Are Amalgamationalists Holding HB’s Economy to Ransom?

HBE

Every once in a while I write something, people listen and great stuff happens, but no-one notices that I bothered to begin with.

Such a case was Bruce Bisset’s “Create ‘Potential’ in Regions, Too” piece in Saturday’s Hawke’s Bay Today.

“Central government doesn’t care about growing the regions simply because there’s too much money being made, in too many ways, from Auckland’s rampant growth. ‘

Trying to devolve that growth is in the “don’t start” basket; better the provinces become a dull patchwork of dairying, forests, mines and service towns, with our best sent off to be grist in Auckland’s rapacious mills than offered a viable alternate future at home.”

I have been saying and writing about this sort of stuff for years. Yet no-one seems to have taken much notice.

But when someone who gets paid to voice the same opinions as I do, there’s suddenly a flood of publicity and activity towards it.

Just yesterday I read there was a “Forum” on demographic change in Hawke’s Bay and how best to handle it.

Other than local MP Craig Foss saying:

Hawke’s Bay having an older population “was not necessarily a bad thing. They’re not boy racers, they don’t wear patches”

The main concept HB Today highlighted was an academic’s recommendation to use retirees living on the pension as volunteer (i.e. “FREE”) labour to do tasks that younger generations would be paid to do, further deepening Hawke’s Bay’s economic and employment doldrums.

If that’s the best the nation’s “academics” can come up with, I’m REALLY glad I never went to university.

But back to Bruce’s article. Or rather the paper’s online comments section – which often makes better reading than the articles themselves.

Ardent pro-amalgamationalist and anti-Napier City Council complainer “Enid” wrote:

Enid

From a couple of grammatical slips in previous comments, “Enid” would appear to actually be a member of, if not one of the lead protagonists for “A Better Hawke’s Bay”.

He would also appear to be a former, apparently very bitter, Napier City councillor. So that might explain a lot of his constant bagging of NCC and his promotion of fellow pro-amalgamationalist Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule and his council.

But what concerns me in his comment is why are these “100’s of jobs” “pending transfer” to just Hastings?

The organisation he is a part of is called “A Better HAWKE’S BAY” – not “A Better Hastings” – why not share the love, jobs and opportunity?

Oh, that’s right…

And, Heck! Why are these hundreds of jobs just “PENDING”??

HB’s economy continues to suffer. Real estate prices are low, labour is cheap.

WHY WAIT??!!

Or are these “100’s of pending jobs” at the mercy / whim of fellow ABHB members’ companies?

A Better Hawke’s Bay has some big, influential, moneyed backers with links to lots of big businesses. So is this is some kind of sick “If you don’t play by our rules, we’re taking our bat and ball and going home!” tactic from them?

Or is “Enid” just fishing with a red herring and these “corporates” who are “pending transferring 100’s of jobs to Hastings” are going to do just that – TRANSFER 100’s of jobs, along with the staff who currently fill them – negating any local employment for the positions, to Hastings?

We ALL want Hawke’s Bay to do better. Not just Hastings, Not just Napier – the entire region!

So I dearly wish those with the most direct opportunity and resources to make Hawke’s Bay better WOULD STOP STUFFING AROUND WITH IT!

(s)No(w) Joke – It Snowed in Napier!

I'm a snowman!

I’m a snowman!

Mondays.

Garfield hated them.

If anything is likely to go wrong, chances are it will do so first thing on a Monday morning and tarnish the rest of your week’s hopeful potential.

But today, Monday the 25th of May 2015 was just strange.

I started early in the morning, drove to work in the dark, with only the slightest hint of overnight rain on the ground.

I have no real external view from the desk I use in my office, so when someone came in and said it was snowing in Bay View I thought they were taking the mickey.

But they weren’t.

As I grabbed the morning’s second cup of coffee, I moved around the corner of my desk and got a view out of my office’s lone window. It appeared to be raining, but very half-heartedly – the drops were floating down more than falling.

Then they got thicker…

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And Bigger….

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AND WHITER!!!

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IT WAS SNOWING!!!

Cue childish merriment ensnaring an otherwise middle-aged office workforce and cell phones appearing from everywhere to take pictures and video of this most rare of situations.

Most of Napier is barely above sea-level and very close to the sea, so snow is something we normally only ever see on the news, or in person if you are one of those brave souls who climb large rocks, ski, or have an to unexplainable urges to chase mountain goats around their home turf.

I can only remember one other occasion around 15 years ago when it snowed in Napier, so today was special.

While the snow didn’t really settle, my goodness, did it fall!

Maybe SOME Mondays aren’t that bad after all!..

Good Night, John Campbell & Good Luck, New Zealand!

tv

It’s been a hard few months for my heroes.

In March one of my biggest literary heroes, Sir Terry Pratchett, succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease.

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Sir Terry was an evil genius of the highest comical order. The humour, pace, nuance, underlying morals and sheer brilliance of his Discworld books far surpass almost anything else in print.

When he announced that his brilliant mind was beginning to cloud and that he wanted to go out on his own terms, rather than let “this embuggerance of a disease” waste him away, I was shocked. Not on his stance on assisted suicide, but merely having some naïve hope that he would always be around – and his memory and works will be. It’s just so sad that we lost the man himself before his time.

Not Fade

April saw the one year commemoration of my Dad’s death.

And, just yesterday, it was announced that my journalistic / media hero, John Campbell, was leaving TV3 and his show, Campbell Live, would be no more.

It appeared as though Mediaworks, Campbell Live’s parent network, had tried to hide the cancelation announcement behind coverage of the government’s annual budget.

They failed MISERABLY!

After the outpouring of anger at the announcement Campbell Live was “under review” – due to poor ratings – by Mediaworks, the show’s “almighty ratings” soared. Yet it still wasn’t enough for the network’s executives.

TV3’s Mark Jennings claimed Campbell jumped of his own free will and wasn’t pushed.

Bullshit.

With almost Pratchett-level comic timing, on the same day that the bell tolled for John Campbell’s television show, the two lame-horse-race that is the “New Zealand Radio Awards” was honouring the host of Campbell Live’s direct network, content, moral and political leaning competition, Mike Hosking, with their “Best Talk Presenter” and “Sir Paul Holmes Broadcaster of the Year” awards.

At the same awards Hosking’s Newstalk ZB workmate, Leighton Smith, was awarded best talkback presenter and honoured for his “outstanding contribution to radio”.

Just what are the criteria for these awards again? The level of competition can’t be very high considering New Zealand broadcasting’s self-inflicted circumstances.

This “award winning network” is the same one whose “award winning announcers” have been publicly criticised for inferring, if not blatantly, outright flaunting political and socio-economical biases.

It’s not uncommon, to hear these “award winning announcers” use term like “Loony Left” and my personal favourite “Fellow Travellers” – because these utterances show just how behind the times, how close-minded, how biased and pre-historic their mind-sets are.

In what sort of depraved world do these sorts of egomaniac fossils deserve awards, but a person and show that helps raise over $800,000 for under-privileged children deserves cancelation??!!

Maybe it’s because John Campbell is too grounded, too humble?

Or maybe by helping the poor and under-privileged, he’s just too “Liberal”?

History is repeating once again. It is returning to an earlier, equally dark time in broadcasting.

During the 1950’s, when Cold War paranoia was just getting warmed up so to speak, those with views that were too “social” / “socialist” or “liberal” were ostracised and persecuted.

Those in the media were a particular target for the fear they could spread their apparent “Anti-American” sentiments.

Hardly “Land of the free, home of the brave” stuff…

One of this movement’s most vocal proponents, Senator Joseph McCarthy was taken to task by broadcaster Edward R. Murrow on the matter – Much like John Campbell took National MPs to task (when they actually fronted on his show.)

In Murrow’s case, sanity prevailed and McCarthy was consigned to history, quite rightly, as a bit of a nut-case.

This time round, we don’t appear to have been so lucky.

Here’s a speech Murrow made to the Radio and Television News Directors Association in 1958 – over half a century ago:

“This might just do nobody any good. At the end of this discourse, a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous ideas. But the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies, and sponsors will not be shaken or altered. It is my desire if not my duty to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television, and if what I say is responsible, I alone am responsible for the saying of it.

Our history will be what we make of it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes of one week of all three networks, they will there find, recorded in black and white and in color, evidence of decadence, escapism, and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable, and complacent. We have a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information – our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses, and recognize that television, in the main, is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture, too late”

Edward R. Murrow

You can’t tell me that’s not just as poignant and relevant today as it was back then!

Ka kite anō, Campbell Live!

Good night and good luck , New Zealand!

Let's NOT repeat the darkest days of McCarthyist broadcasting!

Let’s NOT repeat the darkest days of McCarthyist broadcasting!

We Gonna Run This Region!

Looks a bit quiet, eh?

Looks a bit quiet, eh?

I met with someone who reads my blog the other day. We had a very interesting, long talk about how we see things in Napier and Hawke’s Bay, what’s wrong and what can be done.

It was one of those meetings where you walk away from it feeling quite inspired and keen to get on and do things – a rarity in recent times.

The person I met (to protect their identity I won’t name them) had been involved in central Napier goings on over recent years and had been trying to do even more for the CBD and eventually the greater Napier community.

But they had pretty much given up after repeatedly been ignored, fobbed off or bypassed by Napier City Council and other similar organisations – despite starting some great initiatives and covering areas those authorities used to, or should have covered.

All too often it seems those who hold the positions of local power or those most likely to be able to do great things or effect change are the ones who do the least.

They have their own little interests, their own little agendas and money-spinners which take precedence. All too often they use public money, and all too often they fail miserably.

It’s frustrating as hell.

Hawke’s Bay has SO MUCH untapped potential!

But we are being held back by inaction and some sort of sense that if the councils, governments, business associations, tourism / promotional agencies etc. – people who SHOULD be doing these great things AREN’T, then nobody can.

Rubbish!

To paraphrase Napier’s own Sir Douglas MacLean:

“A region makes progress despite of its politicians”

To quote musician and bazzilionaire Jay-Z:

“…Who’s gonna run this town tonight?
We gonna run this town
We are, yeah I said it, we are!”

If you don’t think something is being done well enough – do it yourself and do it better!

Heck, make a song and dance about it!

Get social and mainstream media involved in, or informed about it!

Reporter: “So, Mr Bloggs, why did you start your own agency to promote Napier as a place to develop tech business?”

Mr Bloggs: “Because I didn’t think the current authorities we had were doing a good enough job at it!”

There are always excuses and smokescreens for things NOT being done.

One of the current favourite distractions is the ongoing amalgamation debate.

If those bankrolling the push for one super-council are such astute and affluent business people as they claim to be, then the number of councils should not affect their operations much, if at all!

Hastings rates are too high? Open operations in Napier! Napier’s building inspection service is too tardy, build in Hastings.

Simple, logical problems SOLVED!

With the economy becoming so digitised, Hawke’s Bay has plenty of room and potential to grow as a tech business hub.

Like I’ve said before, there is no reason why the likes of local business icon Rod Drury – an avid supporter of attracting tech businesses like call-centres opened in Hawke’s Bay – couldn’t bulldoze the rotting hulk that is Napier’s Mid-City Plaza and open an international call-centre for his own company Xero on the site.

Under current circumstances, Napier City Council could hardly say “no, you can’t – we’re full!”

So there you go. Feel empowered?

I do!

Let’s go out there and make some positive change happen in Hawke’s Bay.

If you see something being done badly or not at all – do it yourself and DO. IT . BETTER!

Power to the people

“…Who’s gonna run this region?

We are!”

Because Napier and Hawke’s Bay deserve better!

The “P”s of Amalgamation in HB

P

“Amalgamating Hawke’s Bay’s five councils into one entity WILL result in lower council rates”

This is one of the major selling Points “A Better Hawke’s Bay” / “Amalgamate Hawke’s Bay” and their Proponents would have you believe.

And you know what? They’re right – it will!

But, as always, there are catches. In this case they all begin with the letter “P”.

Just as one nasty “P”, Pseudoephedrine, has been found silently contaminating local state houses recently, another nasty “P” contaminates the minds of those who hope for and bankroll the campaign to amalgamate Hawke’s Bay.

This “P” GUARANTEES lower rates.

But when Pushed for Proof by its Proponents this “P” is seldom highlighted – it’s Practically a “silent P”.

Because it’s “Privatisation”

It’s simple, really.

If, under a new amalgamated council’s strategy, contracts to Provide the likes of rubbish collection, water supply or libraries across Hawke’s Bay are sold off to Private companies – your rates WILL be lower, because you won’t be Paying the council for them!

For a time Hawke’s Bay residents may still Pay the same total overall as they do now to get all the services we receive under the current structure – just with one Part going to the council rates and the other Part going to Private enterprise.

But then along comes the second “P” and this is one that will really catch you out!

Because, unlike local governments, Private businesses are PROFIT-driven.

Somewhere, sometime down the track you WILL be Paying more for all the services you receive now.

But, unlike now, where ratepayers can at least vote out councillors who hike rates, fail to Provide services, or go back on Promises. If a service you Pay for, like water supply for example, is controlled by a single, Private entity – you don’t get a say in the matter. Private companies’ / corporations’ loyalties are ultimately to their “bottom lines” and shareholders.

Privatising such essentials of human life as water has been done before and does continue around the world.

But when Profit Pandering overrides common and commercial sense, People Power often kicks in and it doesn’t end well for the Privateers. That should cause Pause for thought.

But while Private companies and corporations are often seen as and act like, heartless, mindless drones to Profit, our recent current civic leaders don’t appear to have shown much in the way of credibility, accountability or consideration of the finances they are using being Public money.

So there you go.

We ALL want Hawke’s Bay to do better than it has been over recent years, but Picking out its Prime assets and services for Private Profit won’t improve things – it will just Put us further down the Path to Pandemonium.

Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is just taking the Piss.

Have Your Say on the Future of Napier!

Napier City Council is currently taking submissions for its “Long Term Plan”

You can make your own submission HERE

It takes a mere five minutes to fill out the Council’s questionnaire and then there is a space for you to write your own submissions to the council on how you think our city should move into the future.

But you have to be quick – Submissions close TOMORROW (Wednesday 13 May at midday)

I was a bit tardy, having been busy while the submission window was open, but I managed to get my submission down and have just sent it off.

I hope you feel empowered to make your voice heard too!

Below is a copy of my submission:

“Napier is a wonderful city. It has been my home all my life and I cherish it dearly.

But Napier has been allowed to “age disgracefully” over recent years under previous administrations. It has often felt like “baby-boomers” rule and the interests of anyone under the age of 40 get ignored or have to fend for themselves.

As a result, we annually lose generations of our bright and talented youth to other parts of New Zealand and the world. A few return in later life with their families, most never do.

This creates not only a great gulf in the age bracket, earning Hawke’s Bay its sunny ‘Retirement village’ image, but also major cultural and economic holes in the region.

When it comes to looking after Napier’s younger generations needs or allocating them some form of infrastructure, N.C.C.’s solution to date has been “build a skate-park!” Ho-hum!

Skateboards and BMX’s alone do not a youth make. Where are the events, concerts, expos and exhibitions for our youth? Where are the workshops for young writers, actors, designers, technicians and entrepreneurs?

Our central city is often bereft of shoppers, while the number of empty shops grows and festers. Napier’s CBD is a favourite destination for its young people, so why not combine these two elements for mutually beneficial results?

Where is any voice or influence for Napier’s “Youth Council”? It has essentially vanished off the radar since I was a member in 1995!

How are they being guided or given a voice? I remember hearing that in the last few years they staged a shanty town in the Library forecourt for the 40-hour famine and raised money for children in Africa. What about those underprivileged children in their own city?

There is so much focus and so many millions being thrown at attracting tourists and their wallets to briefly visit Napier, but where are the initiatives and funding to keep our talented, inspired school-leavers in Napier?

This is a problem that has been nagging at me for years. I never left Hawke’s Bay for university, a career or global migration after high school. I stayed here, living and working in what I still consider one of the best places in the world. It has had its advantages, but also some major disadvantages.

Over the past decade the major drawbacks have been few career opportunities within the region and poor pay. Hawke’s Bay’s economy has suffered because of these factors and the poor economy has depressed wages and career opportunities even more.

We need to break this cycle.

I have talked to and read items written by local business people and entrepreneurs in their 30’s who, like me, never left Napier, or went away and returned. They have good ideas on keeping Hawke’s Bay youth empowered, employed and engaged in Hawke’s Bay.

There are also older, far more established business people in the region who are more than capable of being inspiring mentors to younger generations. Unfortunately their attitude to the region’s “Lost Generations” of 20-somethings is:

“It’s really hard to keep people in their 20’s in the Bay. Be great if we could, but there are easier places to focus where we swim with the tide.”
(Rod Drury, Xero founder and Hawke’s Bay resident – Quote taken from “Fruitbowl” website)

I don’t consider continuing to put this problem in the “too hard basket” and hoping Hawke’s Bay’s bright and talented young one day return to be an option any longer. Somebody needs to take a stand and do something about it.

Will you?

Rod Drury’s Xero is a successful, global company. But one thing Mr Drury fears (I read this in a special CEO lift-out in the Herald) was his company losing its “start-up feel”.

Start-ups are often skin-of-the-teeth operations. Someone starts with an idea and builds a business from it. People using their raw talent and skills – often without tertiary qualifications. I really admire people who can do that – I’m not sure I could.

The technology industry is one of the main benefactors and biggest earners of start-up thinking and business. Just look at Facebook. Typically, modern start-ups are often begun by people in their late teens and early twenties, just the segment Hawke’s Bay is missing out on!

We need to target these high-value tech companies and foster such start-ups to set up operations in Hawke’s Bay. Especially with web-based content, where work can be done from anywhere in the world, so why not Napier?

With our youth being so tech-savvy, school-leavers would be ideal employment candidates. Pay them more than the local retail of hospitality industry (it shouldn’t be too hard), provide some on the job training and “Boom!” – instant workforce and all-round benefits to Napier and Hawke’s Bay’s economy!

This isn’t asking for preferential treatment for Hawke’s Bay’s school leavers and 20-somethings. This is about giving them the opportunity to stay in their home towns if they want to and at the same time creating real, well-paying career opportunities and boosting our regions flagging economy.

Doing nothing is no longer an option. It’s time we did something about it.

Will you do it?

Anti-Social Media: Network Broadcasting in NZ

I wish this was a new problem, but it has been going on for as long as I've been a curmudgeon! ;)

I wish this was a new problem, but it has been going on for as long as I’ve been a curmudgeon! 😉

Broadcast media in New Zealand is struggling. Watching live, free to air television is becoming a thing of the past as the quality of content drops and viewers switch to the internet to watch the latest episodes of shows, where they want, when they want.

Similarly, despite hundreds of stations to choose from, former radio audiences now make their own playlists of downloaded songs to listen to at home, at work and on the go.

Who is to blame? While the evolution of technology and the fickleness of modern consumers certainly must play a part, I would argue the biggest contributor to audiences turning off mainstream broadcast media had been the media themselves.

The scale with which tight-fisted network simulcasting and cronyism (or “cross-promotion” as they would probably prefer to call it) has encroached across our screens and airwaves has become suffocating – Not only to its audiences, but to the broadcasters who instigated and maintain it.

Of all broadcast media, radio has always been the most “personal” – it’s just you and your radio. Indeed, one of the first things they teach in announcer training is that you aren’t talking to hundreds or thousands of people, but to just one person listening at home, or in their car etc.

The voice across the airwaves wasn’t some stranger, it was your friend. Some announcers even took on familial names – Maud Basham and Reverend Colin Scrimgeour became “Aunt Daisy” and “Uncle Scrim” in the early days of New Zealand radio.

Later on, when most cities had their own station, broadcasting became “Live and local, 24 hours a day!” If there was a fire in Hastings, you heard about it straight away. A crash blocked a road in Napier? They gave you detour directions as it was cleared. Some minor local celebrities were created, but it also kept you close. You often met announcers in the street.

Then in the 90’s profits started to take over. Individual stations were bought up, joined into national networks and local content was stripped back and in many cases away completely.

“Live” and “local” became too “costly” and “old fashioned”. The personal touch gave way to a wide, sweeping brush.

Ring up the local station (now an 0800 number) to ask about a fire in Havelock and you will be asked “Is that Havelock in Nelson, or Havelock North in Hawke’s Bay?” Similarly, just for fun, try asking what the weather is doing at the moment and you’re likely to receive an answer very different to reality.

Take NZME’s “The Hits” network for example: It has 25 “stations” / frequencies across the country. Each broadcasts five to seven different shows per day with one to two announcers hosting each show.

17 of those stations have a sole local announcer, usually on the breakfast show and three stations have two local announcers – again usually a breakfast radio duo like Hawke’s Bay’s “Martin and Sarah”.

Four stations have no local announcers at all – including Kapiti and Whanganui, whose “local” announcer is simulcast from Wellington and Palmerston North respectively.

In total the network has 31 “local” announcers, given the 8 announcers who are simulcast throughout the country from NZME Radio’s main studio in Auckland are technically “local” in Auckland.

This means around 158 announcing positions across the country are covered by the same 8 people in Auckland.

That hardly seems fair on local listeners, locally based broadcasters or those wanting to break into the industry.

The other main player on our airwaves, Mediaworks, is just as bad with just as may stations simulcasting just as many shows from their Auckland studios.

We are supposed to believe these few announcers are the cream of the broadcasting crop – at the top of their game. But they’re not.

As New Zealand’s two biggest radio networks vie for listeners – each trying so hard to be different to the other, just like teenagers searching for their individual identity, they all too often end up being almost exactly the same. Bland, networked drivel rules the airwaves.

Even when networks re-structure, there is little actual change.

NZME Radio “rearranged their deckchairs” in the last twelve months. But all it basically meant was the more seasoned announcers (two or three years on one station is a VERY long time, never mind 20!) on the youth-targeted ZM network moved to the studio next door and now voice the more “Classic” “Hits” network.

Where is the new talent? Where are the fresh, new voices?

It’s hardly surprising that the main examples of successful graduates the New Zealand Broadcasting School (long considered New Zealand’s premiere broadcast media training facility in Christchurch) uses are all now based in London!

Once again New Zealand’s biggest export proves to be its talented youth!

But it gets worse for broadcasting job-seekers.

It’s no longer good enough for networks to try and dominate one media platform – they must dominate ALL platforms!

Paul Henry and Mike Hosking are prime examples. Mediaworks have (unsuccessfully it appears) attempted to put all their eggs in one basket by dropping the individual Radio Live, 3 Breakfast News programmes and regular internet news service (at least a dozen jobs down the tubes in total there) and replaced them with “The Paul Henry Show” which broadcasts across television, radio AND the internet simultaneously.

Not to be out-done, Hosking hosts the breakfast show on NZME’s simulcast “Newstalk ZB” network, has a regular column in the NZ Herald (also owned by NZME), as well as being the headline act in TVNZ’s derided “Seven Sharp” and now has his own op-ed videos on NZ Herald’s online edition!

And it’s not just news shows.

Mediaworks seems hell-bent on dumbing down our television screens with board member’s pet “hyper-reality” shows. No matter how dire, repetitive, convoluted, or just plain crap these televisual offerings are, Mediaworks’ other brands, stations and network staff will still sing their praises.

“Hey, did you see ‘Show Z’ last night, wasn’t it great!?” they will broadcast, tweet and opine.

“Oh, look! Who just happens to be walking on to the set of “My Kitchen Garden Rebuild is New Zealand’s Top Singer” – it’s Dave and Jane from ‘Bland FM’ with the contestants’ latest challenge!”
How convenient…

Need a host for your new show? Why have auditions for someone new, when you can just shimmy a current staff member over from another of your network’s brands?

Can someone else have a turn, please?

Yes, they can!

Here is where the wonder of SOCIAL media comes in. You can say what you want, listen to who you want and share things with like-minded and located people.

Ask online about that fire in Havelock and you will be told precisely where it is, when it started, how big it is and likely get pictures and video live from the scene. Similarly, live weather tracking from nearby online friends will allow you to get the towels in just before the sky opens.

Social media does what it says on the packet – it is a SOCIAL MEDIA! It has a (world-)wide broadcast range, but it can also have the most personal of touches. It works superbly.

If traditional media’s income, reach, influence and almighty ratings are hurt by that, then they have only themselves to blame.

Palmed Off and Blocked Off on Prebensen Drive

Prebensen Drive's Phoenix palms - gone, but not forgotten!

Prebensen Drive’s Phoenix palms – gone, but not forgotten!

They say “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Well, in Napier’s case, the road to the port is paved with tree stumps and dodgy intersections.

A couple of months ago Napier City Council started a project 11 years in the making – the widening of Prebensen Drive from two lanes into four.

The intention is to ease congestion and hasten the trip of heavy vehicles to and from Napier’s Onekawa and Ahuriri industrial areas as well as the Port of Napier.

Built in 1990, Prebensen Drive (also known as “Tamatea Drive”) was created to help decongest Taradale Road and speed up the transit between central Napier and the suburb of Tamatea (hence the moniker). An extension linking it to Greenmeadows and Taradale came later on in 2005.

One of the first features added to Prebensen Drive was a line of Phoenix palm trees planted on either side of the road to give it a natural look not too dissimilar to Kennedy Road’s famous date palms and Marine Parades Norfolk Pines. From looking like tiny little pineapples, the Phoenix palms grew into big, wide, beautiful palm trees. Until earlier this year.

On a trip down the road, I noticed a few of the palms were missing, with the sawn-off remnants of other trees lying nearby. It wasn’t a good look and it even got some media attention, with international business visitors saddened by the destruction.

Napier City Council claimed they had tried to sell of, or move the palms, but there had been no takers and the palms had grown too big to economically re-plant elsewhere.

But it did raise the question – if four-laning Prebensen Drive had been in the works for at least 11 years (it’s not unreasonable to consider it was part of the larger plan upon creation of the road) could a solution, other than destruction of these majestic trees been incorporated earlier?

Despite lots of focus and advertising recently being put behind the constant creation and adjustments of council “Long Term Plans” the answer is evidently not.

But within the last few weeks the planning and traffic flow adjustments of Prebensen Drive and its’ surrounding industrial areas just got even stranger:

Some time ago, soon after Mitre 10 Mega moved onto its Prebensen Drive site, a roundabout was put outside the store on the corner with Ahuriri’s Severn Street.

For a time it appeared half the roundabout was there for the sole purpose of allowing easy access for Hawke’s Bay’s handy-men and women to the region’s largest hardware store. But other plans were afoot.

Ford Road, a minor side-street in the Onekawa industrial area was being extended over the creek that used to border it and past Mitre 10 Mega to join up with Prebensen Drive. This new extension opened only a few weeks ago.

But with the opening up of Ford Road, traffic flow into the Onekawa Industrial area via Austin Street – its main thoroughfare and entry / exit point was halted.

Where Austin Street used to have right-of-way from Taradale Road at one end all the way through to Prebensen Drive at the other, it suddenly had a stop sign planted at the Ford Road intersection, mere meters from the Taradale Road egress point.

While extensively publicised and signs on the road indicating the upcoming change for several months, it has been hard to break the traffic habit of decades and incidents at the new stop sign’s intersection have apparently been numerous.

But the news gets worse for Austin Street – From May 12th, due to the four-laning of Prebensen Drive, access into Austin Street from Prebensen Drive will cease permanently – essentially making Austin Street Napier’s biggest, busiest, most industrious cul-de-sac!

To enter the Onekawa Industrial area you will need to use the new Ford Road extension / Mitre 10 roundabout.

Once construction of the additional lanes on Prebensen Drive is complete, restoration of one-way, EXIT ONLY traffic from Austin Street onto Prebensen Drive (a tricky intersection at the best of times) is being considered.

But that doesn’t address a major issue this corner faces. Getting onto Prebensen Drive and heading towards Tamatea / Taradale at this intersection, particularly during morning and evening rush-hours accompanied with the rising / setting sun makes vision particularly difficult – especially with more heavy traffic set to thunder down the road at right-angles to merging traffic.

Ultimately the question for this whole project is:

“Is it necessary”?

“Does Prebensen Drive REALLY need to be four lanes?”

The prime focus of this expansion is to accommodate more heavy trucks and keep them off suburban roads and, of course, off Marine Parade.

But, while often busy, I must say I have never seen Prebensen Drive jam-packed with traffic (except when a particularly long train passes the level crossing at its central Napier.

We are a regional area, largely ignored by national economic development and internal immigration. So our suburban traffic along Prebensen Drive will likely never get to the levels of Auckland or Wellington rush-hour congestion.

And, to be honest, can Hawke’s Bay drivers really handle a four-laned road?

Many Hawke’s Bay auto pilots can’t even seem to fathom a two-lane roundabout without cutting across lanes, cutting other vehicles off, not indicating, or simply running into other vehicles? Is a four-lane road leading into a roundabout with four lanes just a few lanes too many?

I can’t help but think that, once again, there are bigger problems at play here which won’t be cured with the expensive, complicated projects that have been set in motion.

Napier, its road users, industries and palm trees deserve better!

It’s an Interesting Life – My 100th Post!

happy-100th-blog-post

A few weeks ago when I was getting my hair cut the barber said “I’ve seen you in the paper a fair bit recently. Do they give you a call whenever they are getting low on news to fill up space?”

My first reaction was to think – “Gee, what a douche-bag! Looks like I’ll be getting my hair done elsewhere from now on…”

My second reaction was to actually say “No. I just have an interesting life that occasionally involves situations that deserve publication!”

And, as this is my 100th “Napier in Frame” post, I think that’s true!

Over the past two-and-a-bit years I’ve:

Been fortunate to end up in some unique situations,

IMAG2110

To do stuff I love,

Merv

To meet wonderful, interesting people,

The team gathers before the game...

The team gathers before the game…

To share trials, triumphs and tragedy,

Double Grandad

Have some fun,

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

Generate debate and discussion,

beggar

And, more often than not, to have a bloody good vent!

g

I have also been very fortunate to have you, my readers, get involved, give support and feedback and, well, read my posts! It makes the whole exercise worthwhile.

angel

So, thank you!

Here’s to another 100+ posts and, who knows. maybe even something professional may come of it! (I’ll write for food and / or money!) 😉

Speech-bubbling the Same (Distractive) Language?

Spot the Difference

Spot the Difference

I can’t help but notice the similarities between the recently launched campaign of John Key’s pet project – changing New Zealand’s flag and those of “Amalgamate Hawke’s Bay” – A Better Hawke’s Bay’s pro-local government amalgamation endeavors here in Hawke’s Bay.

Both have very similar styling – a speech bubble being the logo that adorns both campaigns:

The “Flag Consideration Project” campaign’s logo also resembles a flag, naturally, but the tail on it and “What Do We Stand For” script most certainly intimates a speech bubble, or encouraging your own speech or opinion.

“Amalgamate Hawke’s Bay’s” speech bubbles seem to be more akin to statements (or “facts” we are told) issued by some unidentifiable source.

Both campaigns cost those who will be ultimately affected (i.e. the public) by the respective research or results of these protagonists’ projects LOTS of money:

The flag referendum process is expected to cost New Zealand taxpayers more than $25million.

While the almost childish, tit-for-tat campaigns between pro-amalgamation Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule and his anti-amalgamation Napier counterpart, Bill Dalton, have already cost Hawke’s Bay ratepayers around $100,000 (The ratepayers footing the bill never actually got a say in the money being used, by the way)

Ultimately, both campaigns try to convince us one minor detail (putting all Hawke’s Bay under the control of one council / changing the design of the nation’s flag) will somehow cure all our ills.

It won’t.

Changing New Zealand’s flag will not make houses more affordable, or completely rebuild Christchurch, or send the massive levels of inequality New Zealand currently suffers back to the Dark Ages where they belong.

Similarly, compressing Hawke’s Bay’s five councils into one will not end poverty, high unemployment, poor health, or low paying jobs in the region. Would one big, completely inefficient building consent office really be better than two or three mildly inefficient ones?

Those Hawke’s Bay central and local government politicians who claim amalgamation will help pull our region out of the societal doldrums we have resided in for the last decade also seem to have conveniently forgotten that they are the ones who have been in the central and local government positions most likely to affect the required change for that same length of time!

Can you say “Hypocritical”?

There are massive, critical issues facing our region and nation that need addressing and fixing RIGHT NOW – WAY before any of these frivolous, distractive, expensive jaunts should even be considered.

Ignoring one rotten apple as it’s put into the bag doesn’t turn that apple good – it merely spreads the rot.

Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand deserve better!