With a brand new council comes a bold new vision that will see Central Hawke’s Bay thrive well into the future.
Less than a year into the new triennial and with a drive to understand what their constituents want for the future of the district, the newly elected councillors of CHB ventured out into the community.
As part of the annual plan or ‘Thrive’ process, the council held 10 separate meetings in a format where people could discuss their ideas as opposed to the more traditional method of lodging written submissions.
Mayor Alex Walker says this method was chosen because there was confusion between public engagement and public consultation.
“As a new group of councillors we knew coming in that we had a community that felt a bit disconnected from what council is doing,” Alex says.
“The traditionally described methods of consultation end up being quite combative and confrontational, which is actually not conducive to solving problems.”
According to Alex, councillors knew that CHB needed to have plans in place that not only allowed current generations to prosper today but well into the future.
“It is a move away from councils doing things for you to councils doing things with you, where good engagement is feeding good decision-making,” she says.
“It is a subtle shift in the way local democracy could and should be working and that is a really important driver for me.”
It seemed to have worked for council, which Alex reports received great feedback from its constituents.
“A really positive thing that came out of it was the sense of pride that people have for CHB,” she says.
“They are really committed and really love everything that we have here, what we stand for and our sense of community.”
So effective was the engagement approach, Alex says it produced a two-part report that will be used by council as
a cornerstone document to guide not only their annual plan but the long-term plan’s budgets and policy frameworks.
“It’s going to feed into all the key documents that we have and also into the business plan that council operates under,” she says.
“The next step is council working through the priorities and what the big transformational moves are and what we need to do to make some of these come to life.”
The first-time mayor admits that one of the things that surprised her was how strong the common themes were that came out of the 10 meetings held in different parts of the district, such as connectivity, prosperity and respect for the environment.
“I think the amount of consensus there was on what was viewed as important for CHB, it probably shouldn’t have surprised us but it did,” she said.
On the other side of the coin, Alex says that while a strong sense of identity as a district came through in the common themes, each of the smaller communities such as Porangahau and Tikokino have their own clear identity.
“So, one of the initiatives that will come out of this is the idea of doing community plans for each of our settlement spaces so that they own and drive the way that council works with them,” says Alex.
So how does ‘Thrive’ support local businesses?
“Thrive benefits the whole community – schools, families and businesses. It is for everybody,” says Alex.
“When it comes to business, it is about creating a positive space; what benefits the community will benefit business.”
What started out as a values-based discussion amongst elected representatives has become a concept embraced by the CHB community.
“Thrive turned into a term that clearly encompassed our vision for the district, being able to thrive and grow and be successful,” Alex says.
“This is not just my vision, it is not just the council’s vision, it is the vision of the whole community.”