By Hastings district councillor Wayne Bradshaw
Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule’s six-year crusade to amalgamate the five councils of Hawke’s Bay has sidelined a rational approach to central business district planning and sound financial management.
A lack of action means Hastings has to play catch-up.
So instead of being proactive and having a plan, we have to be reactive, and being reactive always costs more and takes twice as long to achieve.
The CBD, for instance, has been declining since the council promoted the sale of Nelson Park, without recognizing what impact this would have on our main street and planning for these changes.
The Hastings city centre plan and strategy of 2012/13 was presented as the solution. This document, prepared by the council and consultants for over $600,000 did not include a budget, a timeframe, or action plan to allow anything to be done.
This was merely a pretty picture without any real plan or actions attached, in short a waste of ratepayers money and a lost opportunity for Hastings.
Now we must play catch-up and this will cost the ratepayers of Hastings even more.
The Hastings City Business Association asked the council to allow a trial of 1 hour free parking. This would cost about $104,394 each year If introduced permanently.
Yet the council has come back and recommended a trial of free parking 24/7 for 4 months, which if introduced permanently will cost between $500,000 to $900,000 each year.
But we as a council have not considered how this extra sizeable sum will be paid for.
Based on past experience the ultimate funder of any new costs like this, will be either the CBD retailers or the general ratepayers or a mixture of both.
It is only fair that if new costs are incurred that the potential funders are made aware of their potential responsibilities as soon as possible.
These costs if permanently introduced would add between 1% to 1.5 % to our already sizeable rates bills.
Our first priority should be to have transparent decision-making and good financial management for the Hastings ratepayers.
The amalgamation debate focussed attention the escalating Hastings external debt of $55-million, the highest of the four districts that make up Hawke’s Bay.
The growing debt draws attention to the council’s financial management.
The council’s handling of the Hastings city centre plan and strategy and the four-month trial of free parking 24/7 show lack of analysis, budgeting, and planning.
Hastings has substantial problems with vacancies in the central business district and half a city block unused because of indecision over the Opera House and Municipal Building.
The amalgamation distraction is over. The Hastings mayor and councillors need to focus on specific Hastings issues with each project requiring rational analysis, budgeting, planning, and a time-frame for completion.
It is time for the Hastings council to lift its game.