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%) 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!

I Want to Believe

Andrew's self-confidence, last seen heading into the gaping vacuum of space...

Andrew’s self-confidence, last seen heading into the gaping vacuum of space…

“If just one person believes in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you…
Hard enough, and long enough,
It stands to reason, that someone else will think
“If he can do it, I can do it.”

And when all those people,
Believe in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough,
Believe in you…
Hard enough, and long enough

It stands to reason that you yourself will
Start to see what everybody sees in
You…

And maybe even you,
Can believe in you… Too!”

The Muppets – “Just One Person”

Self-esteem has a major, critical failing (ok, maybe several).

Whilst, as the name suggests, it is focused on esteem or confidence in one’s self, it really helps if there are others there to encourage confidence in that self as well.

So it kind of figures that self-esteem has been as hard for me to come by as real-life recognition or praise recently.

I’m trying to remember the last time someone complimented me in person – said “well done!” “good job!” “You’re hired – here’s $100,000!”(ok, I’m pushing the limits of reality there..) and nothing comes to mind.

Twenty years ago I finished working in radio (for the record, I started working in radio on New Year’s Eve 1995).

While I’m confident I could still wipe the floor content-wise with what qualifies as “on-air talent” today, you will likely never hear my beautiful bassy voice on the radio ever again – and not just because I’m inclined to swear lots more than I used to.

I tell people my dream radio career lasted only six months because I had too high an IQ and too low an ego (the other reasons were rubbish pay and trying to stay awake for 24 hours each Saturday).

I just couldn’t fake the level of self-belief required for radio.

And this was ‘90s-radio-level bravado I’m talking here – absolutely nowhere near the stratospherically narcissistic / Ninth Circle of Dante’s Inferno that it has become today.

But, while my radio career was muted, my voice was not silenced.

From an early age I learned the power words can wield.

So I started writing.

I’ve written stories, poems, radio ads, press releases, pieces for work newsletters, letters to the editor, Man About Town columns for “BayBuzz”, opinion pieces in Stuff and even a couple articles in the local paper many years ago about growing up in Napier in the 1980’s and my love for my home town.

My Dad was always my biggest supporter.

He believed in me.

He kept newspaper clippings of every letter or item I had in the paper and even some of the more colourful reactions!

Three years ago I started writing Napier in Frame.

It’s not a profession – I make no money from my writing.

I have a full time job and a young family to support which is my priority, so I can only write when I have the time or inclination.

I still wrote the occasional letter to the editor, when something utterly atrocious stood out – Art Deco buses and the miss-management behind MTG’s construction were stand-outs.

But I steadily shifted towards writing on this site and promoting it via my Twitter and Facebook profiles.

People who know me even say “I haven’t seen your letters in the paper recently” when I see them in the street. I tell them about this site, but they seldom seem interested or even aware of a world wide web beyond traditional print media.

Two years ago my Dad died suddenly.

I kept writing – it helped me cope and process things, but it kind of felt like any support, luck, or belief anyone had in me died too.

I’ve written, what I at least think, is some of my best work since then – The coverage of my recent stay in hospital received plaudits, but these are predominantly from friends online.

This is where things get a bit confuddling.

FM

Positive reactions are always good to receive, but self-doubt (self-esteem’s arch-nemesis) can begin to creep in.

Someone (usually a friend) gives you a compliment on Facebook or Twitter and you automatically discount it – “Of COURSE they’d say that, they’re your FRIEND!” Or “It’s ONLY social media – it’s not ‘REAL’” – sabotaging yourself and your abilities.

Even when you point out something that you think is blatantly wrong – Like hypocrisy over the Ruataniwha Dam, or the local newspaper covering Hastings District Council bailing out Horse of the Year, when the event’s board said in the same paper just weeks before they themselves would cover the loss and nothing is done.

The “bad guys” win.

Worse still can be spending years developing and making your case for a way to improve the city you love and the region you were born and raised in.

That idea gets local and national coverage.

Heck, even John Campbell likes it!

JC

But when you approach people you believe have the resources, funds and it’s in their best interests to actually enact your idea and the response is nothing – silence.

In this gaping vacuum of space no one can hear you scream in frustration.

I’ve had similar responses trying to rejig New Zealand’s flailing mainstream media – But the general consensus there is

“What would he know? He’s only from Hawke’s Bay!”

If I’m wrong that’s not a problem. You can learn from mistakes and correct them.

But no one has told me I’m wrong.

People tell me they “admire my passion” and am constantly queried on how I would achieve the goals I seek.

I tell them, but they don’t offer to help and “passion” won’t pay the bills, or finance what I have planned.

What if I’m right and no one cares to help try and make a difference, to help effect change or fix the problems I’m trying to remedy?

Ignoring problems doesn’t solve them or make them go away.

But ignoring people who are trying to fix problems makes the people go away – lose hope, lose self-esteem and confidence.

Imposter

I’ve become quite philosophical and theological about it:

“If Andrew makes a factual statement and no-one notices or cares, is he still right?”

“Before THE WORD, or there was light, or even the Big Bang, Andrew was wrong”

When the negativity or gaping vacuum of ignorance gets to you and makes you glum, sad, or grumpy and strips away your self-belief, you’re STILL wrong – Because being glum, sad, or grumpy isn’t allowed – You’ve apparently got to be happy, positive and smiling All. The. Time?!

This isn’t one of those inspirational stories of the little struggler, the battler, who overcomes adversity to triumph.

It is the tale of someone who has been told they’re wrong when they’re not, who has been ignored and unappreciated long enough for it to essentially become a default setting – a shitty-mood Stockholm Syndrome.

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

Having to spend a few weeks in hospital pales in comparison.

Shakespeare said we only have an hour upon life’s stage to strut and fret before we are heard no more.

I want to make a difference in that hour, but I can’t do it alone.

I need support, I need people to believe in me.

I need to believe in myself.

I want to believe.

Dis-Carded

Twitter669369f

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

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

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

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

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

So I did.

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

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

clippings

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

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

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

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

That is when it happened.

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

Then I saw the other one.

Twitter62189d1

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

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

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

The compulsion behind throwing the card away didn’t.

It persisted – An origami albatross around my neck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I fell in love with it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I say “almost” because I was the exception.

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

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

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

I got nothing.

It was the beginning of the end for me.

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

The response: Nothing.

I gave up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…And Be Counted!

Graphs

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

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

If anyone bothered to vote, that is…

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

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

That’s pretty stink.

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

That’s not good enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Rest is Silence”

"Thanks for your input, but we don't care..."

“Thanks for your input, but we don’t care…”

“But I do prophesy th’ election lights
On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice.
So tell him, with th’ occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited – the rest is silence.”

Hamlet Act V Scene 2

When last we left our submission-making protagonist, he had just made his presentation to Napier City Council and was eagerly awaiting the results.

And waiting.

And waiting….

Then the council released the results of their submission process (viewable HERE: Report from NCC LTP & AP Submissions Hearing )

Aaaaaannnnnndddd……

Nothing.

Most of the key projects the council had been championing, promoting and featured as a major part of the submission form got the go ahead, with “overwhelming support”.

But no mention of my submission!

No mention of the council reviewing their outdated Youth Policy or “YCON” website.

No money, services or interest in allocating assistance to Napier’s youth, or trying to keep any of the almost one thousand students who finish Hawke’s Bay high schools each year and leave the region each year.

What the hell??!!

Were my submissions wrong??

Did they deserve to be totally and utterly ignored??

I did plenty of research. I used facts and statistics. I made what I and those who read and shared my posts thought were valid arguments and points and I made suggestions on how this situation could be overcome.

All for nought, it appears.

The only semi-NCC-related-reaction I got was this on Twitter:

Is someone telling tales out of school?

Is someone telling tales out of school?

The “Michelle” Condy mentions is Councillor Michelle Pyke and Condy helps run “The Thirsty Whale” – a bar previously owned by Councillor Keith “Spongy” Price.

I don’t know what you will make of that comment, but it certainly seems to be more of an insight to a catty mind-set among some of Napier’s elected officials, rather than any smudge on my concept of empowering Napier’s youth to stay in the region and help it prosper.

If that attitude is any gauge as to how Napier is being led, then the decision behind Funding Request 13 for the Art Deco Trust comes as no surprise:

“Discussions covered the huge “in kind” contribution made to Art Deco events during Art Deco Weekend, and (sic) the committee was concerned that there were no financial plans, or justification for the large sum of money requested.”

And yet:

“It was decided to fund the Art Deco Trust usual $59,000 in service contract but fund an additional $41,000 specifically for events. This would bring the annual funding to $100,000.”

Translation: “We’re a bit worried that you can’t justify why you need so much money, or show us what you will do with it, but, what the heck – We’ll give it to you anyway!”

Now there’s the sort of sound logic we know from our council of old!

Napier City Council once again puts tourists ahead of its own residents.

That. Is. WRONG!

And that is the core argument behind my submission.

Napier STILL deserves better than this!

New York, New Zealand, Same Old Problems!

Spot the difference – it’s not as obvious as you’d think…

Spot the difference – it’s not as obvious as you’d think…

Split Enz were wrong – History repeats all the time.

Most gallingly, it always seems to be the worst aspects that repeat most often.

Scientists have spent centuries testing the attentions spans of dogs, goldfish and other animals, but the species that does the testing seems to have such a deficit of mental storage that we keep doing the same stupid things over and over again.

Of course, it doesn’t always repeat in the same place. But the advancement of communication technology now allows us to see what has happened – and indeed IS happening, AS it happens – across the globe, so you would think our new global awareness would lessen the chances of bad aspects of history repeating.

But it doesn’t.

Over summer, Mrs in Frame and I spent several evenings watching a quite remarkable documentary series on the history of New York City. From its discovery and settlement, through to the 2001 terrorist attacks it covered wondrous highs, terrible lows, heroes, villains, and all the flotsam and jetsam that make up what has become one of the greatest cities in the world.

Throughout the series – 17 ½ hours viewing in total – I kept having a form of Deja-vu – that I had seen or been through all this before. I had – just not in New York City, but here in New Zealand and in Napier.

Because at the same time as we were watching this HISTORICAL series similar scenarios were being played out daily in out papers, news programmes and online.

Of particular current topical interest in the documentary was New York’s development in the early to mid-1800’s

Immigration was a massive issue as millions of Europeans flooded into New York City seeking a new life in the “New World” of America. They were not always welcome and faced injustice, persecution, racism and were often forced to live in terrible conditions.

It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses..”) was inscribed upon the base of the Statue of Liberty that stood as a beacon of hope and a slightly warmer welcome to those entering New York Harbour.

210 years later and little has changed.

Racism is still prevalent across the globe and here in New Zealand we still face the same problems New York faced two centuries ago.

Debates over refugee quotas and boat loads of poor foreigners seeking asylum and a new, better life in our own country feature in the news often. As do attacks on working immigrants and claim Auckland’s appalling house prices are the result of foreigners, apparently, buying them all.

From the mid-1800’s until the turn of the century, the gap between New York’s rich and poor exploded as industrialist “Robber Barons” made millions, while those working for them on the lowest levels struggled to make ends meet.

Corruption became rife, especially at government levels, where graft, cronyism and all sorts of un-sporting political and social nastiness exacerbated the plight of those with the least, while feathering the nests of those with the most.

In New Zealand today the wealth gap continues to exist and indeed grow – making us one of the least equal countries in the western world. This not only harms our economy, but also social structure.

And while it may not seem as obviously prevalent as back then, skulduggery amongst those in power certainly still seems to exist, while the poor public pay for their power struggles and multi-million dollar follies.

Jump forward 50-plus years and New York is almost unrecognisable post-World War Two. The city had literally and figuratively reached for the sky. The city’s landscape goes vertical with the development of skyscrapers, while new bridges, tunnels and a new-fangled invention called the “highway” cross the city and open up between Manhattan Island and the surrounding mainland.

The point of these highways was to ease congestion on New York’s city streets, but all it did was encourage more people to buy and use cars, further clogging an already jam-packed system.

That certainly sounds very familiar to present day Auckland traffic congestion and our government’s rather short-sighted transport policy, doesn’t it?

Leading the charge on most of New York’s civil projects was city planner Robert Moses. While many of his early works were lauded and welcomed, he started to lose favour with the city’s citizens when he started ploughing great swathes – usually through the heart of poorer urban neighbourhoods for more of his expressways. But because he was not an elected official, the public could do essentially nothing to unseat him.

Don’t you think that sounds similar to the creation and project management of a grand, artistic Napier edifice in recent years?

Around the 1940’s and 50’s housing New York’s poor – especially those uprooted from neighbourhoods demolished for highways and other features – became a pressing issue. While local and national governments assisted with the creation of “Projects” – they also attempted to encourage the private sector to construct affordable homes. This was not always successful and New York real estate prices reached staggeringly high levels – “affordability” suddenly becoming “utterly unobtainable”.

Today in New Zealand “affordable housing” – especially in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch is becoming a thing of the past with prices reaching up to and beyond New York levels.

And while in New York they BUILT housing for the poor, in New Zealand, our government SELLS OFF EXISTING STATE HOUSING TO PRIVATE DEVELOPERS!

When will the madness end?

When will we learn?

When will history stop repeating?

We deserve much better than to go through this all over again!

Into the NCC Lions’ Den – Making My Submission!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most never to return.

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

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

So what do we have for them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Napier and its youth deserve better!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will my submission make a difference?

Who knows…

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

Are Amalgamationalists Holding HB’s Economy to Ransom?

HBE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other than local MP Craig Foss saying:

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

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

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

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

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

Enid

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

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

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

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

Oh, that’s right…

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

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

WHY WAIT??!!

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

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

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

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

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

We Gonna Run This Region!

Looks a bit quiet, eh?

Looks a bit quiet, eh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s frustrating as hell.

Hawke’s Bay has SO MUCH untapped potential!

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

Rubbish!

To paraphrase Napier’s own Sir Douglas MacLean:

“A region makes progress despite of its politicians”

To quote musician and bazzilionaire Jay-Z:

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

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

Heck, make a song and dance about it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple, logical problems SOLVED!

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

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

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

So there you go. Feel empowered?

I do!

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

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

Power to the people

“…Who’s gonna run this region?

We are!”

Because Napier and Hawke’s Bay deserve better!

The “P”s of Amalgamation in HB

P

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

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

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

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

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

This “P” GUARANTEES lower rates.

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

Because it’s “Privatisation”

It’s simple, really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there you go.

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

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