• Return of cancer forces Hawke's Bay Regional Council Chairman to resign

Return of cancer forces Hawke's Bay Regional Council Chairman to resign

Long-standing Hawke's Bay Regional Council chair and councillor Rex Graham has announced his resignation due to the return of his cancer.

"I have been very honoured and proud to lead this council which during both terms has been made up of some very special people. It has been a very happy time for me driving change for the betterment of our region but sadly my health has other ideas and I can no longer give the energy and commitment that is required to properly serve this council and this community," Mr Graham said. 

He says he wishes the council well in selecting their new chair and achieving their own unique agenda for the good of our environment and all the people in Hawke's Bay. 

"I would like to thank those people who supported my campaigns over the last three elections, I couldn’t have done it without you. It's been a great journey and I have few regrets but circumstances change and I must now focus on my health and spend time with my family." 

HBRC Chief Executive James Palmer said Rex has worked tirelessly on behalf of the region to drive our work protecting and enhancing our environment, and he has made a big impact in his time as both a councillor and chair.

"Rex has been very supportive of Council staff and a champion for their wellbeing, and we have appreciated his leadership and support. We understand the reasons for him standing down and we wish him and his family the very best for his health."

Mr Graham says this current regional council has some exceptional young people who will lead our region into the future.

"We collectively helped our new CEO to change the management environment building a team that is envied around the country for their intellect, dedication and commitment. They will continue to drive an environmental agenda." 

"I have also enjoyed my involvement with the regions four mayors and I can assure you that the region is in very capable and safe hands."

Mr Graham was in his second term as a councillor when he was elected as chairman in 2016. In his first term as chair of HBRC, Graham made the decision to stop drilling oil and gas near the region's waterways.

"We lead the nation on this and it is one of my proudest moments," he said.

He also said he was particularly proud of his involvement in the Napier Port IPO which enabled the port to build a new wharf and at the same time strengthen the council's balance sheet which is $200m better off as a result of this deal.

He said his agenda was always to create a balance between the regions economic growth and environmental sustainability. "To help maintain a dynamic and growing economy that must work in harmony with our environment and ensure that we leave nobody behind." 

"Regional parks have always been high on my priority list and I am really proud of my role in developing the Waitangi Regional Park with its magical celestial compass and the growing Hawea Park at Pakowhai which started with a handshake with my good mate Ngahiwi Tomoana," Mr Graham said. 

"We continue on the program of improving our waterways with a huge financial investment in this years LTP but it’s going to be a long journey that others must drive. The “Right Tree Right Place” is an internationally recognised legacy program and the new LTP continues the investment into our environment." 

He also said he was happy to be present for the creation of Māori wards.

"It was really gratifying that the vote was unanimous," he said. "I have greatly enjoyed my involvement with tangata whenua and despite some cross words at times, I have made some really great and enduring friendships."

However, Mr Graham said, "In politics, you don't win all the battles".

"I remain disappointed that we continue to permit the burning of green wood which pollutes our air, especially on the Heretaunga plains with its strong inversion layers," he said.