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!

2018: The Year NZ’s Media Networks Evolve or Die

“It’s evolve or die, really, you have to evolve, you have to move on otherwise it just becomes stagnant.”

Craig Charles

“Humanity is now faced with a stark choice: Evolve or die. … If the structures of the human mind remain unchanged, we will always end up re-creating the same world, the same evils, the same dysfunction.”

Eckhart Tolle

The annual reshuffling of presenters amongst New Zealand’s broadcasters started again recently.

The most notable change, being Hilary Barry taking over from the recently resigned Mike Hosking and Toni Street on what used to pass for current affairs on our “State Broadcaster” TVNZ.

A few National Party spin doctors got their noses out of joint that Barry’s replacement on TVNZ’s “Breakfast” show will be former Green Party candidate (and co-host of both Crowd Goes Wild and Back Benches on Prime), Hayley Holt, but all that really came down to was sour grapes at losing their biggest primetime soapbox.

But it did raise one question: Where is New Zealand’s new media talent?

This has been an issue for New Zealand’s commercial broadcasting networks for years.

I have previously written about how little change there has been in network radio talent in New Zealand over the last 20 years. It’s gotten to the point where almost 160, once “live and local 24 hours a day!” announcer positions across New Zealand were covered by a mere eight announcers in their network’s Auckland headquarters’ studios.

A handful of long-term, nationally simulcast announcers have either recently “retired”, or been moved on from positions they have had on the airwaves for up to and over twenty years, but with such a dearth of positions for those dreaming of, or studying towards a career in radio, the waste of talent time, and investment in qualifications must be utterly disenchanting.

Add to that the popularity of personalised music streaming services and I would almost go so far as to say that by drying up their own talent pool and personal, local touches, commercial radio networks in New Zealand have already gone past the point of no return – Dooming themselves to obscurity and oblivion.

But are their television affiliates heading down the same path?

A recent NZME article opines, in light of the Breakfast / Seven Sharp hosting announcements that TVNZ’s selection of hosts is a bit.. “monochromatic” – That is a mainly Pakeha pool of talent, with a penchant for blonde females. (The article doesn’t mention that at least two of these same blondes featured in the photo for the link to the article also host shows for NZME’s own simulcast radio network “The Hits”).

Hair colour aside there does appear to be a significant stagnation and evaporation effecting New Zealand television’s talent pool.

While Barry and Holt are in new roles, they are not new to our TV screens. Before moving to TVNZ Barry was, of course, a cornerstone of Mediaworks’ Three News before the TV network’s management seemingly tried to scuttle their own ship.

Most other hosting roles for “new” shows (we’ll get to that in a minute) on our screens are merely filled by long-term staff from other sectors of Mediaworks’ TV and radio empire, or TVNZ’s television and NZME’s radio networks being shuffled around.

The “newest” hosting talent that immediately comes to mind is Mediaworks’ Kanoa Lloyd and TVNZ’s Sam Wallace, both of whom started out on TV3’s Sticky TV, before moving to weather hosting/reporting roles and beyond on the rival networks.

Both Lloyd and Wallace have now been in the industry for 9-14 years respectively, making them almost battle-hardened veterans by modern media standards.

But it isn’t just the hosting talent that is getting long in the tooth – The shows they are hosting are becoming less and less “fresh” and original.

When TV3 rebranded themselves as #HashtagLoLSelfie, sorry “+hr=e” early last year it gave a bit of insight of what goes on (or rather what doesn’t) inside the minds of those who pick what we can watch on New Zealand’s commercial television networks.

“..The (TV3 brand) has been around since 2003. And 2003 was the year that Saddam Hussein was found in a hidey hole, everyone was using the Nokia 310 as a mobile phone, and Lorde was seven years old – the world has moved on right?”

“There’s some nights I’ve watched 7 Days and thought, actually, that brand is bigger than Three – seems like it’s been bigger than Three for a period of time.”

MediaWorks’ chief content officer Andrew Szusterman.

Here’s humour and irony in Szusterman using 7 Days as an example, and not just because it’s a comedy show, but because the show is based, amongst other things, on similarly formatted “Mock the Week” (first screened in the UK in 2005, while the TV3 brand was still “fresh” and “new”), but 7 Days’ core cast of comedians had been regularly appearing on the very same channel – TV3 – since 1996 on a show called “Pulp Comedy”.

That’s the same talent, largely unchanged, on the same channel for 21 years!

“..the world has moved on right?”

While the world may have moved on, programmers and content officers’ sights have clearly not.

Let’s look at some of the options “+hr=e” viewers had last year:

The most recent series finale of “The Block NZ” (the sixth since starting in 2012) ended in confusion, derision and claims that it might be signalling the end of the Auckland real estate boom, or it might just have been a signal that New Zealand viewers were tiring of play-acting dressing up as wall-to-wall renovation “Reality TV” shows.

After all, the original “The Block” had first aired on Australian television 14 years before in 2003.

“The Bachelor”, another of TV3’s “reality TV’ stable staples first screened in America in 2002, so it’s roses were likely getting a bit dried up and losing most of their petals and appeal.

Not wanting to be left out, TVNZ last year premiered the NZ incarnation of the Granddaddy of them all, “Survivor”, which started in America in 1997 .

That’s 21 years ago!

TWENTY.

ONE!

The world has indeed moved on, but those at the helm of New Zealand’s TV and radio networks have clearly not!

Rather than try to change and innovate, like their now far more successful streaming competitors, managers of New Zealand’s broadcast media merely shake their fist and yell at the clouds, or, like dinosaurs, just stare at the glow in the sky as the asteroid hurtles towards them.

Will 2018 be the year they finally become extinct?

The End Of The World As We Know It

None of us are supposed to be here right now.

The world was supposed to end on October 7th, 2015.

Which would have been bloody typical, because that was right around the time of my birthday and it would be just my luck for everything to go “KABOOM!” (or ”Whimper”?) just before I was able to open a present, or eat some of the delicious birthday cake my wife had baked for the occasion.

But the world didn’t end.

The cake was indeed delicious and I got a model plane I’d been after for some time, so the day was far from catastrophic.

Doomsday predictions are nothing new.

I remember, as an impressionable high school student in the 1990’s, being terrified that Nostradamus had predicted the end of the word would occur somewhere between Phys-Ed and Chemistry on an otherwise typical Tuesday afternoon.

The End of the World as we Know it” didn’t happen back then either, of course.

Even though it actually did.

Because for millions of people in millions of different ways the world as they know it DOES ACTUALLY END each day.

We see, hear, or read something that changes our previous perceptions.

We fall in love.

We fall out of love.

We have children, or

We learn we can’t have children.

We lose a loved one.

And sometimes numerous people’s worlds as they know it end simultaneously when someone they care about chooses to end their own world.

A “Record 564 people committed suicide” in New Zealand in 2015

That record, like so many lives effected by suicide, was shattered the very next year.

If 380 people dying on our roads in 2017 is “Heart-breaking”, then what is 606 people taking their own lives?

And then, if road crashes and the road toll command so many print and online headlines and television and radio news bulletins, then how do we justify keeping something that takes almost twice as many lives out of the headlines, media attention and public awareness?

Now let me be clear – This is not a competition.

The highest score doesn’t win.

No one wins.

This is an issue in which we all lose.

The last time New Zealand’s road toll was as high as the country’s current suicide rate was 1994/95

For those who can remember back that far – You will recall how much coverage the road toll got and how much effort went into reducing it.

Television, radio and print advertising campaigns, more government funding, increased police presence and enforcement – It was everywhere.

Only a fool breaks the two second rule

“Drink, Drive, Bloody idiot”

In 1995 the National Road Safety Plan was launched. Using hard-hitting, high profile advertising like those above and increased enforcement. Its aim was to reduce the road toll to 402 or less by the year 2001.

The following year, 1996, New Zealand’s annual road toll was 515, the lowest number in 32 years.

Since New Zealand started officially recording its suicide rate in 2008 the figure has never dropped below 500.

Unlike 20 years ago, when drinking and driving had been more of an embedded cultural “norm”, today’s New Zealand public have been aware of severe deficiencies in mental health care and suicide prevention for some time and have been pushing for change.

Too many people have lost love ones who thought no one cared, or no one was listening.

We do.

We are.

But rather than the previous government taking notice or action on such dire figures, like in 1995, the reaction was a bit more… “closed-minded”.

It appeared that only just before the 2017 general election, nine years after taking office, that mental health and suicide prevention looked set to receive more funding.

But even then the two hundred and twenty four million dollars ($224,000,000) set aside for mental health services over four years paled into insignificance when compared to the almost TEN BILLION DOLLARS ($10,000,000,000) the National government were going to spend on highways over the same period.

Mental health services were set to receive 0.022% of what building roads would get.

Even if you took out the necessary $812mill needed to reopen State Highway One between Picton and Christchurch following the 2016 Kaikōura earthquakes, it still only brings that percentage up to 0.024

Such funding would only have been made available upon re-election, of course, and no firm dates were given in the event of that happening.

But, for that National government, the world as they knew it ended on October 7 2017, when Winston Peters chose to form a coalition government with the New Zealand Labour Party.

In their electioneering Labour, the Greens and NZ First all campaigned to put more political influence, funding and focus into the state of New Zealand’s mental health.

It is still relatively early days, politically, since the election and formation of the new government, so I could say we can only hope this iteration of central government will do more than the last.

But I won’t.

Because along with the former Health Minister’s pathetic rebuke of a public call for action, there have been other issues and concerns with how government departments have been approaching and handling the mental health of New Zealanders.

Long time mental health advocate Mike King quit a government suicide prevention panel last year, saying a draft plan the Ministry of Health released was “deeply flawed”, “ignored key recommendations made by the panel” and “continues to fund “failed experiments””

Hardly encouraging.

And ultimately, this isn’t just a big, governmental issue.

It’s incredibly personal.

As a Napier MP, Douglas McLean, once said:

“A country made progress despite of its politicians”

It’s up to all of us as a nation to look after each other.

If you’re feeling down or depressed speak up.

Ask for help.

If you see someone struggling, offer them a hand, a shoulder, or a few minutes of your time.

It might save a life.

Break the silence.

WHERE TO GET HELP

Rural Support Trust ph 0800 787 254

Lifeline: Ph 0800 543 354 (available 24/7).

Suicide Crisis Helpline: Ph 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO), available 24/7.

Youthline: Ph 0800 376 633.

Kidsline: Ph 0800 543 754 (available 24/7).

Whatsup: Ph 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm).

Depression helpline: Ph 0800 111 757 (available 24/7).

Rainbow Youth: Ph (09) 376 4155.

Samaritans: Ph 0800 726 666.

Reset

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!

A Tale of Two City Councils

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I’ve often wondered who is actually in charge at Napier City Council.

In the on-going fallout over the removal of the “War Memorial” name and features of Napier’s (now former) War Memorial Conference Centre a handful of councillors (and I mean “handful – only around four out the dozen in total) have spoken out admitting they might have actually gotten it wrong.

Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing.

But when elected councillors with up to six terms (that’s 18 years) of hindsight still fail to grasp what their community wants or claim to “not know the history” of the important decisions they are making (here’s a hint – the words “War Memorial” should generally ring foresight alarm bells) such “mea culpas” turn into flimsy excuses very quickly.

A HBT commenter recently observed, given recent council criticism, we could be forgiven for having the impression Napier was being ruled by a dictatorship.

The comments were intended to be pithy, yet, only a day after a recently re-elected councillor’s opinion piece claimed “Councillors Genuinely Keen to Hear From You” and “it is so important to continue to vigorously resist as a community any erosion of democracy and local representation that presents itself” unelected NCC staff declared that, despite hundreds of online comments, letters and texts to the Editor of Hawke’s Bay Today to “Put them Back!”, returning the Eternal Flame and memorial plaques the conference centre “was not on the list of options” presented to yet another publicly-excluded council working group / committee by yet more unelected council staff.

Where is the democracy in that?

Our mayor and CEO, meanwhile, continue to ignore any and all criticism. Instead they sit on and crow about the laurels of an inspection conducted in February, before issues with plunging staff morale and issues over staff restructuring, chlorinated water, and hocking off council headquarters to hotel developers became big PR problems.

Now we have the chasm of credibility and accountability opening underneath the council over the War Memorial and Eternal Flame removal.

The fact the publicity photo chosen to head the article features Napier’s mayor and CEO looking gleeful inside the recently “desecrated” (War Memorial) Conference Centre might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

To many that image could certainly “make mockery” of council hierarchy, justify public criticism and erode Napier ratepayers’ faith that their “local democracy and representation” was being honoured.

There certainly appears to be two councils at work here:

The unelected council management, under the stewardship of the CEO, who run council operations day-to-day and advise / provide the bulk of information and reports to the elected councillors.

And the publicly elected council of twelve councillors and mayor, who make decisions often based solely upon the information provided to them by the unelected management staff.

As reaction to the SK8 Zone debacle revealed, the information council management provides their councillors may not always be as accurate or objective as it could be.

And as I helped reveal late last year the openness and voice of the elected councillors has been somewhat muffled for some time by a Code of Conduct that every councillor must agree to and sign before taking office.

This EMCC – “Elected Members Code of Conduct” prevents publicly-elected councillors from publicly criticising each other, members of the public, or council staff, whose direction in matters like the War Memorial Conference Centre may have lead the councillors’ decisions astray, opened them up to public ridicule and ultimately mean they miss out on a seat at the council table next elections.

Even though it was considered out-dated and can only be changed or rescinded at the beginning of a new council term, all current councillors still signed up to it.

At least this time they pledged allegiance to Napier City (ergo, it’s ratepayers) rather than the local body of the City Council who they had been indentured to for untold elections prior.

Napier’s mayor claimed that the EMCC “had never been invoked“.

Rubbish.

Like any pre-employment agreement, councillors signing the Elected Members Code of Conduct before taking their seat at the council table immediately “invoke” it, meaning they have to abide by its laws from the get-go.

It also means Napier’s ratepayers, whose democratic vote selects the councillors to represent them and whose rates pay those councillors’ and council staff’s wages will often never hear the truth behind ratepayer money being wasted, the true reason for plans and directions gone wrong, or see anything resembling accountability in their local government.

The only real opportunity for true democratic change amidst the current unelected council management structure will come in September this year when the publicly elected city councillors will get to vote on whether to continue their current CEO’s contract, or head in a different direction.

Pressure from recent events must surely be mounting.

Employed as a “Change Manager”, NCC has certainly seen change under his rule. Some has been received positively, but more recently a lot has not.

Will the councillors listen to those constituents who voted them in and are now feeling ignored and subjugated by council decisions?

Or will their EMCC, lack of hindsight and foresight, and bellicose leader muffle, muddle and muzzle them into another term of the same-old, same-old?

Whatever happens, we can be assured of one thing:

Napier deserves better!

People At The End Of Glass Viewing Platforms Shouldn’t Throw Stones

Exclusive footage of what may actually be the "vandal" in action.

Exclusive footage of what may actually be the “vandal” in action.

On, or around the night of the 27th / morning of the 28th of June “vandals” are alleged to have broken one of the three glass panels on the end of Napier’s Marine Parade viewing platform.

This is the fourth time the glass has been broken since the platform was opened in 2015.

In the 30th of June edition of the local paper, Hawke’s Bay Today, Napier’s mayor said it was “soul destroying for council staff” and even the paper’s editor later chimed in vilifying the acts of, as yet, unidentified villains.

Posters on local Facebook pages alleged (without proof) the damage was caused by Napier’s current easy target – Homeless / Beggars / Rough Sleepers.

But there’s a problem with pointing the finger on this matter:

There’s no proof!

Pictures of the damage in the local paper showed, while the extra-strength glass had “shattered”, it appeared to have held its shape, like a car windscreen, meaning the end of the platform wasn’t exposed to a drop of several meters into the waterline below, but it also didn’t give an indication which direction the glass panel was struck from.

As far as I’m aware there are no CCTV cameras on the platform, or located in such a position to get an unobstructed view down to the end of the platform, especially during the middle of the night.

The council officially reopened the platform yesterday, and the paper accordingly reported:

Mayor Bill Dalton said it was the fourth time vandals had smashed the glass, which was initially installed in a single piece but later separated into three panels to minimise the cost of vandalism. He said that any repeats of the vandalism could lead to a decision not to use a see-through barrier in the future.

Council chief executive Wayne Jack said no one had been identified as a culprit for the latest damage..”

In other words they had no idea what may have caused the glass to break?

So why blindly point fingers?

I think I may have a lead on the culprit. But it may not be a “who”, rather a WHAT.

I just happened to be on Marine Parade the afternoon before the “vandalism” took place.

The sea was very rough that day:

rough

The same newspaper picture that showed the broken glass panel also showed a fair amount of water on the platform and some very damp looking concrete and glass – Not unusual, given the platform’s location.

The day before news of the damaged panel featured, coverage of Clifton Beach (south of Napier near Cape Kidnappers) further eroding away after high seas on Tuesday night – the same timeframe as the platform damage – was front and centre on Hawke’s Bay Today’s front page.

Yet no one could make a correlation?

Exactly one week later Hawke Bay put on almost identical conditions, resulting in this stunning footage by local photographer Tim Whittaker of Haumoana Beach (just north of Clifton) taking a battering. So I went for a wander down to the platform to have a look.

This is what I saw:

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The driftwood in the foreground denotes the height the sea was getting to at high tide – It is almost level with the Marine Parade Walkway and entrance to the viewing platform – Some 40-50 meters from the shoreline.

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The wash from some of the swells was still making it around half way to the high tide mark at times.

Given the homeless people blamed on social media have been occasionally seen residing under the viewing platform, the most accessible parts well within this wash zone, it is highly unlikely they were anywhere near it during these large swells. That puts a dampener on claims they were potential culprits.

And of course:

Exclusive footage of what may actually be the "vandal" in action.

Being a beach of big breakers and rough surf, the platform is a popular venue for photographers to get snaps of waves smashing into the base of the viewing platform and spray leaping high into the air and onto, and over the platform and any thrill-seeking viewers who happen to be on it at the time.

High tide on the night of Tuesday June 27 was at 8:20pm – Well after dark, and with high tide exacerbating the already wild seas very few people would have considered venturing out onto the platform in the dark.

With these high, rough seas and, given water weighs one ton per cubic meter (this is what makes tsunamis so destructive) it wouldn’t take too many waves to break even toughened glass after enough of a battering.

Factor in the chance of a hunk of driftwood, or a large stone being hoisted up by the force of the water and there’s plenty of extra ammunition to barrage and potentially break a glass panel on the end of the viewing platform with.

The viewing platform is in a very exposed position on Marine Parade and takes a battering from the elements. It had already come under early criticism for how it was holding up, particularly to tidal shingle deposits building up in the storm-water outfall pipe underneath.

It must be expected that the platform will be damaged by the elements at some stage. Good design and correct building materials should minimise these effects. But given the unpredictable nature of, um, Mother Nature some level of damage must be anticipated.

So why was the potential of a natural cause not considered or opined along with the chance of it being some miscreant human?

Given Napier City Council’s current strike rate with their ratepayers’ trust, it seems fool-hardy to just blame phantom “vandals”.

People at the end of glass viewing platforms shouldn’t throw stones!