The front page of Friday 7th edition of The Gisborne Herald had a headline usually reserved for the outbreak of war.
It focused on the same day Prime Ministerial-announcement of $153 million being pumped into the local economy from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund, mostly based on applications from Gisborne District Council.
My research tells me similar amounts are likely to be added during the life of this Government. They must think we’re worth it.
On this basis, why would anyone even try to rationally assess the real impact of this huge dollop of largesse on the region?
Well, I for one don’t agree with most other commentators who claim this is the “game changer” we have been waiting for. In fact, far from being the shiny example of well-informed co-operation that the politicians would have us believe, I believe we have been duped.
We could have expected so much more from the promise that initially looked like being the keys to prosperity. Instead we have been sold a pup!
It is ironic that a majority of the local and central government members who were preening themselves as the Prime Minister personally delivered the good news, had previously been identifying the negative effects of climate change as the greatest threat to this region’s, and the rest of the country’s, economies . . . yet we are being asked to accept this “mutton dressed up as lamb” panacea as the answer to our problems.
At first glance, it all looks so impressive but when you examine the fine print, you will find - a "game-changer” it is not!
Am I exaggerating?
Not at all. In fact, the truth will shock you.
A lot of the projects designed to significantly increase earnings from the tourism sector are either misplaced or based on piecemeal proposals, when we should be doing everything possible to combine our disparate parts into one big whole that will compete on the international stage.
We all need to contribute to the telling of our iconic cultural history in a centralised way that is accessible to those who want to visit and learn. We can’t do that by having bits of our most valuable attraction scattered around the countryside.
It would appear that those advising the Government on this issue are incapable of recognising this basic truth.
Regarding climate change and its associated likely effect on our pastoral economy, I have genuinely tried to match the identified priorities for expenditure announced in this package with anything that could qualify as an attempt to provide solutions that have the ability to deliver the gains we need.
Unfortunately, most of it can best be described as band-aid measures that will only prolong the agony of waiting for a permanent fix.
So, if our local leaders were acting responsibly, it follows that most of the Government’s money should be going into researching and introducing programmes that will restructure our long-neglected infrastructure — and I’m not talking about fixing existing roads and bridges, or paying for feasibility studies into the restoration of a proven uneconomic railway line just because it fulfils a promise to a coalition partner.
For our region, the focus of this work should be on the development of sustainable, clean fresh water reserves and the distribution of this valuable lifeblood to all the sectors that have the capacity to turn it into thousands of well-paid jobs. This is one of the few areas where we have untapped resources to burn, yet they are being ignored in favour of projects that pander to special interest groups.
Tragically, the council’s Long Term Plans includes virtually nothing of the type of visionary thinking we desperately need.
Like Old Mother Hubbard, the cupboard is bare!
Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.