Whinge Away!


I have noticed a disturbing trend emerging in Hawke’s Bay recently – no-one is allowed to complain. About anything.

If you do, you are a “Hater”, or a “Knocker”. Basically, it’s devolved into George W. Bush-esque “You’re either with us or against us” bullshit.

You don’t like the fact a giant container park has grown skywards, right next to Napier’s picturesque Estuary nature reserve? Then you don’t support new jobs being created!

Or If you think Lawrence Yule’s roles as Hastings mayor, amalgamation advocate and head of Local Government New Zealand might all conflict in some way? Or that using ratepayer money pay for promoting Hastings District Council’s pro-amalgamation (and inevitably Napier City Council’s anti-amalgamation) viewpoints could be considered as some level of graft or misappropriation of public funds, then you don’t support democracy, or making Hawke’s Bay a better place!

What a croc….

Sadly, the sentiment has been around for a while – it has even been ingrained in HB local body policy.

A Massey University researcher found Napier City Council’s code of conduct “stifles the free speech of councillors”.

Massey University’s Dr Catherine Strong analysed codes of conduct of all New Zealand’s city and district councils and found:

“Napier City Council was the only Hawke’s Bay council to include what she called “disturbing” wording preventing elected representatives’ talking to the media about anything negative within their council.

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”.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said his council’s code of conduct was “”toughened up” over 10 years ago during a period when the council “almost became dysfunctional” due to infighting between councillors”.

“There were councillors on the council at that stage who spent more time attacking each other than they did working for the city. The whole idea was to be able to deal with that and in fact the voters of Napier dealt with it in the 2004 elections.” Following the elections “the problem went away”.

The councillors he is referring to were Dave Bosely and current “A Better Hawke’s Bay” / pro-amalgamation spokesperson, John Harrison.

I remember that time and the ongoing feud that carried on throughout local papers and around the city. At times it was very petty and not a particularly good look for the council, or either councillor, but it at least showed there was debate and differing opinions going on between our civic leaders.

“It certainly hasn’t been necessary since and in my eight years on council there has been absolutely no need for the code of conduct to even be looked at.” says Mayor Dalton.

That’s because Dalton’s predecessor Barbara Arnott and her CEO Neil Taylor appeared to have their feet firmly down on the throat of any form of dissent. As a result you heard virtually nothing from anyone except the mayor and CEO for years.

But the policy is still there and could very well have been part of one of the things NCC’s former economic development manager Ron Massey was dismissed for after he allegedly poo-pooed NCC’s failed Art Deco buses at a HB Tourism meeting.

But let’s be perfectly honest, WHO COULD BLAME HIM?? Pretty much every Napier ratepayer who had to pay for that sorry mess was critical of it, so why couldn’t some NCC staff be too?

By comparison, all of last term’s councillors voted for the cursed things (as far as I can tell), and were able to laugh off the large ratepayer-funded loss. Nobody criticised anyone else (keeping within code of conduct guidelines) and NO-ONE WAS MADE ACCOUNTABLE! What a win-win situation!

As Doctor Strong said of her results: “Most people elect their local councillors because they want some changes or they want them to look over what’s going on at the council and make sure it’s on the right path.”

If you see something is wrong it’s your right, your duty, to point it out – to make people aware of it and to fix it. Or, if you can’t, get it fixed.

There was a quote I read recently:

“This is your world – Shape it, or someone else will”

I say “Vox Populi”– Whinge away!

Napier and Hawke’s Bay deserve better!

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