven for thinking there appears to be a strategy going on here, but it’s not in the community’s best interests.

At best this is an error that would likely see any other organisation liable for what this is costing the skating club.

At worst it could look like an attempt by the council to break a long running, local, mainly voluntary community organisation that it sees as competition to its plans.

Napier deserves better!

Vox Populi?

g

We so seldom publicly hear from our councillors here in Napier, you can easily forget they exist, other than in the run up to elections.

Edicts are typically issued by the Mayor and / or CEO.

A couple years ago a Massey University study appeared to indicate Napier’s elected councillors were effectively gagged by the council’s Code of Conduct.

This “Elected Members Code of Conduct” (or “EMCC”) does indeed appear to strip our elected members of many rights including the ability to publically criticise other councillors or members of council staff and limits who can say what to the likes of the media – thus the “We’re all one big, happy family” visage of the last few years that receives wide scepticism.

Or, more horrifyingly, imagine if they all did in fact willingly agree with and vote to support the Deco Bus and MTG fiascos!

The latest “gagging” incarnation of Napier’s EMCC appears to have been around since 2004, but this EMCC is “reviewed and confirmed at each triennium by local councils” – you would expect this to coincide with the three-yearly local body election process.

So wouldn’t you think at least some councillors would have queried or tried to change or abolish this over the last 12 years / four elections?

This current council term coming to an end saw the biggest number of councillor changes for over a decade and the biggest chance of such changes yet but, alas, no change.

Question One: So why hasn’t the “gagging” EMCC been changed or challenged since 2004?

Just yesterday I also came across something that would appear to severely limit councillors’ abilities:

While reading the 2016 Napier City Council Candidate Handbook, I came across the declaration Napier’s councillors have to take before taking office “Inaugural Meeting”, Page 9 FYI).

I found the wording that councillors will “Perform in the best interests of Napier City Council” very odd.

Not for the public of Napier, or even ratepayers, but Napier City Council – the local authority!

Very odd indeed.

I investigated further, asking a Twitter friend who is an absolute gun on matters of legislation and they pointed me towards section 14 of Schedule Seven in the Local Government Act of 2002, which had the boiler plate for such declarations.

Napier’s declaration does indeed appear different.

Whilst the Local Government Act’s declaration states councillors will “Perform in the best interests of (City/District) VIA their (Local Authority)”, Napier’s rather clearly seems to imply councillors’ main loyalty is to, well, the council!

“Autorität über alle”

LGA

Just who is in control here?!

Along with the “unanimously supported” Deco Bus and MTG horror stories, NCC now looks intent on building a velodrome, with their avid cyclist CEO leading the peloton.

I didn’t vote for the CEO. No member of the public can.

From recent news coverage the majority of Napier ratepayers don’t want a velodrome, they would prefer more / bigger public swimming pools, as the city of over 60,000 currently has only one.

Here we have a problem.

If it is in fact unelected staff, rather than councillors, leading the charge or in control of major council ventures and they go pear-shaped at the ratepayers’ expense, such as the aforementioned bus and museum travesties (which no member of the public voted for either), recent concerns with NCC’s Animal Control Department, or the on-going Sk8 Zone debacle we can’t vote out the council’s CEO or staff when they are involved in such high-jinks.

But we can (but for some unknown, highly irrational reasons didn’t) vote out the councillors who (apparently) supported it.

This all sounds very much like one of the many downsides of privatising council / state owned assets.

So:

Question Two: Who of the incumbent and potential Napier City councillors will truly stand up for those who support and elected them this election and finally challenge and change this “gagging” EMCC and the misguided allegiance of the Councillor Declaration?

You are the voice of the city’s people!

Napier City Council is supposed to represent and support the people of Napier City, not just senior council management and staff – let’s see that!

Change the EMCC!

Vox Populi!

Napier voters deserve better!

I Want to Believe

Andrew's self-confidence, last seen heading into the gaping vacuum of space...

Andrew’s self-confidence, last seen heading into the gaping vacuum of space…

“If just one person believes in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you…
Hard enough, and long enough,
It stands to reason, that someone else will think
“If he can do it, I can do it.”

And when all those people,
Believe in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough,
Believe in you…
Hard enough, and long enough

It stands to reason that you yourself will
Start to see what everybody sees in
You…

And maybe even you,
Can believe in you… Too!”

The Muppets – “Just One Person”

Self-esteem has a major, critical failing (ok, maybe several).

Whilst, as the name suggests, it is focused on esteem or confidence in one’s self, it really helps if there are others there to encourage confidence in that self as well.

So it kind of figures that self-esteem has been as hard for me to come by as real-life recognition or praise recently.

I’m trying to remember the last time someone complimented me in person – said “well done!” “good job!” “You’re hired – here’s $100,000!”(ok, I’m pushing the limits of reality there..) and nothing comes to mind.

Twenty years ago I finished working in radio (for the record, I started working in radio on New Year’s Eve 1995).

While I’m confident I could still wipe the floor content-wise with what qualifies as “on-air talent” today, you will likely never hear my beautiful bassy voice on the radio ever again – and not just because I’m inclined to swear lots more than I used to.

I tell people my dream radio career lasted only six months because I had too high an IQ and too low an ego (the other reasons were rubbish pay and trying to stay awake for 24 hours each Saturday).

I just couldn’t fake the level of self-belief required for radio.

And this was ‘90s-radio-level bravado I’m talking here – absolutely nowhere near the stratospherically narcissistic / Ninth Circle of Dante’s Inferno that it has become today.

But, while my radio career was muted, my voice was not silenced.

From an early age I learned the power words can wield.

So I started writing.

I’ve written stories, poems, radio ads, press releases, pieces for work newsletters, letters to the editor, Man About Town columns for “BayBuzz”, opinion pieces in Stuff and even a couple articles in the local paper many years ago about growing up in Napier in the 1980’s and my love for my home town.

My Dad was always my biggest supporter.

He believed in me.

He kept newspaper clippings of every letter or item I had in the paper and even some of the more colourful reactions!

Three years ago I started writing Napier in Frame.

It’s not a profession – I make no money from my writing.

I have a full time job and a young family to support which is my priority, so I can only write when I have the time or inclination.

I still wrote the occasional letter to the editor, when something utterly atrocious stood out – Art Deco buses and the miss-management behind MTG’s construction were stand-outs.

But I steadily shifted towards writing on this site and promoting it via my Twitter and Facebook profiles.

People who know me even say “I haven’t seen your letters in the paper recently” when I see them in the street. I tell them about this site, but they seldom seem interested or even aware of a world wide web beyond traditional print media.

Two years ago my Dad died suddenly.

I kept writing – it helped me cope and process things, but it kind of felt like any support, luck, or belief anyone had in me died too.

I’ve written, what I at least think, is some of my best work since then – The coverage of my recent stay in hospital received plaudits, but these are predominantly from friends online.

This is where things get a bit confuddling.

FM

Positive reactions are always good to receive, but self-doubt (self-esteem’s arch-nemesis) can begin to creep in.

Someone (usually a friend) gives you a compliment on Facebook or Twitter and you automatically discount it – “Of COURSE they’d say that, they’re your FRIEND!” Or “It’s ONLY social media – it’s not ‘REAL’” – sabotaging yourself and your abilities.

Even when you point out something that you think is blatantly wrong – Like hypocrisy over the Ruataniwha Dam, or the local newspaper covering Hastings District Council bailing out Horse of the Year, when the event’s board said in the same paper just weeks before they themselves would cover the loss and nothing is done.

The “bad guys” win.

Worse still can be spending years developing and making your case for a way to improve the city you love and the region you were born and raised in.

That idea gets local and national coverage.

Heck, even John Campbell likes it!

JC

But when you approach people you believe have the resources, funds and it’s in their best interests to actually enact your idea and the response is nothing – silence.

In this gaping vacuum of space no one can hear you scream in frustration.

I’ve had similar responses trying to rejig New Zealand’s flailing mainstream media – But the general consensus there is

“What would he know? He’s only from Hawke’s Bay!”

If I’m wrong that’s not a problem. You can learn from mistakes and correct them.

But no one has told me I’m wrong.

People tell me they “admire my passion” and am constantly queried on how I would achieve the goals I seek.

I tell them, but they don’t offer to help and “passion” won’t pay the bills, or finance what I have planned.

What if I’m right and no one cares to help try and make a difference, to help effect change or fix the problems I’m trying to remedy?

Ignoring problems doesn’t solve them or make them go away.

But ignoring people who are trying to fix problems makes the people go away – lose hope, lose self-esteem and confidence.

Imposter

I’ve become quite philosophical and theological about it:

“If Andrew makes a factual statement and no-one notices or cares, is he still right?”

“Before THE WORD, or there was light, or even the Big Bang, Andrew was wrong”

When the negativity or gaping vacuum of ignorance gets to you and makes you glum, sad, or grumpy and strips away your self-belief, you’re STILL wrong – Because being glum, sad, or grumpy isn’t allowed – You’ve apparently got to be happy, positive and smiling All. The. Time?!

This isn’t one of those inspirational stories of the little struggler, the battler, who overcomes adversity to triumph.

It is the tale of someone who has been told they’re wrong when they’re not, who has been ignored and unappreciated long enough for it to essentially become a default setting – a shitty-mood Stockholm Syndrome.

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

Having to spend a few weeks in hospital pales in comparison.

Shakespeare said we only have an hour upon life’s stage to strut and fret before we are heard no more.

I want to make a difference in that hour, but I can’t do it alone.

I need support, I need people to believe in me.

I need to believe in myself.

I want to believe.

Mourning Mediaworks’ Muppet Muting

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“Sometimes you’re crazy
And you wonder why
I’m such a baby, yeah
‘Cause The Muppets make me cry”

Paraphrasing “Only Want to Be With You” – Hootie and the Blowfish

Someone told me a while ago that I “suffer from nostalgia”.

I thought it was an odd expression, as rather than “suffering” from nostalgia, I find it far more “comforting”.

“Nostalgia is learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming”, a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “pain, ache””

I did, however, feel a great deal of pain when I learned that one of the best television shows of all time, Sesame Street, will be leaving NZ free-to-air television screens from the end of June when Mediaworks’ “Four” channel is rebranded “Bravo” and degenerates into wall to wall “hyper-reality” television.

Some shows have already been given new timeslots on Four’s network sister channel “3”, but notably absent was Sesame Street.

Perhaps the network is still a bit grouchy that an almost 50 year old children’s show out-rated their much-vaunted “current affairs” breakfast venture

This coming November, Sesame Street will have been a friend and teacher to billions of children across the globe for 47 years – that’s one hell of a feat in the fickle world of television!

Launched in 1969 by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett one of the things that made so many people love Sesame Street has been its cast centrally featuring Jim Henson’s Muppets, puppets and Monsters.

Often zany and silly but never condescending to its young audience, Sesame Street has become the inspiration and benchmark by which many people judge not only children’s television, but all television since.

While teaching pre-school basics like the alphabet, counting, colours and opposites, it also deals with making friends, manners, feelings and other important social and personal issues.

One particular Sesame Street piece has burned itself into my memory (have a box of tissues handy):

When Will Lee, who played shopkeeper “Mr Hooper” (“Hooper’s Store” still bears his name as a memorial) died in 1982, rather than recasting the role, or saying Hooper moved away or retired, Sesame Street’s producers decided to deal with the issue head-on and created an episode that taught their young audience about the difficult topic of death in an honest and straightforward way.

I would have been five when the episode originally aired and some of my earliest memories are of going to the funerals of elderly grandparents and relatives, while not fully understanding what was going on.

That episode made things much clearer and easier to understand.

I cried watching it.

I still cry watching it today.

I wasn’t the only one – Legend has it the piece was shot in one take and there wasn’t a dry eye in the entire studio, in front of or behind the cameras, once it was done.

Jim Henson’s work and his creations blossomed from Sesame Street, as did the world’s love for them.

When he died in 1990, leaving behind a legacy of Muppets, movies, Fraggles, Sesame Street and many other beloved shows all his creations got together for one last show called “The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson”.

Whilst the special centred around Henson’s other most well-known creation – “The Muppet Show” for the finale – a song called “Just One Person” almost all his creations appeared to sing a gorgeous eulogy to the great man, the amazing talent from where they came.

I cried watching that too, because being an only child, television had been one of my biggest inspirations and windows on the world before I started school.

The Muppets, Fraggles and Sesame Street characters had become more than just puppets to me – they were my friends.

I saw what Henson could do on multiple levels – Not just cute, fluffy, talking toys, but almost sentient beings with a drive behind them – to teach, to care, to love.

I believed in them.

And I believed the words to that song – That “Just One Person” can make a difference.

There will, of course, still be access to Sesame Street videos and episodes online from July, but internet access can be an expensive, unaffordable luxury for many.

This availability of Sesame Street on free to air television has had wide reaching benefits with studies showing it has just as many developmental and educational benefits for children as going to pre-school which some cannot afford, or be geographically able to attend.

So, when Toddler in Frame and I watch Sesame Street for the last time on TV Four this weekend, she may wonder why Daddy is crying.

It’s because I’ll be pitying the next generation that isn’t getting to see it the way so many grew up with.

The genius, the love, the knowledge and empathy they will miss out on – replaced by cheap, commercialised, fake rubbish.

Future generations deserve far better.

Dis-Carded

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When I saw it crumpled up on the floor of that hall, maybe I should have just given up there and then – Saved myself 20 years of work, stress, time and pointless hope.

Because it was right – A portent of things to come.

No matter how hard I tried or what I did, it wouldn’t be enough. I wouldn’t be good enough to achieve the goal – the DREAM it symbolised.

It was 1997 and I was volunteering for the Hawke’s Bay Cancer Society as a “Youth Health Promoter” – particularly aimed at Smokefree initiatives – the “cause célèbre à la mode”.

I had been doing it for a couple of years, having decided I didn’t want to go to university upon finishing high school, I instead worked at a local radio station for six months and when I saw the Cancer Society’s “proper” health promotion lady in a community newspaper promoting some event, I thought I’d like to help out.

So I did.

I’ve always had great promotional / “sales” skills (though I much preferred “selling” ideas rather than the unrealistic, ever-increasing “sales goals” variety) and, like radio, I got a kick out of the performance aspect of promoting stuff – being unconventional, finding different, memorable ways of doing things.

We gave presentations in schools, held a camp for high school leaders to help spread the Smokefree message, went to Wellington to film a segment for a youth TV show called “Get Real” (that never made it to air because the “tape got lost”) and held Smokefree Speech Contests.

clippings

I had even been selected to be a (expenses paid) New Zealand representative at an Australasian youth health conference in Sydney (my first overseas experience) – So I must have been doing something right.

I was having a great time. I enjoyed the work (although I also had to work part time in a supermarket for income). I did interesting things and got to meet great people.

I was meeting so many people I wanted to learn from and keep in touch with that I made up my own “business cards”.

Inkjet printed on green cardboard, they weren’t the pinnacle of professional imagery, but I was merely a volunteer and it was all I could afford.

That is when it happened.

I had only just made them the week before one of the speech contests and handed two out at the event. I can’t remember who I handed them to, but I remember seeing one in someone’s diary – used as a bookmark as they left.

Then I saw the other one.

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It was scrunched up, lying on the floor close to where I had given it to whoever it was.

The purpose of the card dead before it hit the ground.

I felt a bit crap and hurt about it at the time – That what I was doing had been discarded so thoughtlessly, but I moved on.

The compulsion behind throwing the card away didn’t.

It persisted – An origami albatross around my neck.

I had been doing this work voluntarily for two years and loved it so much I wanted to make it my career – to make a living out of it.

I asked those involved professionally what I should do and was told I had to get a tertiary qualification in marketing or something similar.

So, combining my volunteer work and an actual paying job, I added a one year, full time “Diploma in Marketing” course from Napier’s own Eastern Institute of Technology to my work schedule.

I passed, acing the communication aspects of the course and graduated with an A4 certificate, a few thousand dollars’ worth of student debt and, as it turned out, nothing more.

I applied for well over 50 marketing-type jobs in the years immediately after my graduation and equally got well over 50 rejections.

Many years later I was asked to do a short video for Baybuzz on what I thought Hawke’s Bay needed – in a take that ended up on the cutting room floor I symbolically crunched up and threw away a copy of my marketing diploma – that was what it is worth to me.

I still volunteered for the Cancer Society. They were great and very supportive, but being a charitable organisation they couldn’t afford to pay me.

In 1997 I had been to the (“Smokefree” it was at the time) “Stage Challenge” at the Hastings Municipal Theatre.

I fell in love with it.

High school students perform a piece of theatre on a (usually social or historical) topic of their choice to music over eight minutes.

It was loud, energetic, colourful and amazing – If you haven’t seen a performance before, it’s basically a Baz Luhrmann musical movie amped up to 11 by teenaged hormones, pheromones and whatever the loudest, most energetic music of the day is.

So in 1998 I made direct contact with the company who ran it at the time from rural Victoria Australia and offered to help and went around Hawke’s Bay high schools getting as many as I could involved in the event.

The previous year two HB schools had taken part; I managed to up that number to five, with another two schools I had approached joining in the following year.

Our local DHB’s Health Promotion Unit was the “official” local supporter of Stage Challenge in Hawke’s Bay. So I approached them to see if we could team up promoting the event – going around schools, getting stuff in the paper and on the radio.

In the end it was just me that ended up doing those things – The DHB set up a table with some health-related pamphlets at the theatre on the day of the show. That was pretty much their entire involvement.

The 1998 Hawke’s Bay Stage Challenge was a high energy, feel-good success and enjoyed by almost all involved.

I say “almost” because I was the exception.

I loved the performances, the energy, the music and the passion the teams put into and got out of their performances. The school teams thanked me for my help and input.

Having spent several months going around the region, promoting the event and almost TRIPLING the number of local schools competing I had to ask the show’s producers for any form of thanks. Even then it wasn’t forthcoming

For their table of pamphlets, the DHB got a framed gold disc as a sign of appreciation.

I got nothing.

It was the beginning of the end for me.

With the promotional and entrant numbers success (but appreciation fail) of Stage Challenge added to over two years of voluntary work experience, promotion, publicity and interaction, as well as my “tertiary marketing qualification” I applied to numerous local and national health promotion and similar, youth-orientated, agencies to try and get a foothold in paid employment at something I enjoyed doing and had been recognised (by a few at least) as being very good at.

The response: Nothing.

I gave up.

It wasn’t easy – When you dedicate all your free time over several years to something you believe in, enjoy and are good at, only to be shot down at every opportunity for advancement or even thanks it gets very physically and emotionally draining very quickly.

I packed up all my Smokefree things, returned them and walked away.

I went back to working for money, rather than enjoyment. It was all rather capitalistic and soulless.

I eventually found a job I loved in a bookshop. In that job I met someone I would go on to love and be loved by and end up marrying.

After some struggles the two of us would have a baby girl who we both love VERY much.

Love inspires – It encourages hope, it rekindles dreams, it makes you want to be a better person.

I started writing and promoting / “selling” ideas again – so I could be a better inspiration for my daughter, like my dad was for me.

But the shadows of an origami albatross started circling again….

Dames in White Cotton

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I’m sitting in the TV room of Wellington Hospital’s Cardiac Unit doing a crossword when an alarm goes off.

This is far from unusual. Every hour of every day in this unit there are beeps and bops and dings – Heart-rate monitors, drip bags running low, someone needing assistance.

But this alarm is a bit more urgent – not so different as to be concerning to patients, but unmistakeable if you know what to listen out for.

It doesn’t sound good.

Within seconds I hear fast footsteps and three nurses run past my door, heading for one of the other wings, a few seconds after that there is the rumble of heavy, trolley-based equipment being rolled in the same direction.

It REALLY doesn’t sound good.

A few minutes pass with no further urgent noises and one of the nurses I saw running past walks back to her station past me.

She smiles, but it’s one of those looks where the mouth smiles, though the eyes tell a different, far more concerned, story.

I don’t envy the staff here.

They are wonderful, funny, talented, smart, beautiful, professional and capable, but the job they do is not one I think I could do myself.

They are literally dealing with life and death and in cardiology the difference between those two extremes can be a single heartbeat.

“The average age of nurses in New Zealand is 52” I am told by one of my caregivers as we chat on the way to a scan.

Growing up in Napier I can believe that, as you invariably knew someone whose mum was a nurse and in somewhere like Hawke’s Bay, where nursing jobs seem more secure / long-term, the nurses could mostly be described as “Mum age”.

At any hospital you go to, you become accustomed to the Junior Doctors / Registrars / House Surgeons being all about the same age as Doogie Howser (some of them are too young to get the reference).

But the first thing I noticed when I arrived in Wellington Hospital was that the nurses all seemed so young – The average age in the cardiology ward here would be around 25-30 (my initial estimation was closer to 18).

This is no indictment on their level of skill or professionalism, of course, merely an observation of their youth.

It is also a indication to the depth of their character, given the serious nature of their job and the physical, psychological and emotional toll it must take on those so young.

So I asked some of these young nurses what drew them to the profession:

Theresa* (Not her real name) is 23 and has been qualified nurse for a little over two years.

Her father had a history of heart problems and succumbed to heart disease when Theresa was 15.

Having watched her dad go through these issues wasn’t the sole catalyst in her becoming a nurse, but she says it certainly helps her empathise with the patients she treats and their families.

She tells me she has had only one patient exhibiting the exact same symptoms as her father and they passed away on the 8th anniversary of his death.

“That was obviously hard, but if you let these sort of things get to you too much, this isn’t a job you should be in.”

Theresa says she loves helping people and the things she has gone through in her personal life creates an empathy with those she looks after.

The nature of her work and her family’s experiences have certainly changed her perspective on life – She no longer “sweats the small stuff”.

In 2010 Florence* (Not her real name either) was studying biomedical science at university, but started to get the impression that while this was something she really wanted to do, like so many other tertiary students, actual career options on completion of her degree were rapidly drying up.

So, in the space of a week before Christmas, she applied to take up nursing training because it combined two things she loved doing – interacting with people and her interest in biomedical science.

She passed, but while there were plenty of newly qualified nurses and plenty of positions, there wasn’t the funding within the health system to place all graduates – 50{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} of her qualifying class got jobs straight away.

She now works on-call across a range of wards – Cardiology, Medical, Oncology, Orthopaedics and Urology and Surgical disciplines, waiting for her ideal permanent position to come up.

“I know I’m going to have an awesome career, I just don’t know what I’ll end up as”

And when Florence says this, like all her colleagues I talked to, she radiates a certainty, a determination and a passion for their work that makes you certain they will do wonderful things and those they look after will have the best possible care, because they care so much about what they do.

I read a newspaper article the other day about New Zealand’s ever-developing cult of “#Celebrity” (yes, the headline included its own hashtag) – Those half-pie, “reality” TV, 15-minutes-too-many-of-fame “stars” famous for, well, nothing really.

I thought “We MUST be able to do better than this!”

There are people out there doing FAR more for others, who are FAR more deserving of attention and praise than those being deified as a by-product of scripted reality, product placement and creative editing”.

There is already a song dedicated to “(K)Nights in White Satin.”

It’s time we had more praise for our “Dames in White Cotton”!