Adulting Sux

I think I’d like to give up adulting for a while.

Turn on the TV, radio, read the newspapers or surf online and you’ll struggle to avoid prime time examples of racism, sexism, sectarianism, greed, stupidity and people just being general dicks to each other.

Even the presenters themselves – Positions that used to be the bastion of straight-forward news and current affairs delivery are not immune from this.

I can think of several who appear to be actively enabled, if not impressively incentivised to be “controversial”. And they’re given the full gamut of their employers’ television, radio, web and even good old analogue newspaper formats to say stupid and mean things just to attract attention, clicks and “Likes”.

It really is pathetic.

I’m pretty certain Dougal Stevenson and Philip Sherry would thump you if you told them to act like that back in their heyday.

Don’t make Phillip Sherry angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry..

It’s all pretty depressing.

I’d say it’s childish, but I feel that would be a grave insult to children everywhere.

My own daughter, for example, will turn five later this year.

She’s brilliant – She’s kind, caring and compassionate – All the things that so much of the world isn’t! This may or may not have something to do with the fact that we have largely kept her away from the news and traditional forms of media.

6pm – Traditional “News Time” is TV/device off time in our house, followed by playing / reading and her bed time. We usually don’t turn the TV or phones on again until after 7pm.

Some might call us “Snowflakes” or say this is “Virtue Signalling”, but I prefer my daughter to grow up with empathy, rather than being a sociopath.

When other adults or managers/bosses are getting me down I find picking my daughter up from Kindy to be an intellectual and spiritual lift.

Just the other day her kindergarten celebrated Peruvian Independence Day (one of the teachers is from there and very proud of her home country).

Children and their parents from Pakeha, Maori, Indian, French, Chinese, Japanese and many other cultures all celebrated this teacher’s homeland together.

It was glorious!

There was singing, dancing, food and fun – It was caring and inclusive – All things that life should be!

This is where I hold out hope for the future, because this is normality for our children.

Our children will live in a society where their friends will be all sorts of colours, sizes and shapes.

Their favourite foods won’t just be the rather bland NZ cuisine I grew up with in the 80’s, but from all around the globe – An exotic range of flavours us adults are only just learning about.

It won’t matter whether they have mum and dad at home, just mum or just dad, two mums, two dads, grandparents or other relatives, so long as they have a home where they are safe and loved.

This will be their normal.

This is something to strive towards.

I think we have a lot to learn from our children.

We should be taking more notice of them and less of those provocative, attention-seeking adults in the media.

Creating a Buzz

Look at me, all pictorial and glossy!

Sorry I haven’t been writing on here as much as I used to.

I would LIKE to, but work, earning a living and daily life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of creative pursuits.

I have still been writing, though.

In Hawke’s Bay we have a bi-monthly magazine called “Bay Buzz”. It started out life ten years ago in an online format and slowly progressed over the past decade into this quite marvellous, glossy publication.

I sent the editor, Tom Belford, a piece I had written and he published it online in November 2008.

It was one of my first forays into writing stuff on and for the interweb.

A year or so later he asked me to write a regular piece, which we called “Man About Town” (not too thematically dissimilar to “Napier in Frame”, really) which I did for about a year, before the need for an income over-shadowed writing and my creative wordsmithing skills returned to their stasis pods, occasionally emerging to point out local wrongs and the bleeding obvious our local mainstream media somehow managed to miss with unnerving regularity via opinion columns and Letters to the Editor.

Five years ago (YES, FIVE!!) I started this site and started writing more regularly again.

A little over a year ago Tom, having seen my site and opinion pieces in the paper, approached me and asked if I’d be interested in writing of Bay Buzz again.

I accepted and the results have been quite good and glossy, with six columns published so far (and a cameo in the upcoming 10th Anniversary edition, too).

While not being paid for my regular columns because they are classed as “opinion” (how this same system doesn’t apply to certain massively monetarily and multimedialy enabled, yet utterly asinine ‘opinionist’ radio and TV presenters, I don’t know.. ), I am getting more recognition.

I have been stopped in the street a number of times by people telling me they saw me in the magazine and liked my writing, which is pretty cool – I’m not used to praise!

It’s also good to see a Hawke’s Bay publisher footing it with the “big city” type(face)s – A couple of people have said Bay Buzz is like, if not better than, (because of its local focus) the likes of North and South magazine (the Wellington equivalent of Auckland’s Metro – High praise indeed!

I will do my best to post on here more often – I’m due back on Radio New Zealand’s “The Panel” next week and I have two other posts in the works, so material is seldom in short supply – it’s more a matter of available time.

Perhaps if RNZ+, or their regional expansions were to headhunt me, I could even do it for a living!?

Gooooooood Morning, Napier!

We have some visitors in Napier this week!

(TV) Three’s “The AM Show” is gracing our fair city as part of a tour they are doing with telecommunication infrastructure providers Chorus.

They have already visited Queenstown and Nelson, with a final stop in Rotorua following their last show here tomorrow (Wednesday, 11 July).

It’s been quite exciting for the city, which is usually only on the receiving end of simulcast media networks and completely ignored by some “nationwide tours”, having the show and Napier itself broadcast live to television screens around New Zealand from 6-9am each morning, as well as being simulcast on radio and across the internet.

Broadcasting from outside of Auckland allows the show to feature special items, news and people unique to each region.

So far in Napier they have featured an obligatory touristy Art Deco piece and mayoral interview, but also Hawke’s Bay success stories, like celebrating Flaxmere College’s educational excellence.

As of their second show they had yet to touch on thornier issues like the War Memorial and the city’s water woes, or asking for ratepayers’ opinions, then ignoring them, which I still feel deserve wider attention than they have gotten (“sunlight is the best disinfectant” they say..), but promoting Napier, Hawke’s Bay and all the awesome things we do and can offer and represent is a great way of promoting the region and attracting people here (the weather has been pretty stunning while they are here, too!).

And at least they haven’t (as far as I’m aware) committed the cardinal sin of adding a “the” to the front of our region’s name

I had promoted the idea of hosting such breakfast television shows in Napier, along with 30 other ideas to attract attention to the city five years ago in my “Month of Fun Days” post. I even used the post in a couple of applications for jobs promoting Napier.

I never got so much as an interview for the jobs, but I have seen a number of the ideas come to fruition in recent years, which while great to see, is also a bit of salt in old wounds (I haven’t received any credit for the ideas, nor assistance in making them happen myself).

Hopefully it’s just the first of many occasions where Napier and Hawke’s Bay take centre stage for all the right reasons!

On the Air This Week

Miracles DO happen!

After 22 years I will be behind a microphone and on the radio again!

I’ve been asked to be on Radio New Zealand’s “The Panel” on Wednesday 13 June as an actual panellist!

After making a few cameo appearances on RNZ last year (and a little bit of lobbying on Twitter) I was asked a couple weeks ago if I wanted to be on the show – I leapt at the chance!

Since then I have been doing my best to preserve my voice, which has not been easy, as winter ills have struck almost everyone around me and I have lost count of how many times I have been sneezed and coughed on or near.

EEEwww!!

It’s a great opportunity – Not just for me, but for getting some more exposure for Napier and Hawke’s Bay, which I don’t think gets the level of coverage it deserves nationally.

I’d like to give a big thank you to RNZ Afternoon’s Executive Producer Caitlin Cherry for the opportunity – I hope I don’t let her, or Hawkes Bay down (or swear on air..).

No pressure, eh?

You can replay my appearance on The Panel’s RNZ page HERE.

Lest We Forget, But Can We Forgive?

My last post on Napier City Council’s disrespect of the Napier War Memorial went kind of gang-busters and even made it into the local newspaper!

This morning’s edition of Hawke’s Bay’s daily paper saw Councillor Kirsten Wise expressing her deep regret at the events of the past two years.

It has some eye-opening features.

In a piece that’s around 770 words, the phrase “We were told” / “We were not told” appears eight times.

EIGHT

It would appear from Councillor Wise’s account that Napier’s elected officials (and the city’s ratepayers) have been misled and misinformed for at least two years on the War Memorial issue.

It also reveals that, apparently, Napier’s elected officials aren’t too big on going out amongst those that voted them in and gathering opinion and facts before voting on things they themselves admit:

“At the time we voted to rename our War Memorial Centre we truly did not understand the legal and, more importantly, the moral obligation we had to our community.” Napier City Councillor Kirsten Wise HB Today 9 April 2018

Wow.

That’s just… “wow”…

I still can’t get past how the words “War Memorial” did not raise some red flags amongst councillors.

I won’t accept the “We didn’t know the significance” defence from a first term councillor and I CERTAINLY won’t accept it from councillors who have been in their positions for 12-18 years.

And yet they voted UNANIMOUSLY (and apparently without question) in favour of the War Memorial Name, Eternal Flame and Roll of Honour’s removal.

Their vote was, instead “made in good faith by all councillors based on the information presented to us at the time.”

And it’s only now, TWO YEARS after the War memorial vote, that this comes to light, on the same day that NCC will vote on whether to return the War Memorial name to all or part of its site.

Wrongs need to be righted, but excuses still cannot wash.

It does go some way to corroborate something I have written about several times over the years – That Napier’s elected leaders appear to have been led astray by council management for some time.

Were they TRULY representative of their constituents we would have heard differing opinions to council management’s press releases cut and pasted throughout local media.

After controversially renewing their support for Napier City Council’s CEO last year, do they still have confidence in his, and his management team’s, performance?

How can they now?

It states, after all, on the council website that the role of the Chief Executive (and his management team) is advising the mayor and council on policy matters:

Does the revelation that the elected council may not have been given (or sought out) all the required and accurate information give the likes of Napier Skating Club democratic, or legal recourse in how they were treated when their SkateZone home of 60 years was demolished in favour of a council-run facility, concrete walkways and water features?

While Councillor Wise doesn’t specifically name names in her criticism – that could arguably breach Napier City Council’s contentious “gagging” “Elected Members’ Code of Conduct”, it is rather clear who four “suggestion/s by some” refer to, given another recent article on the supposed “confusion” and “loss of income” reinstating the War Memorial title and elements would have on the desecrated site.

If there is certainly cause for concern at the level of trust or confidence that Napier’s elected councillors can now have in their management, then can they have the same level of concern, if not more, at “alternative facts” being suggested by their mayor?

I can tell you from actually taking notice, reading and listening to reactions to this whole sorry saga that Napier’s public and ratepayers have very little confidence in those currently elected and employed to manage their city.

I would like to hope that today’s council meeting, to be held at HB Regional Council Chambers, Dalton St, Napier from 3pm (pop along and show your support!) will go at least some way to rectifying two years’ worth of wrongs, but I feel the repercussions will be much longer-lasting and wider-ranging.

The next local body election vote is due late next year, after all.

Lest we (and they) forget.

Napier deserves better!

Alas, They Forgot

Is it still burning? The Eternal Flame?

Napier’s Mayor claiming the cost to ratepayers of re-rebranding the Napier War Memorial would be $142,600 is disingenuous.

The facility had been the “Napier War Memorial” from its opening and dedication in 1957, until its 1995 refurbishment put the Roll of Honour and Eternal Flame inside the facility’s entrance foyer and added the word “Centre” onto the end of the title –To better indicate how it had been a multi-use facility for decades – hosting Napier social events like weddings and school balls – even the odd conference, while still maintaining its original purpose – a memorial to locals lost in conflicts around the world.

So when council management decided, without any public mandate, that the War Memorial name, Roll of Honour and Eternal flame elements all needed to go from their home of almost 60 years and be replaced by the rather bland and single-themed (but “marketing friendly”) title of “Napier Conference Centre” who paid for that rebranding?

The mayor himself?

The CEO’s morning tea fund?

No. More like the ratepayers – none of whom had requested the change.

The mayor now also claims councillors might not have had “all that information” on how returning the War Memorial name to the facility might damage it’s “marketability” and potential conference income at a recent committee meeting where restoration of the War Memorial name to all or part of the site was proposed and supported by all attending councillors, excluding the mayor.

Napier’s elected representatives voted UNANIMOUSLY in favour of the decision to remove the name and sacred elements from the Napier War Memorial at a council meeting on April 6 2016.

Since then several Napier councillors have admitted to not understanding the gravity of their decision, the history of the War Memorial, or the strength of public feeling that followed, despite some even having relatives commemorated on the memorial’s plaques!

Were councillors provided with “all the information” they needed then, too?

It would appear not.

As for “marketability”, having the name “War Memorial” in the title of a building does not preclude it from having other uses.

That would be like saying the Sydney Opera House can only host operas!

I’m sure if he’d asked his recent “Big Apple” visitors, Napier’s mayor might have learned about the “War Memorial Arena” in Syracuse, New York, which just happens to be roughly the same age as Napier’s War Memorial Centre!

It is not just a war memorial, but also a concert venue, hosts ice hockey, indoor football and lacrosse games, trade shows and maybe even a conference or two!

In a last ditch effort to try and sway councillors at the next council meeting and naming vote on Monday April 9 (It’s being held at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Chambers, 159 Dalton Street Napier from 3pm If you’d like to go along) Napier City Council management even hired a marketing consultant.

I wonder who footed the bill for that?

I hope it was less than $142,600…

The consultant said the words “War Memorial” had “little relevance to today’s highly competitive conference market”.

This completely misses the point.

The Marine Parade site is a War Memorial first and foremost.

That’s why it was built.

That’s why the Napier public’s donations for it were so forthcoming and how local and central government funding was guaranteed. That was its prime purpose for almost sixty years.

This insistence by a small group of council hierarchy that the War Memorial Centre can ONLY be a commercial activity OR a community venue lacks both credibility and any form of medium to long-term memory.

During those years between 1957 and 2016 the memorial and its community and commercial venue aspects have coexisted quite happily.

If the conference market is suddenly so competitive, then Napier’s conference promoters just need to up their game.

There are numerous ways “Napier War Memorial Centre” can be put to the forefront of Google search engine optimisation results for “Napier”, “New Zealand”, “Events” and “Conferences” while still maintaining the dignity and respect of a War Memorial.

On top of the Syracuse War Memorial Arena’s stage are the words, “In memory of our service veterans.”

At least the Syracuse custodians have remembered the true purpose of their facility.

Napier, its ratepayers, veterans and families of the fallen deserve better!

Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness 2017

This is, from memory, the ninth time Mrs in Frame has composed a special menu for the “12 Days of Christmas”.

Each year we alternate between the traditional (Partridge in a Pear Tree) and New Zealand (“Pukeko in a Ponga Tree”) versions of the Christmas carol.

This year it was the turn of the traditional version.

Wherever possible she tries to tie in part of the carol lyrics to the dish – i.e. “Partridge in a Pear Tree” will usually contain pears or some kind of bird reference to some degree.

Due to the rather prolific recurrence of birds in the traditional carol (Partridges, Turtle Doves, French Hens, Swans, Geese..), there may also be some sort of alliteration or similar tie-in, otherwise we might as well have the “Twelve Days of KFC”….

When all else fails, a fair chunk of artistic license is brought in. It really takes a fair bit of dedication and imagination to pull off!

I’ll do my best to explain the theory behind each dish as we go.

So sit back and enjoy as I reveal what my true love made for me over the Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness for 2017:


Day 1 – A Partridge in a Pear Tree:
Meal: Spaghetti Nests with Bocconcini ‘Eggs’!
Reasoning: Reasonably straight forward, first up – The Partridge would nest in the Pear Tree, so here’s a nest with “eggs” in it!


Day 2 – Two Turtle Doves:
Meal: Turtle Bean and Quinoa Risotto!
Reasoning: Again, pretty easy – Turtle Beans replace the Turtle Doves!


Day 3 – Three French Hens:
Meal: Comfit Chicken avec Sweet Corn Basil Veloute!
Reasoning: A French theme persists her, though I cannot say for sure whether the Chicken Comfit came from a Hen, or a rooster…


Day 4 – Four Calling Birds:
Meal: Nut Granola Bars!
Reasoning: The oats, Nuts and seeds in the Granolla would make perfect bird food for the Four Calling (“Colly”) Birds!


Day 5 – Five Gold Rings:
Meal: Saffron Poached Pears!
Reasoning: After Poaching the Pears in Saffron overnight, the pears came out Golden and DELICIOUS!


Day 6 – Six Geese a Laying:
Meal: Rosewater and Pistachio Cupcakes with Persian Fairy Floss and Scorched Almond “Eggs”!
Reasoning: Mrs in Frame came down sick mid way through the Twelve Days, so I had to step in and help out – Making the cupcakes and the soup in the dish that follows. I must say the Rosewater was a lovely addition to the ground Pistachios in the Cupcakes. The Persian Fairy Floss kept with the Arabic Rosewater theme and made a great nest for the Scorched Almond “Goose Eggs”!


Day 7 – Seven Swans a Swimming:
Meal: Panna Cotta (Swimming) in Strawberry Soup!
Reasoning: The Panna Cotta represents a white Swan Swimming across a lake. Admittedly, the lake would not usually be Strawberry red, but it went BEAUTIFULLY with the Panna Cotta!


Day 8 – Eight Maids a Milking:
Meal: Cheesy, Creamy Vegetable Lasagne!
Reasoning: Focusing on the lactose aspect of the day – The Cheese and Cream that are the basis for this dish would likely have been acquired by a Maid-a-Milking!


Day 9 – Nine Ladies Dancing:
Meal: Steak and (Block-Rocking) Beets!
Reasoning: Mrs in Frame based this one on the Beets, which provide a good bass line for dancing. Personally I never went out clubbing in my younger years, as I found it too much of a “meat market”…


Day 10 – Ten Lords a Leaping:
Meal: Radish and Orange Salad with Pecorino!
Reasoning: Ok, here’s where the artistic license is brought in: Charles Grey, British Prime Minister (1830-34) is quite possibly most widely known for the tea that bears his name and later title. But before he was “Earl Grey”, he was “Lord Howick” (1806-07).
Lords, we are led to believe, like leaping and what better Lord to lead the leaping in relation to a Radish and Orange Salad than one who has tea featuring the Bergamot Orange named after him!


Day 11 – Eleven Pipers Piping:
Meal: Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Omelette!
Reasoning: “Put that in your pipe it and smoke it!” The Salmon, like the OTHER sort of (non bag-)pipe is smoked!


Day 12 – Twelve Drummers Drumming:
Meal: Goats’ Cheese, with Onion and Fig Chutneys, cherries and Bread Sticks!
Reasoning: The round Goats’ Cheese represents the Drums, while the Bread Sticks are the Drum Sticks!

So there we go, another year of deliciousness done and dusted! Many thanks to all the Facebook and Twitter friends and followers who liked and commented on the dishes!

Wherever possible, we sourced ingredients from our own garden, the Napier and Hastings Farmers’ Markets, local greengrocers, butchers etc.

For the more specialised ingredients, we went to Chantal, Gourmet Direct and Vetro – any Napier foodie’s best friends!

Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy 2018!

Napier’s 2017 Water Issues: A Trickling Timebomb Timeline

February 2017
Positive E.coli test on Napier reservoir. Water supply chlorinated for a little over a week as a precaution.

April 2017:
• Tail ends of Cyclones Debbie and Cook successively hit Hawke’s Bay hard.
Inundated Napier city water system discharges “2,500,000 of wastewater into Pandora Estuary”
• “About 20 per cent of the 2.5m litres was sewage”

May 2017:
Second positive E.coli test in Napier water supply. Council “chooses to chlorinate the system for ‘up to a month’

June 2017:
Chlorine is expected to be out of Napier’s water supply by the end of the month.”

Council’s asset strategy manager quoted as saying: “they would determine the chlorination was no longer necessary when they had stable residual chlorine levels across the network.” (odd line – were they currently UNSTABLE?)

Over all Napier has its first “Wintery” winter (cold and wet) in many years

July 2017:
Napier’s previously untreated drinking water will remain chlorinated for at least the next three months as the city loses its “secure bore” status.” Dom Post reports.

4 July 2017:
Napier Rates increase by 4.9% – Originally slated to by 3.9%, but a further 1% added “for water-related costs.”

November 2017:
Dom Post reports “Chlorine is highly unlikely to be removed from Napier’s water this month, as previously stated by the council, and there is no telling when, or if, it will be removed.”

Friday 1 December:
Dompost reports: Napier City Council announced they were shutting off the city’s chlorine-free taps in Taradale’s Tareha Recreational Reserve “until further notice”, and would be chlorinating the Otatara reservoir following a “low level” E. coli reading.

Sunday 3 December:
• Very hot day – 27-28 degrees at least.
• Two cruise ships in Napier Port carrying 5,500 passengers and crew (making Napier’s “population jump by almost 10%” according to council Facebook post).
• Napier residents allegedly use 570 litres per capita, when the average use per capita is about 300 litres per person, per day, according to Napier Mayor (see link below)

Just FYI: An average toilet flush is somewhere between 6 and 13.6 litres (making 35-70 litres per person, per day). Could 5,000 cruise ship passengers all suddenly needing to go to the toilet have caused the extra water usage?

Monday 4 December
10am:

Dom post reports an update on Napier’s drinking water problems will be discussed behind closed council doors in order to protect councilors and staff from “improper pressure or harassment“.


Early afternoon:

Napier City Council notifies via news agencies, website and Facebook that said its reservoirs had dropped to “critically low levels”.
That means if we don’t act now, we run the very real risk of running out of water at some stage soon. Maybe even tonight.”

5pm:
One sprinkler still going at Napier’s McLean Park – deemed unusable this international cricket season due to drainage issues.

Tuesday 5 December:
Napier mayor blames city residents for ‘critically low’ water levels.

Concern as Napier water workers abused over water levels

Meanwhile, Throughout this time there has been growing public concern over NCC actions and secrecy.

And the council’s ability to accept criticism or accountability has been waning.

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 and 4.4 percent) 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!