Something In The Water

NCC workers keeping one of the city’s biggest stormwater drains clear.

During last week’s rather atrocious weather across Hawke’s Bay Napier’s continuing water woes became even more evident, with Napier City Council issuing a notification for residents to refrain from taking baths, or flushing toilets for 36 hours on Wednesday the 5th of September, as the city’s wastewater system failed to cope with the amount of rain that had fallen almost continuously for 24 hours.

For the second time in less than 18 months, Napier City Council released stormwater and sewerage into Napier’s Ahuriri Lagoon, otherwise known as “Pandora Pond” after more than 90mm of rain fell in 24 hours between Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th of September.

That’s almost twice the average for the entire month!

Similar events occurred last April when the tail ends of Cyclones Debbie and Cook successively hit Hawke’s Bay hard and the City Council discharged 2.5million litres of wastewater into Pandora Estuary.

In both cases warning signs were erected around the estuary and immediate areas warning against swimming and the collection of seafood due to the public health risk of possible contamination from sewerage in the water and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the region’s environmental watchdogs were alerted.

Pandora Pond – Looking a bit murkier than usual after the heavy rains

“But how does sewerage get in the stormwater?” you might rightly ask.

It’s to do with infrastructure, namely pipes.

Ideally rain falls from the sky, onto your roof, into your spouting and into the stormwater system via gutters and stormwater drains / creeks and eventually into rivers / lakes / out to sea.

Unfortunately some spouting goes into the wrong drains around the house – Wastewater drains from bathrooms, showers, laundries, which gets treated with sewerage from.. um.. “other drains”.

During severe weather events, such as the one we’ve just gone through, having the wrong pipe going into the wrong drain can greatly increase the amount of wastewater in the system.

But Hastings and rural Hawke’s Bay had more rain than Napier did – at one stage I saw a reading of 191mm for HB, 66mm for Hastings and “only” 43mm for Napier in the 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday.

So how come Hastings only started to feel the effects of the severe weather a day or so later, with Porta-loos distributed to some residents in the suburb of Akina, as their stormwater and sewerage systems stated to struggle?

From the makers of “Highway to Hell” and “Stairway to Heaven” comes “Driveway to Puddle”!

It could be something to do with Napier being coastal – The seas were certainly huge for most of the week and it would be hard for the water to drain out to sea when the sea is doing its best to get onto the land.

Marine Parade’s walkway was a mess on Thursday after high seas accompanying the storm battered the coast

It could be the fact we’re the lowest point above sea level in Hawke’s Bay.

Water naturally runs downhill and it might take a day or so of heavy rain for natural drains to back up the height difference between Napier and Hastings.

Or it could be that the city’s pipe infrastructure just isn’t up to it.

It has been known for some time that Napier’s water infrastructure was aging badly and in need of repair soon, if not overdue.

This has been the problem with Napier’s drinking water – It isn’t Hawke’s Bay’s aquifer quality being sub-par – The water down there is just as clean and pure as usual, it’s been council infrastructure – Bores, pipes and reservoirs letting the side down .

You might remember during the region’s contentious amalgamation debate and vote three years ago that Napier’s infrastructure was a rather large sore point.

I was strongly opposed to amalgamation, seeing the way it was promoted merely as a cynical attempt to sell off and/or privatise council departments (like water) and assets.

Amalgamationalists claimed Napier’s pipes were in a bad way and would likely cost many millions to repair / replace, while NCC’s vanguard staunchly defended its underground assets.

“Napier is very well positioned to meet any future infrastructure related growth or renewal challenges.”

“The short answer is Napier’s infrastructure, I can assure you, is in excellent shape.”
Napier Mayor, Bill Dalton. September 2015

It looks like council hierarchy might have, yet again, spoken too soon.

Even the NZ Auditor General’s office piped up, so to speak, on Twitter after this week’s rain referencing some 2016 stormwater analysis.

But the most odd pronouncement over the issue must go to the regional paper, Hawke’s Bay Today’s, new editor, who wrote on the weekend after the deluge that “A Wee Bit of Wee Never Hurt Anyone, We Hope ”.

That was just outright bizarre!

Has he not heard of Giardia? Campylobacter?
Has he not simply tried searching his own paper’s website for the words “Havelock” and “Gastro”?

His newspaper did win an award (albeit under the previous editor) for being “news central” for the Havelock North Water Crisis two years ago, after all.

Or maybe he just needs to talk to the mother whose child got sick after swimming in Pandora Pond.

Again, his newspaper reported on the incident.

Whichever way you look at it SOMETHING needs to be done – And QUICKLY!

After last year’s rain event and stormwater release the Regional Council said the deluge was a “Once-in-Five-Year” event, but had since scaled that estimation back to once-a-year”.

To its credit, Napier City Council has put aside over $20 million for refurbishing its water systems in the coming years, but after almost back-to –back yearly events, could it be too little, too late?

Our climate is changing (whether radio host Leighton Smith believes it or not) and the weather is getting more severe, more often.

Sea levels are expected to rise and Napier’s population is expected to grow by at least 2,000 households in the next ten years – Increasing the demands and challenges on infrastructure even more.

If we don’t do something to counter its effects fast, we face severe safety and public health issues and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s environmental regulatory department and some regional councillors have already aired concerns and displeasure with how Napier City Council management has dealt with these recent events.

Perhaps we could delay some of the council’s glamour projects, like the $45 million seafront Aquarium upgrade until we have the city’s water supplies going in and out the right ways.

After all, who will visit the refurbished aquarium if we’re all too sick, or washed away to get there?

Creating a Buzz

Look at me, all pictorial and glossy!

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

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

I have still been writing, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gooooooood Morning, Napier!

We have some visitors in Napier this week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Air This Week

Miracles DO happen!

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

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

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

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

EEEwww!!

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

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

No pressure, eh?

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

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!

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

The Truth Shall Make ye Fret

Napier ratepayers' fuses are running down over their council's treatment of the city's war memorial eternal flame.

Napier ratepayers’ fuses are running down over their council’s treatment of the city’s war memorial eternal flame.

“The truth shall make ye fret” Terry Pratchett “The Truth”

Albert Einstein once said “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

It certainly appears that public trust in what Napier City Council says is the truth is fading fast.

That NCC, normally so obliging for a positive-spin photo op, was not quickly forthcoming with access to the stored-away flame and Roll of Honour plaques (note – we haven’t seen a photo of them yet) erodes what little public trust they may still have even further.

Long-term, seat-warming councillors can express their regret, hindsight and sympathy all they want. But it doesn’t hide the fact that those same publically elected councillors voted to remove the “War Memorial” name from the Marine Parade conference venue (on the basis of marketing jargon from unelected council staff) and in doing so, consigned a sacred memorial to a council yard and the Eternal Flame to being sheltered by what appears to be a rubbish bin cover.

This is hardly new, though.

The likes of “Spin-Doctoring”, “Fake News”, “Alternative Facts” and “Dirty Politics” have been around long before #Hashtags made them fashionable on social media and American politics somehow made them standard operating procedure.

In recent years Napier ratepayers were told Art Deco Busses would be a great tourism attraction and money spinner. They weren’t.

We were told 680,000 people would visit the city’s new Museum, Theatre and Gallery. They didn’t.

The same facility was meant to be able to house the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust’s $44 million, 100,000 object collection. It still can’t.

Napier Skating Club was told that “SK8 Zone” would remain open and in place until the new, Council operated “Bay Skate” facility was opened. It didn’t.

When the council demolished Sk8 Zone ahead of what was previously stated, we were told they had found a temporary facility for the club. The week it was supposed to open we discovered that wouldn’t happen either.

Watchdog! claimed there were serious issues with the Napier Pound. Napier’s mayor called it a “pathetic crusade”. The Ministry of Primary Industries found otherwise.

Following a positive E.coli test and subsequent chlorination of Napier’s normally pure water supply in February this year, another positive test was returned in late May.

To ensure the waterborne bugs were killed off the council chose to chlorinate the whole system for “up to a month”.

That was still on track in mid-June when Napier’s water was due to return to normal “by the end of the month”.

Yet, here we are in July – six weeks later and it still smells like a swimming pool whenever I turn a tap on and our annual rates are up 4.9{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} for something that never used to be a problem.

And, of course, we’ve been told Napier “needs” a multi-million dollar velodrome, in fact it’s the “number one priority” for some in council and is sneaking back into agendas.

We don’t.

I’ve read through the “O’Connor Sinclair Participation Report 2014” and “Hawkes Bay Sports Regional Facilities Plan Feb 2015” reports which were being used as a basis for justifying this “need” and for the life on me, all I can find about a velodrome is that, Under “State of the Sport” for Cycling, quote: “There is no track cycling venue in HB” and under “Development Options”: “Explore future opportunities for a velodrome”. That’s it!

The same report stated that ”No additional development is required” for “Aquatics” (Swimming), despite “an increasing trend” in participation , current facilities closing due to earthquake strength issues, and lane pool demand outstripping supply.

During the last election the public very clearly voiced their opinion that what the city needed a public swimming pool like the old Onekawa Olympic Pool. Those running for re/election voiced almost universal approval for a pool and dismissal of the velodrome.

Even the mayor said the Velodrome/Public Pool issue was “not an either/or situation”.

Yet thousands of ratepayer dollars have been spent on viability reports for and promotion of a velodrome concept wanted by a very small minority, while there’s no sign of a new, publicly supported, competition / Olympic-sized swimming pool under construction and silence from its freshly elected ‘supporters’?

More recently, many a “Yeah, right!” has been muttered at revelations NCC’s offices were dangerously earthquake-prone, despite 2010/11 reports saying they were more than 100% up to code.

Many consider this timing all too auspicious, given NCC management were looking at selling the site off to hotel developers, relocating NCC HQ into the neighbouring library building and somehow squeezing Napier’s library into a much smaller space amidst Clive Square and yet more war memorials – Napier’s Women’s Rest building and the city’s cenotaph!

Throughout this, the senior, unelected, Napier City Council management behind many of these decisions have remained silent, while the city’s mayor attacks public, press and online questioning and criticism of his council’s decisions and actions, lambasting critics as “nay-sayers”, as if the rate-paying public who fund his salary were responsible for the problems.

It used to be that public servants took great pride in doing just that – serving the public.

More recently, and locally, it feels like there is an expectation that the public should be serving them.

The people of Napier want answers.

The people of Napier want the truth!

The people of Napier deserve better!

Regional Media Matters

tv

TVNZ’s, “regional-focused” restructuring plan and Mark Jennings’ opinion piece on it not adding up deserve some more attention.

Jennings is right on some points – As a “cost cutting” move this saves very little considering TVNZ just spent $60mill refurbishing their Auckland Headquarters and at the quoted wage of $60,000, the network could afford to hire 16-17 new regional TVNZ staff for the price of their one CEO’s $1mill salary. So, no, it doesn’t stack up financially.

If TVNZ was truly serious about covering the regions they would invest far more than just one multitasking “Video Journalist”. They would build a studio; hire local camera, sound, editing and reporting staff – That’s a commitment to the regions.

But Jennings gets one thing very wrong in his opinion piece and it drives a chronic problem endemic to New Zealand’s broadcast media.

It’s seen viewership dropping, less advertising revenue and less reliance and relevance on traditional New Zealand media over the last few decades.

He doesn’t believe TVNZ having reporters in regional centres is a good idea because:

“Viewers in Invercargill don’t give a toss about Whanganui’s sewage problems”.

“There are simply not enough stories of national significance in Nelson or Queenstown or Tauranga to justify a full-time TV reporter in those areas.”

In other words:

“New Zealand’s regions don’t matter”

Apparently nothing newsworthy (other than the odd murder or natural disaster) exists outside of the main centres, especially Auckland where New Zealand’s main broadcast media are based.

Auckland is indeed a big city, with around 1.4 million residents a fair bit of stuff, some of it newsworthy happens there. But New Zealand’s population is nearing 4.5 million, meaning less than one third of New Zealand lives in Auckland.

Yet what do we see plastered across our news websites every day and on national television news every night despite our location?

Auckland issues.

Over recent years Auckland house prices and Auckland traffic congestion have taken a lion’s share of national news media coverage.

Ironically Aucklanders aren’t home in time to watch 6pm news items on traffic congestion because they’re still stuck in it!

Do those same Invercargill viewers Jennings refers to “give a toss” about those Auckland issues?

Is something that might be relevant to 1/3 of the country’s population “nationally significant” to the other 2/3?

No.

Using Jennings’ theory, what could be a serious public health problem for the people of Whanganui caused by corporate shortcutting for profit or council graft – problems not just limited to the main centres and deserving of airing nationally so those responsible can be held to account and the same problems don’t happen elsewhere is shelved because “no one cares about that”.

Yet everyone from Cape Reinga to Bluff needs to hear about a breakdown on the North-western Motorway causing a 15 minute commuter delay?

There’s something very wrong with that ideology and it’s not just limited to New Zealand television.

Non-commercial Radio New Zealand, by comparison, DOES cover the entire country with stories from regional New Zealand commonplace and it does so on a far smaller (and rather criminally FROZEN) budget than it’s commercial radio compatriots.

It also soundly BEATS those same commercial networks in their almighty ratings quest.

The only gripe I would have with RNZ is while the likes of “The Panel” do at least feature opinions stretching the length and breadth of New Zealand, main centre media, PR, political and pollster voices are still a bit too commonplace and not necessarily representative of a “true” or “honest” New Zealand voice or opinion.

Aside from Radio New Zealand, the widest geographical coverage of New Zealand by network broadcasters comes from Maori TV and TVNZ’s “Te Karere” featuring areas of higher Maori population and issues – Northland, East Cape, King Country, Whanganui etc..

Maori media, at least, readily present stories of “national news significance” outside of Auckland and other main centres.

Of all broadcast media, radio has always been the most “personal”. It’s just you and your radio.

Indeed, one of the first things they teach in announcer training is that you aren’t talking to hundreds or thousands of people, but to just one person listening at home, or in their car etc.

It used to be each regional centre had their own radio station or two. Broadcasting became “Live and local, 24 hours a day” (I know – I did the midnight to dawn part of the 24 hours).

If there was a fire in Hastings, you heard about it straight away. A crash blocked a road in Napier? They gave you detour directions as it was cleared. Some minor local celebrities were created, but it also kept you close. You often met announcers in the street.

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

Ring up your “local” station today to ask about a fire in Havelock and you will be asked “Is that Havelock near Nelson, or Havelock North in Hawke’s Bay?” There’s no longer that closeness or community, because in New Zealand media “the regions don’t matter.”

Last time I checked the reach of one of NZ’s major radio networks it had 25 frequencies / “stations” across the country. Each broadcasted five to seven different shows per day with one to two announcers hosting each show.

17 of those stations had a sole local announcer, usually on a breakfast show and three stations had two local announcers – again breakfast duos.

Four stations had no local announcers at all – their “local” announcer was simulcast from a neighbouring region.

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

This means around 158 announcing positions across the country – once covered by local broadcasters, covering local issues – are now covered by the same 8 people in Auckland.

That hardly seems fair on local listeners, local broadcasters or local issues.

But it’s no longer good enough for these Auckland-based networks to try and dominate one media platform – they must dominate ALL platforms across the country!

We now have the same “media talent” on simulcast breakfast radio, with regular columns in newspapers and websites owned by the same networks, as well as being the headline act nightly television news and current affairs shows!

As the reach of New Zealand media has expanded the range of content, opinion and input has drastically narrowed. And it’s not just news shows.

No matter how dire, repetitive, convoluted, or just plain rubbish New Zealand’s “reality television” offerings are, the networks that screen them will still promote them and sing their praises through their print, radio and online arms.

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

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

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

New Zealand’s media “talent pool” has become a puddle and it’s evaporating fast!

Can’t someone else have a turn, please?

Yes they can!

This is where the wonder of social media comes in and why our current “traditional” media networks seem so scared and threatened by it.

Because the likes of Facebook are doing the job TVNZ used to do with shows like “Top Half”, “Town and Around” and “Today Tonight”.

Ideally they should STILL be doing this today if things weren’t so Auckland-centric and fiscally focused.

Our major “State Broadcaster” is called “Television NEW ZEALAND” after all.

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New Zealand’s network media gave up on two thirds of New Zealand years ago, so it’s only fair that the majority of New Zealanders switched off their televisions and radios and turned to Twitter and Facebook on their computers, Ipads and smartphones.

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

Ask online about that fire in Havelock and you will be told precisely where it is, when it started, how big it is and likely get pictures and video live from the scene.

Social media is everywhere and people disenchanted with a lack of local coverage will create their own groups covering the news and issues important to them in their cities and regions.

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

Because regional New Zealand DOES matter. 2/3 of the country is too big to ignore.

New Zealand viewers, listeners and media consumers – regional and metropolitan alike deserve better!

But what would I know – I’m from Hawke’s Bay.

Apparently I don’t matter! 😉

McLean Park’s Drainage Problems Need Plugging

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As a life-long cricket fan and player it breaks my heart to think that McLean Park may be struck off the international schedule after the recent farcical game abandonment.

As a sporting venue there are few more picturesque grounds in the world – Phoenix and Norfolk Pines surround with Hawke Bay sparkling in the background and Cape Kidnappers reaching out to the distance of any wide shot of the park.

It is a place of many fond cricket memories – From Danny Morrison’s hat-trick against India in 1994 to England and New Zealand scoring a combined total of 680 runs in an epic, TIED ODI in 2008, or even Scott Styris and Mitchell Johnson butting head and helmet in 2010 proves McLean Park’s pitch, at least, can deliver the goods.

The cricketing deities may smile upon the clay block out in the park’s middle, but when the skies (and ticket-buying fans) weep, it can be another story.

Drainage at McLean Park has long been an issue and while it may not affect the “mainly rugby” aspect of the ground, cricket’s red and white leather balls don’t take to moisture quite as well as their oval, synthetic rugby cousins.

In an interview for a pre-Cricket World Cup venue tour in 2014 former player and cricket ambassador Gavin Larsen noted before the World Cup “some maintenance work will occur, including drainage improvements on the outfield” (Bay Park in Cricket Spotlight March 26 2014).

The ground underwent improvements around that time with, I believe, a re-turf of the field and drainage improvements made.

Just before Napier’s World Cup games began it was declared the “Pitch is Cricket-perfect” (Napier Mail 4 March 2015). A groundsman was even quoted as saying:

“We have very good drainage out here on the park and we plan to keep it that way. Across the park we have drainage lines about 1.5meters apart, so it drains very quickly into the sump”

McLean Park’s World Cup games all went ahead without outfield issues (even when it rained the morning of the final game between West Indies and UAE).

Volunteering at McLean Park's Cricket World Cup games.  Photo c/o Steve Dykes

Volunteering at McLean Park’s Cricket World Cup games.
Photo c/o Steve Dykes

But since then things haven’t been so flash.

Last year’s Pakistan game being abandoned has been mentioned, but is quite different from the NZ Australia game in that about 40mm of rain fell the day before the Pakistan match with another 10mm on match day.

In other words “it hosed down”.

I doubt many venues would have been playable after such a deluge.

It similarly poured down when the All Blacks finally returned to McLean Park to play Argentina in 2014, but the game went ahead with great ticket sales and the city thrived with all the visitors.

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Yet, for whatever reason, one of the greenest pieces of grass in an otherwise bleached-dry region was “too wet” to play on.

That’s not good enough.

It’s even worse when you consider ratepayer money went into getting the game here.

I had naively thought New Zealand Cricket dispensed matches out in an egalitarian manner – West Indies will play here, India there etc., but this is not entirely the case.

Hosting venues (or rather the local councils behind them) “bid” to host bigger games like NZ v Australia.

Not only is there an expected, ratepayer-funded cost in the logistics of hosting of these games, but there’s also an added financial sweetener to attract them here?

So to have a big game like this Chappell-Hadlee match canned in such a ham-fisted manner with players, international media and worst of all the rate and ticket-paying public left in the lurch harms not only McLean Park’s reputation and reliability, but also Napier’s finances.

We want to see Hawke’s Bay promoted on the world sporting stage. We want people to visit and enjoy our wonderful region. We want to see international sports played here and as Napier and Hastings’ combined population is around 130,500 – the 5th largest population base in New Zealand (Hamilton = 150,000 and Tauranga = 128,200) we are in the box seat for hosting such events.

The March 1st ODI against cricketing greats South Africa has now been lost to Hamilton and Napier City Council have revealed that field and drainage upgrades at McLean Park had been put off prior these recent events that will now be done this year, but all too late for this cricket season, criticism and credibility.

There are two One Day Internationals against England and Pakistan scheduled to play in 2017/18. For the sake of one of New Zealand’s most popular international sporting grounds let’s hope things are sorted by then.

Mclean Park’s drainage problems need plugging.

Napier sporting events deserve better!