Burying the Lede-r,

I’m a bit disappointed that Hawke’s Bay Today appeared to try and bury the lede in their attention-grabbing story of a “serious culture issue” at Napier City Council recently.

It took six paragraphs for the article to reveal the person making the allegations is running for mayor, so one would expect the public to be alerted to the fact these claims are being made by someone with such skin in the game in the article’s headline or introduction.

Comparatively, Gianina Schwanecke over at Stuff shows how it’s done, revealing the claims’ source in only the second paragraph in her coverage of the allegations.

Cultural Challenger

Mayoral aspirant Nigel Simpson a first term, Taradale ward councilor declared in his running for the mayoralty ‘I entered local politics last election because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong in Napier City Council, after a short period inside I figured it out alright, that’s why I’m running for Mayor.”

“Taking major items in and out of the long-term plan and having a considerable number of unbudgeted items is simply poor leadership and inappropriate governance of Napier, it’s time for change.” he said.

“A significant number of opportunities have been missed by the current Council, it’s time to get Napier back on track.”

If that’s the “Mayor Dalton and CEO Jack Track” he’s referring to getting back on then I think his train is going in the wrong direction, and voters with a memory longer than three years will likely leave him at the station.

What missed opportunities he is referring to are unknown too, unless he means supporting Three Waters Reform, but Simpson, along with all bar one Napier councilor voted to support NCC’s opposition to that.

Other than obviously not being a fan of the current mayor it’s hard to know what he’s getting at.

Because there is quite a list of options:

This term’s council has failed rather spectacularly to fix many or any of the issues that were the major points of contention last local body election: Napier’s War Memorial still hasn’t been reinstated, debate continues on where Napier’s Aquatic Centre should be (at least the council appear dedicated to listening to locals this time, rather than a single casting vote deciding its fate) and whenever it rains for more than a few hours across the city wastewater is still making its way into Ahuriri Estuary, despite NCC partnering with HBRC and local Iwi to mitigate and fix the issue.

Speaking of water, as I said before NCC has inexplicably joined with other Hawke’s Bay councils in opposing the government’s Three Waters Reform.

I don’t know what they think they are doing there, as years of council underinvestment have turned their treasured infrastructure “assets” into huge, incredibly expensive liabilities that they expect ratepayers to foot the massive bill for while not receiving acceptable service from.

And thoughout all those issues this council term you may have forgotten about the global pandemic that closed borders and workplaces, disrupted workflow and supply chains and killed and incapacitated millions.

It’s remarkable any culture above fungi survived!

Change of Culture

There has certainly been a change of culture at Napier City Council, with a new mayor, controversial former CEO departing with a hefty golden handshake and now several of his lieutenants following suit, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Just ask anyone who found the previous council’s stances and actions on water infrastructure, velodrome obsession, Skating Club demolition, Aquatic Centre development, or War Memorial desecration hard to fathom or utterly repugnant and I doubt they will show much sympathy to the departure of those who led or contributed to such debacles.

The Jack / Dalton administration also saw a number of high-level managers and experts leave, or be made redundant, but Councilor Simpson chooses to ignore this in his “serious culture issue” claim.

His urging the council to leave selecting a new CEO until after the local body elections is also disingenuous, as he, the council and even the Hawke’s Bay Today know “July is the start of a three-month hiatus in which councils cannot make major decisions in the three months leading up to the local elections” as reported in another council article in HBT barely a month earlier at the end of June.

Sometimes it takes a shot of penicillin to cure a bad culture, other times a new broom to sweep out all the dead wood, or clear a new path.

Turning Over a New Page

Napier City Council may not be the only place undergoing a change of culture, as Hawke’s Bay Today has a new editor starting this month.

Chris Hyde, who had formerly been Hawke’s Bay Today news director before moving over to Stuff in Hawke’s Bay for a few months will return to take over the local newspaper’s reigns.

Recently the paper has not only been “burying the lede”, but burying local opinions under not necessarily as relevant reckons from outside the region.

And, while not new or uncommon, advertising dressed up as news is still always disappointing.

In his first Facebook post as editor Chris asked what readers wanted. The responses were resoundingly “The truth” and far more relevant local content.

Good luck, Chris – I hope you can clear a new local paper path without too much interference from out-of-touch out-of-towners and management!

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