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

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!

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 100{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} 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!

Good Riddance, 2016 (Time of your Life, 2017)

cyoa

“2016 is the year I shall fart rainbows and poop unicorns!”

That was the first line of the first entry in my diary for last year.

As it turned out there were a few rainbows, the odd, rare unicorn and a fair bit of poop.

Speaking of equines and poop, 2016 started with HB Ratepayers being asked to look their Gift Horse (of the Year) in the mouth, while mucking out the event’s financial stables.

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

In February I was feeling a little unloved and unappreciated as, even before #StuffMe merger hype and propaganda was ramping up, at least one of the proposed partners was proving they couldn’t even credit the right person when taking the mickey out of another media organisation’s portmanteau.

However, the power of social media showed that far more important people were listening to me when the Office of The Auditor General replied to I tweet I sent them over Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s on-going Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme fiasco.

oag-2

Everything was plodding along happily until March came along and tried to wipe me off the face of the planet.

A month in Hawke’s Bay and Wellington hospitals changed perspectives and gave me a lot of spare time to write what has been some of my best stuff.

BizWire

Recovery and getting back into normal life meant not much time for writing posts.

The recent upheavals could have been the reason for some retrospective maudlin in June and lack of self confidence and loss of direction in August.

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

But Mediaworks scrapping what I still consider one of the finest and longest-running television shows EVER could not go unchastised in June.

Health issues and uncertain immediate future scuppered any plans I may have had to run for Napier City Council this term.

But there were other, more concerning democratic issues clouding those hopes too.

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My concerns actually made the local paper just before the election and did effect some change. Though the biggest concern I had – the “gagging” Code of Conduct still remains.

In September, after months of what I and many others considered Napier’s 60+ year old skating club getting some unfair treatment from Napier City Council, I wrote another piece that proved very popular and once again featured in the local paper.

Skating Fish

Ultimately, though, the skate club’s facility is long since demolished. The club has not been reimbursed and the errors it had put upon it are unresolved.

Those posts and their other printed pieces received a lot of attention, however, which was very welcome. Because it showed that local people STILL care very deeply about local news and issues – Something media networks and #StuffMe proponents still seem utterly oblivious to.

Those local concerns, this time over Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillors’ behaviour and the debt the organisation was set to burden all its ratepayers with for the benefit of a few in the Ruataniwha area, did at least see some positive local government change, with the balance of power tipping from pro-dam to anti-dam in this year’s elections.

db

I finally got my cool cyborg parts in October and we closed out the year with our traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness” menu review.

I would love to say I helped democracy and righted wrongs this year, but that wasn’t the case. I helped shed light on what I considered were problems and wrongdoings, but those issues STILL exist.

That’s a real disappointment.

Though, given the interruption my life had in March-May, I guess it wasn’t a bad run for the rest of the year.

And, as I’ve written many times this year already: “There’s always someone out there worse off than you”.

There is still 2017 (and hopefully many more years) to come to get some good achieved and points on the board.

Now, does anyone know of a good unicorn dealer in Hawke’s Bay?

dgf

Fishy Goings on at the Skate Bowl

Skating Fish

Something smells fishy about the way “Sk8 Zone” / The Napier Skating Club has been treated over recent months – and it’s not just the aquatic entrails of Marineland’s gutted carcass.

A couple of weeks ago, just as the school holidays were about to get underway, Napier City Council announced the “pop-up” site they had found and leased to temporarily house the club was now not “looking viable” due to structural concerns about the site.

It was the latest sprinkle of salt in a wound that had most recently flared when the council rather unceremoniously evicted the club and demolished their 61 year old premises – despite saying in August last year that SK8 Zone would remain open until the new park opened.

In Hawke’s Bay Today on July 19 NCC’s community strategies manager Natasha Carswell said “the council had spent considerable time searching for an appropriate venue and was pleased to have negotiated the (Salvation Army site) deal”.

Add to that another month’s worth of reconstruction and expense by Skating Club members and you have at least 8 weeks for Napier City Council to check and sort building reports, earthquake ratings, codes of compliance and change of usage for the temporary site they found for the Skating Club.

Yet the site was only discovered to be “unsafe” the weekend it was due to open?.

That doesn’t sound right.

Incidentally, what civic authority administers and controls such oversight of buildings in Napier? Oh, yes – Napier City Council!

In fact the Community Services and Compliance / Planning departments are a few minutes’ walk apart or mere speed dial away!

Council Community Services / Strategy departments expressed platitudes that this development was “really disheartening for both the team at council and the skate club.”

But the NCC Marineland skate park is not a redevelopment of “Sk8 Zone”, rather a replacement.

Whilst NCC CEO Wayne Jack had previously claimed that “We definitely need their input to make it a world-class facility… The club is instrumental to [the facility’s] success”, the council have previously stated they wanted to run the new facility because they felt Napier Skating Club does not have the “operational expertise” despite 61 years of operation.

You will, of course, remember how successful NCC’s recent “operational expertise” in MTG construction and Art Deco Bus operation proved.

You could easily be forgiven for thinking there appears to be a strategy going on here, but it’s not in the community’s best interests.

At best this is an error that would likely see any other organisation liable for what this is costing the skating club.

At worst it could look like an attempt by the council to break a long running, local, mainly voluntary community organisation that it sees as competition to its plans.

Napier deserves better!

Vox Populi?

g

We so seldom publicly hear from our councillors here in Napier, you can easily forget they exist, other than in the run up to elections.

Edicts are typically issued by the Mayor and / or CEO.

A couple years ago a Massey University study appeared to indicate Napier’s elected councillors were effectively gagged by the council’s Code of Conduct.

This “Elected Members Code of Conduct” (or “EMCC”) does indeed appear to strip our elected members of many rights including the ability to publically criticise other councillors or members of council staff and limits who can say what to the likes of the media – thus the “We’re all one big, happy family” visage of the last few years that receives wide scepticism.

Or, more horrifyingly, imagine if they all did in fact willingly agree with and vote to support the Deco Bus and MTG fiascos!

The latest “gagging” incarnation of Napier’s EMCC appears to have been around since 2004, but this EMCC is “reviewed and confirmed at each triennium by local councils” – you would expect this to coincide with the three-yearly local body election process.

So wouldn’t you think at least some councillors would have queried or tried to change or abolish this over the last 12 years / four elections?

This current council term coming to an end saw the biggest number of councillor changes for over a decade and the biggest chance of such changes yet but, alas, no change.

Question One: So why hasn’t the “gagging” EMCC been changed or challenged since 2004?

Just yesterday I also came across something that would appear to severely limit councillors’ abilities:

While reading the 2016 Napier City Council Candidate Handbook, I came across the declaration Napier’s councillors have to take before taking office “Inaugural Meeting”, Page 9 FYI).

I found the wording that councillors will “Perform in the best interests of Napier City Council” very odd.

Not for the public of Napier, or even ratepayers, but Napier City Council – the local authority!

Very odd indeed.

I investigated further, asking a Twitter friend who is an absolute gun on matters of legislation and they pointed me towards section 14 of Schedule Seven in the Local Government Act of 2002, which had the boiler plate for such declarations.

Napier’s declaration does indeed appear different.

Whilst the Local Government Act’s declaration states councillors will “Perform in the best interests of (City/District) VIA their (Local Authority)”, Napier’s rather clearly seems to imply councillors’ main loyalty is to, well, the council!

“Autorität über alle”

LGA

Just who is in control here?!

Along with the “unanimously supported” Deco Bus and MTG horror stories, NCC now looks intent on building a velodrome, with their avid cyclist CEO leading the peloton.

I didn’t vote for the CEO. No member of the public can.

From recent news coverage the majority of Napier ratepayers don’t want a velodrome, they would prefer more / bigger public swimming pools, as the city of over 60,000 currently has only one.

Here we have a problem.

If it is in fact unelected staff, rather than councillors, leading the charge or in control of major council ventures and they go pear-shaped at the ratepayers’ expense, such as the aforementioned bus and museum travesties (which no member of the public voted for either), recent concerns with NCC’s Animal Control Department, or the on-going Sk8 Zone debacle we can’t vote out the council’s CEO or staff when they are involved in such high-jinks.

But we can (but for some unknown, highly irrational reasons didn’t) vote out the councillors who (apparently) supported it.

This all sounds very much like one of the many downsides of privatising council / state owned assets.

So:

Question Two: Who of the incumbent and potential Napier City councillors will truly stand up for those who support and elected them this election and finally challenge and change this “gagging” EMCC and the misguided allegiance of the Councillor Declaration?

You are the voice of the city’s people!

Napier City Council is supposed to represent and support the people of Napier City, not just senior council management and staff – let’s see that!

Change the EMCC!

Vox Populi!

Napier voters deserve better!