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The alternative strategic plan

Opinion Piece

Tuesday’s column featuring Meredith Akuhata-Brown’s justification for rejecting Minister Jones’s “once in a lifetime” offer of creating an economic zone in the northern part of the Tairawhiti region requires a response that offers readers an idea of what they are being denied.

I am mortified to read that a senior member of this council could advocate such foolish, irresponsible rubbish as a panacea for the real problems facing this community.

However, while appalled that her opinions appear to represent a majority view at the council, I believe such an ill-advised strategy needs to be challenged.

In fact, it isn’t a strategy at all, just a gutless waffle using internationally-popular words and slogans that fit the mood of those who selfishly promote their personal ideological mantra — eg declaring a climate emergency, getting all stale, pale males to admit to being racist, declaring Cook to be a murderer, blaming farmers for most of our greenhouse gas emissions, etc, etc.

OK! So what about the rest of us who have been waiting for actions that have the ability to make a real difference — economic and social restructuring, including meaningful strategies to change our dependence on a pastoral economy under threat from climate change, plus developing a tourism industry that has so much to offer but is restrained by special-interest groups refusing to work together for the common good.

We have the most iconic version of this nation’s story, yet we refuse to allow it to be presented to the world due mainly to petty jealousies amongst those who control the narrative. We lead the world in race relations yet we seem reluctant to tell the world why that is so and how we achieved what we have.

Plans based on these ideas will be difficult but, with the help that is on offer, are doable!

I have spoken at length about the other two issues I regard as part of any strategic plan that will do justice to the good people of this region.

One, the identification of and if need be the building of new, reliable fresh water reservoirs that will accommodate the needs of a restructured economy based on the irrigated Poverty Bay, Uawa and Waiapu flats. The second plan would be built around accepting Shane Jones’s offer of financial assistance that has the potential to rescue the Ngati Porou economic hub (especially its forestry estate) from collapse.

Labour’s Kiri Allan has no business interfering in this debate, showing how nakedly partisan she is prepared to be when the interests of constituents are in play. Her crocodile tears are palpable.

For Ngati Porou to reject the Minister’s offer would be tantamount to committing economic suicide. While I have little time for some of NZ First’s political antics, I have lived long enough to recognise a gift horse when it is staring me in the face, and find it incredible that there are people out there in leadership positions who don’t see the Minister’s generous offer in the same light. New airports and flowery words about tourism potential won’t save us — common-sense decisions just might.

This is all about leadership.

The stakes are higher now than they have ever been and those recently elected to occupy the seats around the council table should recognise this fact.

It is probably unfair to assume that all council members agree with councillor Akuhata-Brown’s list of priorities. New members deserve the opportunity to declare themselves. Now is the time for those who are serious about developing plans that will make a real difference to stand up and be counted.

I live in hope!