Imagine being together

A submission to Hawke’s Bay Today regarding the proposed amalgamation

Imagine sitting down in the sun with pen and paper in hand in 2025, just ten years from now, and writing a description of Hawke’s Bay. What it looks like as you drive through it, the kinds of job choices people have, the kinds of lifestyle choices people have, and what the community spirit and safety is like.

Actually imagine. It’s yours to shape, after all.

My guess is it’s a bit different from how you would describe it today. And I think the first step in getting from here to there, is being together.

I hate the word amalgamation. It sounds clinical and at a distance from value and from people. What you are being asked to consider now isn’t clinical and distanced - it’s a choice about people and about the place you live in.

It is about a group of people having the opportunity to choose to be together, and to choose to be better, together. Given the difficult things that need to be managed through the process, and that it is unlikely to suddenly make things more efficient and cheaper, the only reason I can see that you would chose to be together is if you believe the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

That happens when all the parts working together result in something far greater than would be possible by adding individual efforts together. Like pieces of an orchestra coming together. It certainly doesn’t mean everyone plays the same instrument, but it does mean everyone knows their part and is playing to the same piece of music to make something extraordinary.

Similarly, Hawke’s Bay choosing to be together doesn’t mean the parts become the same. To the contrary, it means all the special pieces can be recognised and brought together in a way that acknowledges and showcases their unique offering. Every part of the region has its own unique character to contribute to the whole, and each of them can be brought in, individual notes to harmonise together.

But it’s not possible to make music without the pieces working together. And Hawke’s Bay is not working well together, yet.

Although only one way to look at things, I like starting with the figures. New Zealand has 16 regions, with Hawke’s Bay making up 3.6% of the total population with about 150,000 people. 3.6% is relatively small, but my word Hawke’s Bay is a stunner. It is a treasure trove of natural beauty and bounty, and human endeavour.

The region is placed 13th of the 16 regions for Gross Domestic Product per person, meaning average incomes are lower in Hawke’s Bay than in most of the other regions. Ten years ago it was 8th. Money isn’t the only important measure by a long shot, but it does underpin a lot of important things. Whilst Hawke’s Bay continues to increase its GDP, it is moving slower than the national average. This is a pattern that we have the power to address, and I believe that it is best addressed by working together, by pooling ideas and resources.

A cohesive view of the region would allow us to better identify issues and opportunities and attract ideas and initiatives, both international and domestic, to the region. For example, a regional administration could allow an overview of all the jobs in the region, allowing an understanding of what gaps there are so as to decide what to focus on, ensure the right people are being trained for the right thing, and attract the experts that are needed.

If the region unites, I too am concerned about what happens next. I’m concerned about who leads it, how brave they will be and how much they are willing to truly listen and work together with others. But that is a secondary problem, and one that together - we can solve.

Hawke’s Bay is a wonderful and special place. But is it the best it can be?

Dare dream what would be possible if we worked together with one another. Keep the unique character of each community, build upon each one’s strengths, and work together to solve weaknesses.

Imagine what can be done, together.

Note: There are many things I don’t know about Hawke’s Bay as it is today; I don’t currently live in this precious region. But I grew up here and all of my family live in Hawke’s Bay, and so it reserves a very special place in my heart. One of the things I have come to value over the years, and especially as CEO of Figure.NZ, is getting input from many perspectives before making a decision, so it is with that thought along with my care for the region in mind that I share my thoughts on the proposal to bring Hawke’s Bay together.