Bay Needs to Reach for the Sky

When the leaders of our region join forces down a road to mediocrity for Hawke's Bay, one needs to question their motivation.

Was it about achieving real growth and prosperity for our region under a binding commitment that takes Hawke's Bay from the bottom of the heap to being the best we can be?

Or was it more motivated by political grandstanding to pump up positivity and play to the anti-amalgamation agenda. Reading between the lines you can see that the leaders of Hawke's Bay are signing up to not much more than what you could expect under the current political environment - with five local councils.

The targets are about reaching average against the rest of New Zealand by 2025.

And then, for Tukituki's MP Craig Foss to say it shows everyone is on the same page but then concede that the mayors haven't even met yet to discuss his targets, I tend to think the latter.

Do our region's leaders really want to follow Mr Foss as men of mediocrity who go down in history as achievers of average performance for our region? You see if they were truly committed to working together and growing our region, then they should be doing far more than agreeing to join Mr Foss in accepting that the best we can be is average for growth, employment, crime and road safety, when compared to the rest of the country.

What's more, after making such a big noise about how great this is for Hawke's Bay, he has avoided including the one target that really matters to improving the standard of living for of all the hardworking people and their families in our region - improving household incomes. Do you think it was forgotten, or deliberately left it out for fear of failing on the greatest challenge of all?

As for championing a New Zealand first in getting regional agreement between all our mayors, well it is hardly a claim to fame when appealing to an underlying motivation. Given the biggest decision facing our region is coming in 2015 when the people get to vote on amalgamation, it's not appearing any challenge today to get all the mayors agreeing to work together.

Firstly they must, because the status quo isn't working. But, what we are also seeing in the face of amalgamation is an over eagerness from the leaders of those councils against amalgamation to demonstrate they can work together.

Then we have Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule joining them because if he doesn't he's seen as being anything but collaborative. They would tear him to pieces if he stopped a regional agreement and didn't get on the positivity bandwagon with Mr Foss.

None of our leaders, despite their amalgamation views, should ever compromise our region or themselves by agreeing to a set of targets that sells Hawke's Bay short. Don't get me wrong, setting targets for our region must happen as part of a progressive regional plan for growth, but how much thought and effort has gone into it when the mayors themselves didn't even get together to talk about it first? Hawke's Bay is being left behind and if we want to be better we need to be far more aspirational. It's a bit condescending telling us how positive and awesome we are and then saying, so let's work on being mediocre over the next decade.

Yes, we are in the bottom of the heap for household income, economic growth, jobs and have the worst crime rates in the country but I'd rather see us aim higher and be the best we can be, than be judged as glass that always half-empty. I think Hawke's Bay deserves far more than this and that starts with strong leadership to get our region out of the bottom and into the top, we need to reach for the stars.

When all the leaders of Hawke's Bay meet today, I hope they review these targets and recommend the new mayoral task force set some better ones, that actually mean something for the people on the street. This would show they are serious and committed to growing our region.

Do some real work on a plan that shows Hawke's Bay how we can reach aspirational targets - make yourselves more accountable, raise the bar and lead like you mean it. Make those targets ones that will really make a difference for all of us who live and work in Hawke's Bay so we can aim higher by doing more together. Then come back to us and let the public also put our names to it, because when the people of Hawke's Bay unite we are anything but mediocre.