In November this year, a free community event will be held to mark the 30th anniversary of the Hastings District Council.
The Hastings District Council was created from the local government amalgamation of the Havelock North Borough, Hawke’s Bay County, and Hastings City councils in 1989.
Here, local historian Michael Fowler shares some insight into the tumultuous political climate at the time…
In 1987 it was clear 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 look at 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.
In the end it decided that from 1 November 1989, the 21 local bodies in Hawke’s Bay would merge into five councils: Wairoa District Council, Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, Napier City Council, Hastings District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.
The new Hastings District Council would include Havelock North and eight of the 10 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.
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.
The event will be held on Sunday, Novemer 3 at 2pm at the Havelock North Function Centre.
Seats are strictly limited – to indicate you will be attending please email 30thAnniversary@hdc.govt.nz
Photo: Amid fears that the 1989 Local Government Reform would lead to the death of independent Havelock North, a group of concerned people carry “Independent Havelock North’s” coffin on Te Mata Road.
18 October 2019
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