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% 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% up to code.

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

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

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

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

The people of Napier want answers.

The people of Napier want the truth!

The people of Napier deserve better!

Regional Media Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words:

“New Zealand’s regions don’t matter”

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

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

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

Auckland issues.

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

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t someone else have a turn, please?

Yes they can!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently I don’t matter! 😉

McLean Park’s Drainage Problems Need Plugging

Don't let the sun go down on cricket at McLean Park! (except when it's a gorgeous sunset like this one...)

Don’t let the sun go down on cricket at McLean Park! (except when it’s a gorgeous sunset like this one…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But since then things haven’t been so flash.

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

In other words “it hosed down”.

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

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

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

That’s not good enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mclean Park’s drainage problems need plugging.

Napier sporting events deserve better!

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?

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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”

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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!

Dis-Carded

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

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

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

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

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

So I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is when it happened.

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

Then I saw the other one.

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

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

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

The compulsion behind throwing the card away didn’t.

It persisted – An origami albatross around my neck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I fell in love with it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I say “almost” because I was the exception.

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

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

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

I got nothing.

It was the beginning of the end for me.

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

The response: Nothing.

I gave up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

H.O.Y. A Gift Horse, or Trojan Horse?

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

The digital ink (?) on my previous post about volunteers being worth far more than they weren’t paid had barely dried over the Christmas break when I read that Hawke’s Bay’s multi-million dollar equine extravaganza – “Horse of the Year” was looking for around 400 volunteers to assist with the 2016 edition of the event.

Nothing too unusual there – as previously stated such big events rely on volunteers to make them successful – although it pushes the limits of credibility to claim anything requiring dozens or even hundreds of people working for free as a “success” – from a financial perspective at least.

BUT…

400 sounded a rather excessive amount of people working for free – the Rugby and Cricket World Cup games Napier hosted in 2011 and 2015 respectively required only around 150-200 by comparison.

And the last time I had read something about Horse of the Year they were asking local councils for money – LOTS of money:

Last year chairwoman of Horse of the Year’s board of directors and HDC Deputy Mayor, Cynthia Bowers, went around local councils asking the event’s hosts, Hastings District Council – to increase their funding of the event to $150,000 – more than quadrupling the $35,000 they put forward last year, and $100,000 from the Napier City Council – TEN TIMES last year’s amount of $10,000!

In 2012 Councillor Bowers was appointed by Hastings District Council to a board investigating the formation of what would become “Horse of the Year (Hawke’s Bay) Limited” – she was quoted as saying:

“The working capital expected from the council was not likely to be more than $100,000 and the money would be repaid from projected profits from the 2013 show, which would be the first event run under the new company.”

These requests for more funding may be looking a bit shaky as they come not long after the event posted equally big losses in recent years:

In February last year, the month before its 2015 event, Horse of the Year reported a $297,000 half-year loss:

“The accounts show the company received income of $554,000 during the six months to the end of November, $297,000 below the $851,000 it budgeted for and $62,000 below what it received during the same period a year earlier.

However, in a report to the committee, the council’s acting chief financial officer, Bruce Allan, said: “Given the nature of this organisation and the event that it runs, the first half of the year financials provide limited insight into the potential full-year result.”

The show sends out invoices for deposits for booked trade sites during the half-year covered by the report, with the bulk of its income generated in the following six months.
The company said trade site sales for this year’s show had been strong “and indications are that virtually all sites will be sold”.

In October 2014 Horse of the Year had recorded a $108,000 full-year loss.

Horse of the Year were reported as expecting 2015’s event to be a “no growth” show in an attempt to make up for previous losses.

Hastings District Council said the lost revenue in 2014 was “due to problems with security fencing which allowed non-payers into the show.”

But it’s a bit hard to believe such significant losses were due to people sneaking in for free, considering even if tickets were $50 each, that would mean over 2,000 attendees got away without paying.

A more likely cause was the “Further development of relationships with Chinese equestrians, who were funded to attend last year’s (2014) show, had been “put on hold until 2016”.”

In other words “An international equestrian group were PAID to attend two years ago, but didn’t turn up and it doesn’t look like anyone asked for the money back.”

So what was the extra $205,000 Horse of the Year was requesting supposed to be going to?

Certainly not paying up to 400 workers…

Perhaps is going towards debt consolidation?

Perhaps they are paying for even more international equestrians to not attend?

Or perhaps they are looking at diversifying – Just how much are Pegacorns these days?

Horse of the Year is a great event for Hawke’s Bay that brings in hundreds of visitors and millions of dollars – and not just from the Range Rover / Multimillion dollar horse float crowd – Because for every futuristic horse-float-come-campervan there are dozens of regular horse loving attendees who stay in tents and motels, scrimping and saving where they can.

Investments and outcomes need to match up.

This is certainly one gift horse Hawke’s Bay cannot afford to look in the mouth!

Pegacorn

Summer Time in Hawke’s Bay – the Song!

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I was listening to the radio in the car the other day and one of my favourite Christmas songs – The Pogues’ “Fairy-tale of New York” came on, so I started singing along to it.

But then the unthinkable happened – and no it wasn’t that I started singing perfectly in tune.

I happened to be listening to a “Middle of the Road” station, so THEY CUT OUT THE ENTIRE VERSE of “You’re a bum, you’re a punk…!!””

Heresy!!

Sure it’s a “family-friendly” radio station and this was the “radio edit” of the song, BUT COME ON – you can’t play Fairy-tale of New York without the rude bits!!!

It’s what makes the song so Christmassy – There’s always than one friend or relative who has a bit too much to drink at Christmas and gets a bit… “Opinionated”…

Taking out that part ruins the whole song :(

So that musical travesty inspired me to get writing – My own version of that song!

Using the same backing music / tempo, I came up with my own Christmas song – a special Hawke’s Bay one called “Christmas Time in Hawke’s Bay”!

I sent it to my friend at the offending radio station, who thought it was great. They were going to record a version using my lyrics and play it in the lead up to Christmas.

But that was over a week ago and I haven’t heard anything, meaning that any decent chance of airplay in the lead-up to December 25th has been lost – which is a great shame and waste of my fabulous lyric-writing skills.

But I am adaptable and with only very slight changes, please feel free to read along, while humming “Fairy-tale of New York” to:

Summer Time in Hawke’s Bay!

(If anyone would like to help me record this, please get in touch!)

It’s summer time
In Hawke’s Bay again
The man on the radio says “Another stunning one!”
We crank the music up
And roll the windows down
Smell the fresh sea air
And drive into town.

Gee aren’t we lucky ones?
Having so much fun
Living here in the Bay
There’s just so much to do
Over summer time
We love The Bay, baby!
Can’t think of being anywhere
Than Summer in Hawke’s Bay!

There’s trips to Kidnappers
Art Deco with flappers
Seeing New Years in
At the Soundshell
Hundreds of wineries
Restaurants with fineries
More fantastic cafes
Than anyone can tell

Playing backyard cricket
With a bin as the wicket
Smash a window,
Oh no!
That’s six and you’re out!
Cooking lunch on the barby
Man life is so hard, eh?
Spending summer time
Here at home in Hawkes’ Bay

The weather forecast on the TV
Predicts another stunning day
Just typical summer time
Here in Hawke’s Bay!

Geez you’re naff, urgh!
Such a Jaffa
A regional flaffer
You don’t even think the Magpies are great.
You don’t want a latte?
Just don’t even start, eh!
Then next summer time
Visit Manawatu

There’s cricket on at McLean Park
The Blackcaps are blazing away
And the crowds are yelling out
“Come on the Bay”!

We could live anywhere
But no, it wouldn’t be fair
With all the long summer days
And perfect Waimarama waves
A walk along the Parade
Eating yummy ice cream
Could this all be a dream?
These perfect Hawke’s Bay days!

All the rellies have come to stay
And Santa’s on his way
Just another stunning Summer
In Hawke’s Bay!

© Andrew Frame December 2015

Volunteers are Worth More!

uncle

Four years ago New Zealand was the hosts of what would become a legendary Rugby World Cup.

I volunteered as a “Flash Quote Reporter” at McLean Park’s two games and got to meet and interview All Black legends John Kirwan, Kieran Crowley and current international players.

Hundreds of others volunteered too.

In return for our participation we got trained, clothed and fed. Being volunteers, naturally, we didn’t get paid, but we had fun experiencing something we usually didn’t get to do in our normal daily lives, which kind of made up for it.

This year New Zealand co-hosted and equally epic Cricket World Cup and once again I and hundreds of others, the majority of whom were the same ones who had taken part in 2011, took days off our regular jobs and lives.

Once again, got clothed, fed and for a few long days in March volunteered to help showcase McLean Park and Hawke’s Bay to the world.

But this time something felt a bit different.

Our shifts were much longer this time – often up to twelve hours at a time – so got quite arduous on occasions. But as cricket players and fans we got to watch some of the world’s best players in action which sped the time up a bit.

Maybe it was the longer shifts, or financial conditions being a bit tighter than four years ago, but some of the volunteers seemed less keen or able to be as involved as they would have liked, too.

Maybe it was because we had gotten past the “experience” buzz of doing the same sort of thing for the Rugby World Cup that took the shine off of volunteering in such roles for long “days off.”

Or maybe it was because the experience gained working at the 2011 World Cup meant we felt like there was more value to our taking part than doing it for free.

You see, the problem with volunteering is it doesn’t pay the bills.

I’m no stranger to volunteering. To date I have:

• Volunteered for the HB Cancer Society working as a Smokefree ambassador from 1996-1998.
• Been a volunteer radio announcer on Radio Kidnappers.
• Helped Stage Challenge really establish a foot-hold in Hawke’s Bay in 1998.
• Played for, managed teams and been secretary for Napier Old Boys’ Marist Cricket Club for almost a decade.
Dressed up as a Duck for the Georgie Pie #SuperSmash at McLean Park last year.
Written this blog – 127 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 volunteering has worn a bit thin on me recently.

While most people will happily volunteer to do something for a charity, community group or the like for a few hours or days every once and a while, the feel-good factor of helping out can only last so long before the cold, hard realities of a modern, money-driven life creep back in.

There are bills to pay, mouths to feed and mortgages / rents to keep up with.

Working for free won’t help cover those realities.

Does thinking that make me a bad person? I don’t think so – I like to think it means I put the needs of my family above my own interests or those of others.

Recently I’ve become more and more concerned at how the good work of people volunteering seems to be getting taken for granted, taken advantage of, or even used so others can make a profit, while the volunteers are often left unrecognised, out of pocket for their work, or even worse.

Hawke’s Bay seems to have become a bit of a target for this type of thing.

There was an article in the newspaper just after Napier’s last Cricket World Cup match that stated the obvious – That while a small minority of the organisers and managers got paid for their roles

“The Cricket World Cup in Napier would have been impossible without the volunteers”

The article went on to outline the concept one of the event’s (surely not a voluntary position) coordinators had – a “Volunteer Army” to help run and attract such big events to Hawke’s Bay in the future.

I thought there were local government agencies that got paid to do that?

Two months later another article appeared in the paper. This time a Massey University professor (another non-voluntary role, we must assume) espousing his “educated” belief that:

“An ageing population is an opportunity if Hawke’s Bay can take advantage of its retirees’ wealth and skills.”

Translation: “Use retirees living on the pension as volunteer (i.e. “FREE“) labour to do tasks that younger generations would / could be paid to do, further deepening Hawke’s Bay’s economic and employment doldrums”.

Reading genius stuff like that really makes me glad I never went to university

Now volunteering is, well, a voluntary choice – you have to choose to do it and having worked, earned their money and paid their taxes for most of their lives HB’s elder generations are entitled to their retirement – to take it easier and to do what they want.

But merely using them as free labour? That’s just not right – especially when it also takes the opportunity for paid work away from others, like the younger generations struggling to get a foothold in our region’s depressed job market.

It’s not just the retired that are being taken advantage of when it comes to working for free.

Those in the final stages of tertiary education often face the increasing prospect of applying for the job they set out studying for, only to be told while they have the right qualification, their lack of real-world experience means they aren’t successful in getting the position.

Fortunately for a select well-heeled, or well-connected few, the chance of an unpaid internship during the university breaks mean they can get that much needed experience, but as the name suggests, it comes VERY cheaply for their “employer”.

Unless it is included as part of their curriculum, students aren’t eligible for the study / living allowance while on internships, so unless they or their parents are well-off enough to cover the living costs during this time many miss out on the opportunity.

Worse still are companies that get in multiple inters to “fight it out”, as it were, for one paid position. The “winning” intern being the one who puts in the longest hours, does the most work or makes the biggest profit for the company – all for FREE.

That is just not right.

Surely, if you’re good enough to do the job, you’re good enough to be PAID to do the job!

Even those already in work – particularly creative and design roles are expected to work for free for new clients – it’s called doing stuff “On Spec”.

Hours, days or weeks of time, effort and creativity to try and get a prospective client on board, only for them to say no, or just get ignored.

That’s gratitude for you.

It’s like going into a new café and asking the barista, having never had their coffee before, to make you a free sample in case you like it and come back again. See how far that gets you in real life.

And that’s not all!

Thanks to grey areas in perception and New Zealand laws, your rights and safety while volunteering often aren’t guaranteed, either!

When I put my earn-as-you-learn submission to the Napier City Council – trying to encourage Hawke’s Bay youth to stay in the region and be paid to learn, rather than working for free, or even worse, incurring crippling debt, one councillor chose to point out the number of local voluntary community groups in our community.

The irony of such a statement would have put any Alanis Morissette song to shame.

These VOLUNTARY groups get out in the community and do good stuff, while city councillors are PAID to sit around a table and gas-bag!

I believe the expression is “All Hui and no Do-ey!”

New Zealand NEEDS volunteers.

The likes of St John’s Ambulance, the Cancer Society and other life-saving and changing organisations couldn’t do the brilliant work they do without them.

But we must be careful not to abuse the good faith of volunteers – They need to be respected, recognised and often times they don’t actually need to be volunteers – they deserve to be paid, because working for free can do more economic harm than good.

Volunteers deserve better – They are more than worth it!

But what would I know – I only write voluntarily! 😉

No Such Thing as a Free Car Park

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Central business districts around New Zealand are suffering.

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

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

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

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

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

But is there really a loss of revenue?

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

It’s like airline flights being too expensive.

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

So is the cost of parking the actual problem?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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