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Thirty years of Hastings District Council commemorated

This weekend a special event is to be held commemorating 30 years since the 1989 amalgamation that resulted in the creation of the Hastings District Council.

Before November 1, 1989 there were 21 local bodies in Hawke’s Bay that under the local government reform of that year were merged into five councils: Wairoa District Council, Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, Napier City Council, Hastings District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

Hawke’s Bay historian Michael Fowler said it had already become clear in 1987 that some reform of local government would take place, and local authorities in Hawke’s Bay made submissions to the Local Government Commission setting out their preferences.

“The town of Clive, which was governed by the Hawke’s Bay County Council, wasn’t happy about the prospect of merging with Hastings City Council. Some feared that the recent reduction in a passenger bus subsidy that went through Clive could be an omen of things to come.

“Havelock North wanted to remain independent – fiercely so – fearing loss of its identity.

“The Hawke’s Bay County Council wanted to woo Havelock North, suggesting that the village could sit happily, retaining its own identity under the County Council’s wing.”

The Local Government Commission did consider creating one mega local authority for Hawke’s Bay, but Chair Brian Elwood noted significant past opposition to this would make it unwise to even contemplate, Mr Fowler said.

The new Hastings District Council would include Havelock North and eight of the ten old ridings (areas) of the former Hawke’s Bay County Council, and part of Taupo County as well.

“At the October 1989 elections, Jeremy Dwyer had a landslide victory of 17,000 votes, but must have doubted his decision at times to be Hastings District Council’s first Mayor.

“Havelock North was very unhappy after the merger and did not want the redundant mayoral chain to reside in Hastings.”

Mr Fowler said the goings-on in Havelock North were nothing compared to the so-called “rural revolt” facing the Hastings District Council over the next two years.

“Unhappy over rate increases and other issues, a group of rural ratepayers formed the Hawke’s Bay District Action Committee, and desired to break away from the council and form another local authority.

“An independent study found this would not create cost savings. In what was a very stressful time for Mayor Dwyer, he and his council were eventually able to work with this group to find solutions.

“Despite the initial fears, today it seems to many, even older ratepayers, that we knew no different.”

At the commemoration event, elected representatives from the time of the amalgamation will be in attendance to share their thoughts and experiences.

One of these invited guests, Megan Williams, was a new councillor and said that with the merging of Hastings City, Havelock North Borough and the county councils the initial focus was to make sure the district council’s thinking was inclusive.

“This must have been hard for councillors that had been on respective councils in the past but for me, being a new councillor, even though I was representing the urban area, my thoughts had to always be all inclusive.

“However, the rural sector at that time did not have the trust and confidence that the new council had their interests at heart and they subsequently complained virulently that the new structure was flawed.

“With the setting up of the Rural Community Board with district councillor representation and a suitable rating structure identifying rural and urban needs put in place, we soon proved to the rural community that we did have their interests at heart.”

The community is welcome to attend this event acknowledging a significant chapter of the Hastings district’s history.

It will be held at the Havelock North Function Centre on Sunday, November 3 at 2pm.


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