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!

Dis-Carded

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

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

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

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

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

So I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is when it happened.

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

Then I saw the other one.

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

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

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

The compulsion behind throwing the card away didn’t.

It persisted – An origami albatross around my neck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I fell in love with it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I say “almost” because I was the exception.

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

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

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

I got nothing.

It was the beginning of the end for me.

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

The response: Nothing.

I gave up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Such Thing as a Free Car Park

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Central business districts around New Zealand are suffering.

Shops that thrived for generations now lie empty due to drops in customer numbers, increases in rents and the rise of internet trading and ill-conceived council planning allowing giant malls to be built on city peripheries.

Currently the most popular panacea to injecting life into central cities seems to be offering free parking.

All the cool North Island cities are doing it – Rotorua, Hastings, Tauranga, Hamilton, Palmerston North

And now Napier is joining in on the fun, with our city council deciding to provide free on-street parking in Central Napier on Saturday November 28 for its (VERY EARLY) Christmas festival and in Taradale on December 5th for their festive fair.

There’s no such thing as a free car park, however, and NCC estimates “losses of (parking) revenue to the council of about $4200 in the city and $700 in Taradale) for these days.

But is there really a loss of revenue?

If having to pay for parking is such a turn-off to central city visitors, or the parking is too expensive, no one will park there, so no income will come from that parking space regardless of cost.

It’s like airline flights being too expensive.

If a seat on a certain flight isn’t sold – no matter how expensive of cheap the price may be, the moment the doors close and that plane takes off, the airline will NEVER recoup the money for that unfilled seat on that particular flight.

So is the cost of parking the actual problem?

Go into Napier’s CBD on any particular weekday when you have to pay for parking and the closer you get to the centre of town, the harder it will be to find an empty car park.

Having to pay for parking isn’t stopping people parking in town.

Heck, go to Wellington, where parking costs in the centre of town are ridiculously high and viciously enforced and you will have an even harder time finding an available car park.

To put it bluntly, price is no barrier to laziness. The closer people can drive to their destination and the shorter the distance they have to walk, the better.

Fifty cents or a dollar or two isn’t a great inhibitor to that.

The parking fines for over-staying your allotted time, however, might be.

When compared to other centres’ parking fines and fees, Napier’s are actually quite reasonable.

Putting a dollar in a central Napier parking meter buys you the right to keep your car there for, say, an hour.

But get way-laid and return fifteen minutes to just over an hour late and you run the risk of facing an additional $12-$21 parking fine (the time examples given being merely a reasonable representation of how long an appointment or lunch with friends might over-run their anticipated time).

Is the equivalent of twelve hours’ worth of parking time a fair penalty for being a quarter of an hour late?

How does 25c worth of time justifiably manifest itself into a fee forty-eight times that value?

Worse still, fail or forget to display one of the tickets from a parking-lot machine on your dashboard and you’re in for a fine closer to $40.

For some that’s a week’s worth of petrol and they just can’t afford to take that risk.

Parking fines that better reflect the value of the park that is being over-stayed in might be a better idea.

Lower fines would likely be more easily and promptly paid too.

If all else fails you can just do what I usually do – park at one of the hundreds of one and two hour “free parking” spaces that ring Napier’s CBD – Along parts of Marine Parade, next to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council building, up Shakespeare Road and down Munroe Street – soak up the wonderful Napier weather and enjoy the very short stroll from these already ratepayer-funded car parks into town.

Ultimately, there has to be something in town worth paying to stay and visit, too.

Rows of empty shops, vacated when landlords’ income expectations far exceed their current worth won’t attract people into city centres.

Neither will a lack of events or activities that enhance or compliment the CBD.

Bringing vibrancy and vitality back to our CBDs is what is needed to re-enliven our city centres.

If city councillors, or those tasked with looking after the heartbeat of our main business and shopping areas seriously think that a dollar or two is the only thing inhibiting our city centres from thriving, it’s beyond time they stood aside.

Why should a CBD’s vitality be fined for their over-staying?

Hawke’s Bay’s (and New Zealand’s) inner cities deserve better!

…And Be Counted!

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“The ultimate rulers of our democracy are… the voters.” Sir Richard Branson

If there was an election held today on voter participation in Hawke’s Bay apathy would win in a landslide.

If anyone bothered to vote, that is…

I did a bit of research and found for the last four local body elections – coming up on 14 years now, less than 50{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} of registered Napier voters have exercised their democratic right.

I could only trace records for the Hastings District Council elections back three elections, but they were even worse!

That’s pretty stink.

As a result of voter apathy, elected rulers of our region have largely attained or kept their positions of power thanks to the majority of a minority.

That’s not good enough.

But voter apathy could cause even more harm to our region if such a trend continues.

The vote on whether to keep Hawke’s Bay’s current governance system, or amalgamate the region’s five councils can’t have escaped many people’s attention – even more so in recent weeks with the mailing out of election papers and the ramping up of rhetoric from both sides.

Rather than being a shining example of how local body politics and an electoral system SHOULD work, it has steadily degenerated into an embarrassing farce for our region as the debate wore on.

There have been empty promises and even emptier slogans. Claims and counterclaims of cooperation and competition. Heck, both sides have even resorted to name-calling.

All that’s left is spitting, scratching and biting.

It’s basically become one big Taylor Swift song, just without the teenaged boys’ fantasy of music video.

Had all the money that’s been spent on placards, postcards and pushing different points of view (just how much does buying a front page wrap-around “advertisement” on multiple local newspapers cost these days?) been put to better use, many of the problems our region currently faces – and many of the reasons for the big-spending side’s existence could have been dealt with!

All this could have been avoided by one simple action – a MAJORITY of the population voting!

So here is your chance – Do some research, make an informed decision, tick a box and VOTE!

This is OUR region and WE get ultimate say in how it is governed!

Into the NCC Lions’ Den – Making My Submission!

THE WAR ROOM CONFERENCE DR. STRANGELOVE: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)

Below is the speech I gave as part of my submission presentation to the Napier City Council’s Ten Year Plan yesterday (Monday 8 June 2015)

Napier’s youth are its biggest export, but also its biggest asset.

We spend so much money, focus and publicity attracting tourists to Napier for a single day or two each year, why don’t we try to use that same level of funding and focus keeping our young people here and making it worth their while?

Each year around 750 year 12 and 13 students finish / leave Napier high schools: 170 from Napier Boys’ High School, around 150 from Taradale High and 135 from Napier Girls’ High School, with lower but similar numbers from Tamatea and Colenso High Schools – 600+ of those go off to university.

That’s over 1000 Hawke’s Bay youth leaving the region each year!

Most never to return.

When they do it’s three years later and at least $30,000 in debt. All too often with a qualification that has no relevance to attaining their ideal job.

Despite the message that Hawke’s Bay has an ageing population, Statistics NZ shows the percentage of 10-20 year olds in HB outnumbers the 40-50 or 50-60 age bracket!

So what do we have for them?

The Youth Council of Napier, NCC’s “Youth Policy” and “Youth Services Plans” are outdated and need serious attention – The policy and Plan were last updated in 2010 and 2011/12 respectively.

YCON appears to be a token gesture at best – it does not cater to all Napier schools and youth and is hardly ever heard from or in the public eye.

I have spoken to past YCON members who joined with the best of intentions to make a difference but ended up feeling irrelevant and ignored by the council and councillors.

The YCON website is a joke, having only just been updated last year for the first time in three years. The “latest” YCON meeting minutes are dated September 2011

The “What’s on” section of the page somehow completely ignored last Friday’s Stage Challenge, in which 10 schools from around HB took part in a dancing, musical extravaganza – something YCON and local media should have been all over , but did recommend alcoholic FAWC events and a “Moving on after breast cancer recovery programme” – hardly appropriate or relevant.

NCC had a “Youth Coordinator” position years ago, but it was dis-established and the money put into developing skate-bowls. Not all youth are skaters and if the current resurfacing of Anderson Park’s bowl is expected to take up to 6 weeks, plans to do the same to the former Marineland site are made with similar surfaces; repairs could see it out of action for months.

We have people and organisations in Napier prepared to help local youth, but they are bypassed for out of town, Christian-based organisations. Why does the council not use those who know Napier best?

Again we hear so very little from these “youth groups” – It appears the Zeal of youth and Atomic power appear to give way to Greed of collecting funding and Sloth of doing as little as possible, while retaining that funding.

With Napier’s diversifying to now include Muslim, Hindu and LGBT communities– the belief structures behind these organisations aren’t always appropriate or as egalitarian as they should be.

Napier’s youth need and want a place to a place to congregate, relax, learn and have done so for years.

Former Napier City Councillor John Harrison called the last attempt at a youth facility in the late 90’s early 2000’s a “Den of iniquity”.

We can do better than that on a facility and councillor level.

We can do better for those who choose not to go to university too.

We need more local programmes like Youth Futures – (NCC CEO Wayne Jack is a trustee, but the website leads you to believe it is) supported solely by HDC it appears – where youth can “learn as they earn” – internships, apprenticeships with local businesses.

On this council alone we have accountants, community workers, event and hospitality managers, who could surely help facilitate the implementation of such programmes with their own local business connections.

If NCC can spend 5{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} (or $3.75mill) of their $75mill operating budget attracting tourists to Napier, imagine the wonders even one third of that could amount could do to Napier’s economy, demographics and vibrancy.

Napier and its youth deserve better!

There was a question time from councillors afterwards and responses were mixed to muted.

Councillor Richard McGrath noted there were hundreds of volunteer groups around the city doing stuff with youth.

I replied that’s great – get them all around a table and get a plan going, because I can guarantee that most of them don’t know the others even exist!

Councillor Tony Jeffery referred to my written submission’s comment about NCC looking after “Baby-boomers” and that almost half the current council, for the first time in decades, was far younger and newer than it had usually been.

I again agreed, stating it was a great opportunity to make a difference and that’s why I had made my submission now and not three years ago.

Councillor Michelle Pyke, once a champion of a section of Napier youth with her venue “The State of it” (now the kitchenware section of Farmers department store) appeared to take offence to any and all my criticisms of NCC youth doings.

She even asked me “What have you done for the youth of Napier?”

In hindsight I could have mentioned:
• The two years I volunteered for the HB Cancer Society working as a Smokefree ambassador.
• Helping Stage Challenge really establish a foot-hold in Hawke’s Bay in 1998, again voluntarily.
• Playing for organising and being secretary for Napier Old Boys’ Marist Cricket Club
• Writing this blog – 105 and counting posts of inspiring, (mainly) though and debate-provoking writing. Asking questions and shedding light on local issues.
• Promoting as many local events, ideas, products and thoughts as I can on social media.

But rather than “unleashing the beast” (cathartic, but we’re asking for assistance here) I just mentioned my time on the Napier City Council Youth Forum, but admitted that looking after my family had been my first and foremost priority in recent years and it was only in the last few months that I have had time to put real focus on other things.

But it was a typically lazy, political criticism from Michelle.

Because, unlike her, I haven’t been a member of the Napier City Council for the past five years.

I don’t have access to a $75mill operating budget, easy links and access to facilities, organisations and my council’s own Youth Council.

I DO, however, have great people supporting me, a world and world-wide-web of potential in front of me and at my finger-tips and the determination to actually make a difference in not just the next five years, but a great and potential-filled future!

Will my submission make a difference?

Who knows…

All I DO know is Napier and its youth deserve far better than they have gotten in past years.

Are Amalgamationalists Holding HB’s Economy to Ransom?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other than local MP Craig Foss saying:

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

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

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

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

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

Enid

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

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

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

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

Oh, that’s right…

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

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

WHY WAIT??!!

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

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

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

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

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

We Gonna Run This Region!

Looks a bit quiet, eh?

Looks a bit quiet, eh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s frustrating as hell.

Hawke’s Bay has SO MUCH untapped potential!

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

Rubbish!

To paraphrase Napier’s own Sir Douglas MacLean:

“A region makes progress despite of its politicians”

To quote musician and bazzilionaire Jay-Z:

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

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

Heck, make a song and dance about it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple, logical problems SOLVED!

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

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

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

So there you go. Feel empowered?

I do!

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

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

Power to the people

“…Who’s gonna run this region?

We are!”

Because Napier and Hawke’s Bay deserve better!

The “P”s of Amalgamation in HB

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

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

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

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

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

This “P” GUARANTEES lower rates.

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

Because it’s “Privatisation”

It’s simple, really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there you go.

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

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

Have Your Say on the Future of Napier!

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

You can make your own submission HERE

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

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

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

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

Below is a copy of my submission:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to break this cycle.

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

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

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

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

Will you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you do it?

Palmed Off and Blocked Off on Prebensen Drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimately the question for this whole project is:

“Is it necessary”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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