Who do we serve?

COLUMN

The most difficult question facing members of the newly elected council and district health board, when beginning their respective three-year stints as your representatives, will be to work out where and to whom their responsibilities lie as they grapple with the hard issues of the day.

It is perhaps a sad commentary of the history of past local authorities that too much emphasis has been placed on the political consequences associated with individual decisions rather than basing them on what is in the best interests of the majority.

Local government history in this country is littered with cases where those who had the opportunity to make judgements that were visionary instead equivocated and finally capitulated to the pressure of a vocal, influential minority.

The end result usually adds nothing to solving the real problems that lie behind the issue — it is just put off until some other group of decision makers has the guts to look at it again. In the meantime, the negative effects of this procrastination are felt daily by those who should have been the beneficiaries of a more enlightened determination.

In order that readers can understand the relative importance of my challenge to candidates for election to either the council or the DHB, or to both, I have chosen an example of the dilemma they will face from a list of current politically charged issues.

Some will say that it is madness to bring this matter into the pre-election debating arena, and it may well mean the end of my own chances at the ballot box. If so, so be it.

However, I am hopeful it will serve its purpose in allowing us to focus on the sort of character we expect from our elected representatives.

They are elected to make the hard decisions. If they aren’t prepared to do that then they should withdraw their candidacy ASAP.

My example involves a rearguard action mounted by a group of protesters professing to have close whakapapa links to the Te Araroa foreshore and seabed area. This group who claim to speak for a majority of local residents have been vocal in their opposition to a well-designed motorised barging operation for exporting logs that offers a solution to the economic viability of virtually all the northern East Coast forestry estates — almost all of Ngati Porou’s forests would benefit from this development being allowed to proceed.

And the region would most certainly benefit economically and socially from a resolution to the ongoing damage inflicted by logging trucks on our fragile roading infrastructure.

There is no question the protesters have a legitimate right to use any lawful method at their disposal to stop this proposal gaining the approval necessary, yet it is unfortunate they have chosen to use the “culturally sensitive” argument to bolster their mana whenua claims knowing there is an advantage to be gained in the decision-making process by doing so.

In my view, they believe they will be able to triumph against logic and common reasoning when decision makers are required to weigh up the merits of arguments for or against the barging operation. They are counting on this issue being shoved off into the “too hard” basket.

Surely our representatives will have the spine to not be intimidated by such tactics.

It is perfectly possible, even desirable, for the people most affected by the introduction of any new system, that is on balance of benefit to the region, to be fully consulted and be able to influence a compromise decision beyond their numerical strength.

However, they should not be allowed to enjoy their place in the sun at the expense of those who are paying the bills.

Our survival as a community against the current threats to our livelihoods will depend as much as anything on brave, common-sense decision-making from our leaders.

Let all those who agree, put their hands up and vote accordingly.

The most difficult question facing members of the newly elected council and district health board, when beginning their respective three-year stints as your representatives, will be to work out where and to whom their responsibilities lie as they grapple with the hard issues of the day.

It is perhaps a sad commentary of the history of past local authorities that too much emphasis has been placed on the political consequences associated with individual decisions rather than basing them on what is in the best interests of the majority.

Local government history in this country is littered with cases where those who had the opportunity to make judgements that were visionary instead equivocated and finally capitulated to the pressure of a vocal, influential minority.

The end result usually adds nothing to solving the real problems that lie behind the issue — it is just put off until some other group of decision makers has the guts to look at it again. In the meantime, the negative effects of this procrastination are felt daily by those who should have been the beneficiaries of a more enlightened determination.

In order that readers can understand the relative importance of my challenge to candidates for election to either the council or the DHB, or to both, I have chosen an example of the dilemma they will face from a list of current politically charged issues.

Some will say that it is madness to bring this matter into the pre-election debating arena, and it may well mean the end of my own chances at the ballot box. If so, so be it.

However, I am hopeful it will serve its purpose in allowing us to focus on the sort of character we expect from our elected representatives.

They are elected to make the hard decisions. If they aren’t prepared to do that then they should withdraw their candidacy ASAP.

My example involves a rearguard action mounted by a group of protesters professing to have close whakapapa links to the Te Araroa foreshore and seabed area. This group who claim to speak for a majority of local residents have been vocal in their opposition to a well-designed motorised barging operation for exporting logs that offers a solution to the economic viability of virtually all the northern East Coast forestry estates — almost all of Ngati Porou’s forests would benefit from this development being allowed to proceed.

And the region would most certainly benefit economically and socially from a resolution to the ongoing damage inflicted by logging trucks on our fragile roading infrastructure.

There is no question the protesters have a legitimate right to use any lawful method at their disposal to stop this proposal gaining the approval necessary, yet it is unfortunate they have chosen to use the “culturally sensitive” argument to bolster their mana whenua claims knowing there is an advantage to be gained in the decision-making process by doing so.

In my view, they believe they will be able to triumph against logic and common reasoning when decision makers are required to weigh up the merits of arguments for or against the barging operation. They are counting on this issue being shoved off into the “too hard” basket.

Surely our representatives will have the spine to not be intimidated by such tactics.

It is perfectly possible, even desirable, for the people most affected by the introduction of any new system, that is on balance of benefit to the region, to be fully consulted and be able to influence a compromise decision beyond their numerical strength.

However, they should not be allowed to enjoy their place in the sun at the expense of those who are paying the bills.

Our survival as a community against the current threats to our livelihoods will depend as much as anything on brave, common-sense decision-making from our leaders.

Let all those who agree, put their hands up and vote accordingly.

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Winston Moreton - 7 days ago
Clive seems to cover everything except our community trust (ECT). The council has an automatic permanent member - currently Mrs Stoltz. Councillors (full council) appoint two trustees each May. ECT as owner of the port is largely responsible for the "ongoing damage" to our roads as described by Clive. What does Clive, as a wide-ranging commentator, have to say about the $400 million exporter of our electricity funds?

Clive Bibby - 6 days ago
The trust has ultimate responsibility to the ratepayers of this community and as such must make decisions that are beneficial to and in support of as many citizens within our regional boundaries as possible. It seems to me that a common-sense solution to the viability of the northern forests and the cost of maintaining our fragile roading infrastructure in the form of the Te Araroa barging proposal could be sponsored by ECT, council, Eastland Group, the port company and Ngati Porou Runanganui combining to make representation to Shane Jones asking that he pays for the feasibility study. I know from my own discussions with senior government officials that with that type of support, the project would receive the financial backing required allowing it to proceed to the next stage.
It is unbelievable that we allow our local funding and economic development agencies to ignore the obvious and continue to support "feel good" projects that will do nothing to secure our safety.
I have said this before and will say it again - the special interest groups' days are over! We can't afford to indulge them any longer. In case you didn't know, there is a war on!

Tania Short - 5 days ago
Clive, it feels as though you are sufficiently removed from the community that will be directly affected by this decision. A barge operation will change the seabed forever. Forever is a long time and too big a price for whanau who live at home. It is not a small minority who are protesting. The small minority are those pushing it through for profit despite the misgivings of the many. This community doesn't support profits at any cost. Our environment is under a lot of pressure from human development. Kaitiakitanga is a core value for whanau at home. Be sure you have the facts, because you do have a responsibility to the community if you get in. I for one won't be supporting you with my vote.

Clive Bibby - 4 days ago
With respect Tania, the trust is simply asking for financial backing to enable it to complete the feasibility study. Presumably, if this report is undertaken by a qualified, impartial agency, you should have all the answers to your concerns when it is tabled.
Further, even if their findings suggest that your genuine concerns are in fact valid but misplaced and that the benefits to your community would be too great to ignore, leading to the granting of a resource consent allowing the project to proceed, you would still have the right to appeal to the Environment Court.
My humble opinion is that the trust would find that hurdle a very difficult one to negotiate. I'm sure they understand that.
In the meantime, although as you rightly say, any decision has little affect on me personally other than my own concerns about the economic viability of the region as a whole, my wish is simply that your community finds a solution to this dilemma that enables you all to benefit from decisions you have made.
I wish you well in your endeavour to find somebody else who you consider worthy of your vote. That is your right and I applaud you for exercising it.

Paora Brooking - 4 days ago
Clive who? Is he a descendant of Hinerupe, Tuwhakairiora or any of our Te Araroa tipuna? answer: No!
No Offence . . . But stick to your own back yard Clive . . . hopefully you're doing a better job there?
The barge proposal to ship logs out of Te Araroa is a smokescreen to the bigger issue of selling and shipping metal off the beachfront lands - both of which will have irreversible environmental effects on one of the most pristine river environments in our district. There's another one being thrown around as well, that by opening a port up the top end of the Coast that it will help decrease the road fatalities and accidents at the southern end of the district. It may decrease stats in the Gisborne area, but they'll only be shifting the accidents to the northern end where kids ride horses along road sides and walk to swimming spots. Our kids will become part of those road statistics. NO Barge in Te Araroa!

Winston Moreton - 4 days ago
Clive. With respect two points;
1. The ECT trust does not have ultimate responsibility to the "ratepayers" of this community; except that in 2073 when the trust is closed the capital balance ($400m and growing) all goes to the council.
2. In the meantime the "income beneficiaries" of ECT who fund this burgeoning empire through their household power bills (highest in NZ) get no relief. It contributes to local poverty - also highest in NZ.

Neil Redgrave, Onepoto Bay - 4 days ago
Well Mr Bibby you seem to have fallen for the myth that a log would be economically viable to be towed all the way to Tauranga. Obviously Gisborne's port is already maxed out and likely to stay that way. The figure of 75 percent was bandied about as representing the workable days a north-facing port at Kawakawa Bay could operate a year. As a local surfer and resident in the area I would think this optimistic at best. Given a predicted increase in sub-tropical storms associated with global warming, you can bet we are going to get a lot more swell from the northerly quarter - much as I would like to be able to ride a man-made wave resulting from a breakwater.
After a hard look at the ecological impacts I now consider this proposal untenable. If you really want to tackle the hard questions then where is the debate about milling said logs right here on the Cape, or expanding the Hendley mill at Ruatoria? This would add value and create local jobs - not to mention running a wood-fired power generator from the mill-waste wood or forestry slash. All feasible options, if(!!!) you put the research funds in the right hands.

Vennessa, Te Araroa - 4 days ago
Clive Bibby, your comments/point of view are irrelevant as this does not concern you, it is not happening on your doorstep so you should just keep your opinions to yourself.
With regards to the economic benefits to the people who live here, the main pushers of this have in one breath said it is going to provide jobs etc but then in the next breath have said they are only supplying the land for this to go ahead - so they are all humbug.
Those who are pushing this are only a few who have a few shares in a rather large land block. There has not been any proper consultation with all the owners, there has been no consultation with those who live directly next to the proposed site, and it appears that the benefits of this are for the few.

Clive Bibby - 3 days ago
I suppose it is a matter of perception Winston as to what point in the cycle does the Trust have a moral responsibility to include the well-being of its income beneficiaries in its deliberations over how they reinvest the dividend. You say, with some justification, that time is well past and the position of many of the beneficiaries is dire. I suppose you are asking me whether I would support a Council directive to the Trust demanding they include your proposal in the options at their disposal. Even if that happened, I would imagine the Trust could ignore it based on their obligations under the Trust Deed, which doesn't require them to take it into account. But if they did, they would have to consider how much and how often they made dividend payments to the beneficiaries. I'm sorry, but the questions concerning the legal obligations of the Trust are best dealt with by people with that expertise and I am not one of them.
Perhaps you should take it up with them.

Clive Bibby - 3 days ago
OK you guys, I reckon I am entitled to a response to all this derogatory, unjustified questioning of my motives (even my parentage) and I intend to oblige, but let's be clear - this will be my final comment on this subject until it progresses to a stage where rational discussion can become the order of the day.
I repeat my comment in reply to Tania's letter.
My support for the barging proposal is limited, at least at this stage, to obtaining funding so that the feasibility study can be completed.
Only then will we be able to debate this issue based on factual evidence produced from that type of investigation.
I might add - in case you hadn't noticed, my candidacy for election to Gisborne District Council means that, should I be successful, I could become a member of the hearings committee potentially required to oversee any application for a resource consent aimed at progressing the project beyond the feasibility stage. Wouldn't you think that, in those circumstances, it would be in everyone's interests for all councillors to be as informed and knowledgeable about the proposal as it is possible to be?
I rest my case.

winston moreton - 3 days ago
No Clive and to any others who think the same. It is not "a matter of perception" as to what point "in any cycle" the Community Trust (ECT) has "a moral responsibility to include the well-being of its income beneficiaries..." You say, with some justification, "that questions concerning the legal obligations of the Trust are best dealt with by people with that expertise and (you) are not one of them". Nor is our editor whose thoughts seem to be reflected in your lay comments. I am a trust lawyer with 40 years experience to prove it. It is my hope the new council, of which I have no doubt you will be a member, takes legal advice as to the legal obligations of the trustees to the low income householders who fund it with their electricity bills. Other electricity trusts in NZ make distributions to householders and charge less for electricity.

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