None of the problems outlined in the Prosperity Study are unique to Hawke's Bay but responsibility to address them falls to our leaders, says Local Government Minister David Carter.
The prosperity study released this week highlighted a range of areas for improvement within Hawke's Bay, including our local government, unemployment and education. The $100,000 report was initiated by the Hawke's Bay councils but funded entirely by Hawke's Bay Regional Council.
Mr Carter, visiting the Bay yesterday to meet with Napier City and Hastings District Councils, had read the report and met with its author, Peter Winder. "It clearly says you've got a disparity here that is unacceptable for New Zealand and there has to be a focus between central government and local government about addressing some of those disparities," Mr Carter said. "The study raises some real issues that Hawke's Bay has a real duty to concentrate on, to acknowledge in the report that it can do better."
Despite this, he said problems such as deprivation were evident in other parts of the country and not unique to Hawke's Bay.
"I think there's a lot of issues listed in the report specific to Hawke's Bay that actually apply to lots of parts of New Zealand. The report is very much focused on giving the leaders of the Hawke's Bay communities the opportunities to address the issues. It's a matter of leadership from Hawke's Bay people to address those issues that have been outlined."
Identified within the study were broad financial estimates of amalgamating councils - a subject of heated debate within the Bay over the last few months. It was believed anywhere between $3 to $25 million per annum could be saved, depending on the type of reorganisation undertaken.
The conclusions Mr Winder put in his report "certainly raises the issue about whether the local government structure is the most efficient for your region", Mr Carter said.
The Prosperity Report stated it was critically important for the Central Hawke's Bay (CHB) and Wairoa District Council (WDC) to be able to deal with the issues their communities faced, and their ability to contribute to large initiatives needed to boost the region.
"I am increasingly concerned that small councils don't have the ability to meet some of the requirements imposed by central government legislation," Mr Carter said. "I don't have a firm view as to what amalgamation should take place within the Hawke's Bay region but I do have a concern about the ability of councils in areas with declining populations ."
Within the Hawke's Bay region, CHB and WDC fell into that category. "They are relatively small population bases," he said. "If you take Wairoa, I understand the population is actually declining, not increasing, so it's a good example where it's becoming increasingly more difficult for a council like Wairoa to meet the requirements."