Two years ago, on October 26th, a newly elected Regional Council was sworn in, and proceeded as its first item of business to elect Rex Graham as chairman. Councillors Graham, Belford, Beaven and Barker were no longer mushrooms to be kept in the dark. ...

No More Mushrooms!

Thu, Oct 25 2018

Two years ago, on October 26th, a newly elected Regional Council was sworn in, and proceeded as its first item of business to elect Rex Graham as chairman. Councillors Graham, Belford, Beaven and Barker were no longer mushrooms to be kept in the dark.

This was the first step in a transformation of culture and priorities at HBRC. Here is what has been accomplished over the past two years by a group of councillors united in purpose and determined to make fundamental changes that reflect the mandate we were given by voters.

  1. We ended any further council financial support for the Ruataniwha dam, effectively taking it off the table and saving ratepayers from wasting a further $60 million on a project championed by the previous regime … without access to the land required.
  2. We stripped down to the barest essentials our investment company (HBRIC), which had driven the dam, and changed its leadership, ensuring alignment with Council’s new priorities.
  3. We installed a new CEO at HBRC, James Palmer, a change hugely important to ensuring the positive culture shift and environmental re-prioritisation of the Council.
  4. Having stood before ratepayers and convincing you of the magnitude of need, we committed HBRC to a long overdue step-up in environmental spending, with critical projects now underway at Lake Tutira, the Ahuriri Estuary, along the Karamu stream, and Whakaki Lake, alongside a transformation of our on-the-ground approach to rural land management.
  5. We’ve secured Farm Environmental Management Plans from over 1000 property owners in the Tukituki catchment, setting in motion an approach to improving on-farm environmental mitigation that will be rolled out across the region.
  6. We’ve committed $30m over ten years to riparian planting and have begun design of a major afforestation programme for HB — which will bring immense erosion control, biodiversity AND financial benefits to the region if full rollout (up to $100m) is endorsed in the public consultation process soon to launch. This initiative includes partnering with Ngati Kahungunu, who have pledged $100m on their own to the project.
  7. Taking a tougher regulatory stance, we have effectively prodded the territorial authorities to get serious — for the first time ever — about their infrastructure spending for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. This will take time to play out fully, but the physical improvements needed are vital … as is the political will to see them through.
  8. By year’s end, our TANK process will come to fruition, setting the course for managing all surface and aquifer waters in the Heretaunga Plains for optimum quality and security of supply. Already we’ve stopped any further water takes from the Heretaunga aquifer.
  9. We declared – before the new coalition Govt arrived – that Hawke’s Bay was off limits to oil & gas development that would endanger our water supplies.
  10. We’ve launched a farmer/grower-led Future Farming Initiative that will confirm how smart, profitable farming and green farming are one and the same in HB.
  11. We upgraded Regional Council reserves at Waitangi Estuary and Pakowhai Park.
  12. We’ve maintained substantial funding for HB Tourism, while committing to a more diversified, visitor and industry-supported funding model in the near future.
  13. We created a Sustainable Homes programme – leveraging the HBRC balance sheet, at no cost to ratepayers – that will encourage homeowner investment in solar systems, residential water storage, and modern septic systems.
  14. We will adopt next month a new 20-year biosecurity plan that extends our commitment to protecting farming productivity – and our biodiversity – from plant and animal pests, including for the first time feral cats and goats. We’ve seed-funded our Biodiversity Trust and initiated a $4.86m plan (including Predator Free NZ) to make Mahia predator free.
  15. We’re pursuing carbon neutral status for HB by 2040. And we’ve led the development of a 100-year protection plan for the Napier and Hastings District coastal areas to address the reality of climate change-induced sea rise and storm damage.
  16. And just weeks ago, after two years of intense homework, we launched public consultation on a plan that will – if embraced by the public – future-proof the Port’s competitive capacity while ensuring further revenue support to the Council for its environmental priorities, at no ratepayer cost and while retaining public control of the Port.

And we are deeply-engaged with Government around our aligned goals, so far pulling nearly $5m into the region for environmental improvements.

This is a set of accomplishments that I and my colleagues are proud to have initiated with terrific support from the Hawke’s Bay community and our talented Council staff.

Many of these projects will require time to gain traction, but we’ve made a strong start and we are now focused on effective implementation.

And there’s more to come!

Tom Belford


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BayBuzz still kickin’

Mon, Oct 15 2018

We’re still celebrating BayBuzz‘s 10th Anniversary of print publishing.

Yes, people still do like to hold a hard copy magazine in their hands and relish turning the pages!

Come see our debate with HB Today editor Craig Cooper and others Sunday 1pm at the Arts Festival.

Here’s what some community leaders had to say about BayBuzz.


Hope you agree. And if you do, please consider the message below.


Tom Belford


If you have something to say about this article, You can place a comment on the BayBuzz website

God help local journalism!

Wed, Oct 03 2018

Today’s Hawke’s Bay Today was an excellent illustration of what threatens the survival of local journalism.

The biggest threat: newspapers like HB Today.

Where the front page headline today is: Boulder blasted from Bluff.

Where the lead editorial today — What are NZ’s values anyway? — was written by that HB notable, Zaryd Wilson. What … never heard of him? He’s a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle, although he wasn’t identified as such.  An import from parent NZ Herald, a frequent occurrence these days at godchild HB Today.

Local journalism?

Where the Talking Point today — Plan for a bilingual NZ — was written by that HB luminary, John McCaffery. What … never heard of him? He’s a doctoral candidate at the University of Auckland. Lately, HB Today — or more likely, an editor at the Herald mothership who really pulls the strings — has taken to boring Bay readers with frequent essays from voluble academics apparently seeking tenure at universities around the country.

Local journalism?

Today’s situation must have been especially embarrassing for poor HB Today editor Craig Cooper.

He had to resort to presenting his own press release — Join us and face future — as a news article on page 3. The piece attempted to make a virtue out of the fact that HB Today is owned by NZME (NZ Media Enterprises, whose flagship is the Herald).

Despite trying to make serving as a small cog in an Auckland-run media enterprise sound just dandy (“you can continue to enjoy local and national journalism at its very best”), the irony of Craig’s piece is illustrated by this direct quote: “But there is one thing that won’t change — and that’s our commitment to local journalism and this region.”

Now firstly, I’ve never heard anyone in Hawke’s Bay characterise HB Today as “journalism at its very best”; but I do admire Editor Cooper for his bravado.

And secondly, as for “commitment to local journalism and this region”, today’s content, cited above, belies that claim.

If today’s HB Today is evidence of “local journalism … at it very best” and a “commitment to local journalism”, god help local journalism!

If such issues interest you, be sure to attend, as part of the HB Arts Festival, a panel titled ‘What’s happening to our news?’ on Sunday October 21st. It features HBT’s Craig Cooper, myself as editor of BayBuzz and broadcasting veteran Bill Ralston discussing the news media scene, moderated by another media veteran, Janet Wilson. Details and tickets here.


If you have something to say about this article, You can place a comment on the BayBuzz website

Please Take Our BayBuzz Reader Survey

Mon, Apr 02 2018

Every couple of years we do an informal online reader survey to help us in two ways:

  1. Identify improvements we can make to BayBuzz magazine and/or our online presence.
  2. Help better describe our BayBuzz community to advertisers and ‘would-be’ subscribers. (Yes, we need revenue!)

So it would be terrifically helpful if you would complete our 2018 BayBuzz Reader Survey.

Just 21 questions, but they’re comprehensive and will help us better understand what you like most (or least) about BayBuzz and how you engage with us.

Here’s that survey link again.

From past surveys, we know many ‘BayBuzz households’ contain more than one reader. So this year we are enabling two responses from each household … so you don’t have to fight over who gets to respond!

So please lend us a hand … take our 2018 BayBuzz Reader Survey here.

It’s a really important way you can help BayBuzz.

Thanks so much!

Tom Belford

Publisher & Editor


If you have something to say about this article, You can place a comment on the BayBuzz website

Ambitious Long Term Plan from HBRC

Sat, Mar 17 2018

Last Wednesday, the Regional Council adopted its draft LTP, which will now go to the public for consultation.

In its first year, this LTP proposes an increase that will average $1 per week across all Hawke’s Bay ratepayers.

By a more inflammatory measure, that equates to a 19% increase in the first year, which simply reflects the low revenue base that currently supports Regional Council activities. I would note that one-fourth of the increase is due to HBRC picking up from our four territorial councils the full cost of civil defence preparedness for the region — producing off setting savings you should see in your local council rates.

Currently the average total payment by HB ratepayers to the Regional Council is about $251 per year.

The public expects that average $251 per household to provide a clean, safe environment — capable of supporting sustainable growth — for all of Hawke’s Bay, complete with resilience and future proofing against extreme weather events … with more such events expected due to climate change.

In my judgment, the current spending level represents serious under-investment, reflecting past neglect, against our environmental and resource use challenges. As the consultation process proceeds, I will listen carefully to your views and will offer my own.

In the meantime, I urge you to take seven minutes and listen to these remarks by HBRC chief executive James Palmer as he introduced and gave context to the draft LTP for Council consideration last week.

Tom Belford




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