Featured post

ROCKY BAY NEVER WAS OMIHA

A Waiheke Island Myth Part 1 On Waiheke Island, New Zealand, a myth has grown up among a handful of people in the Rocky Bay Village th...

Follow Waiheke Notes by email

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

HOW THE COMMUNITY BOARD SHOULD OPERATE

It is the primary duty, the primary responsibility, the primary function of the Waiheke Community Board to defend our island from the developers, speculators and bureaucrats who vandalise its pleasantness. It must stand in the breach with weapons drawn. But Board after Board has been asleep at its post. Whatever they might say in their defence can only be a feeble excuse. Where there's a will there's a way. There was no way, so there was insufficient will. Perhaps they didn't even think of it.

Parliamentary statute clearly wants it. Section 7 of the Resource Management Act says that 'everyone exercising powers and functions under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources shall have particular regard to' the ethic of stewardship, the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment, and the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values, etc. The Oxford Dictionary sums up 'amenity' in one word: pleasantness.

The Local Government Act says the Board is there to be an advocate for the interests of the island. And members must promise in writing to serve its best interests to the best of their skill and judgement. So why do we get horrors on hillsides and ridgelines?

Every statutory weapon must be used, every means of persuasion, cajolery and negotiation must be pressed into service to keep the island pleasant. Otherwise the reason we live here will no longer exist. Waiheke will have become like Dubai. Development on steroids.

The Board's whole operation should be geared to stopping the island's pleasantness from being trashed. That must mean, amongst other things, not having only ten or eleven meetings a year, and not being satisfied with only one a month. Resource consents can be processed in less than 20 working days, so corrupt bureaucrats could slip nasty things through between monthly meetings, or in months when there is no meeting--the Matiatia Monstrosity (89 Nick Johnstone Drive) was approved at the end of December, a month the Board has no meeting. So it should meet fortnightly. And it should schedule extra meetings when pressing attacks come at us--for large public attendance if the whole island has to be rallied.

Fortnightly meetings will also speed things up generally. Bureaucrats habitually act as if we are all going to live a thousand years and tomorrow will do. We aren't; it won't. The Board should not have the same habit. Next month will not do.

We elect people to look after our interests. We are most interested in keeping Waiheke pleasant. The Board should be too. It should never be asleep at its post. If I were on the Board I would move that it changes its operation so that it can defend the island to the hilt. If it refused, I would do it myself.

Our landscape is being trashed because unpleasant developments are being approved--like the Matiatia Monstrosity. And because such consents are slipped through hugger-mugger by untrustworthy planning bureaucrats the only remedies are dismissal or exposure.

But the Board does not have the power to hire and fire, so the only way to stop the corrupt processing of resource-consent applications is to force the bureaucrats, using the Local Government Official Information & Meetings Act (LGOIMA) and the Local Government Act, to copy every application to the Board. It must also be a permanent fixture on the agendas of its meetings to scrutinise and vet them. Then nothing can be hidden from the public gaze.

The demands for copies must be frequent enough (once a week at least) to make sure nothing can be slipped through.Why, you might ask, have a dog and bark too? Because it has proved not to be a dog; it can't even meow.

It would be nice to have a standing request to have every application copied to the Board, but LGOIMA does not allow that, although the Ombudsman's office says some organisations will do it anyway, so perhaps the Board could achieve that by making a resolution to that effect.

If a demand for copies was not obeyed, the Ombudsman can investigate, putting the guilty on notice. The Board can also go to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment if it finds the consent process is being diverted from its proper course. It can also make a formal complaint to the City Manager about an errant bureaucrat; and it can pass a public motion of censure.

None of that would add to the costs for ordinary, honest applicants, and little or nothing to the time it would take to process their applications, because most of the 275 made annually are OK, or need few changes. But it would certainly stop the eyesores. And they should be stopped, because they are vandalism, and contrary to law.

Making our environment less and less pleasant also affects our health. There is a close link between well-being and environment.

Section 10 of the Local Government Act says, 'The purpose of local government is--(a)to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and (b)to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities, in the present and for the future.'

The Community Board must do everything it can to stop bureaucratic corruption from trashing Waiheke. Whatever can be done should be done. Up till now it has not been. The Board must intercept every attempt to uglify the island and stop it dead. If the regime I am proposing was operating, and I were on the Board, and an application like the Matiatia Monstrosity came in I would say, 'NO! That is not an amenity, it is not pleasant, it is ugly; it is therefore contrary to law. Go away and design something pleasant.'

As I said in another posting, if I were on the Board I would subject every proposal to three simple tests: 1) Is it necessary and/or good for the island? If not, that's the end of it. 2) If it is, how can it be done in the shortest time and for the smallest amount of money? 3) Always be acutely aware that the Board is spending other people's money and that money is generated from people's lives, so other people's lives are being spent.

But you cannot test proposals you do not know about. Therefore the Board must make sure that nothing can be hidden.

The way of operating that I have proposed above is perfectly consistent with the Resource Management Act, which demands, in section 35(2)(c) 'That every local authority shall monitor--The exercise of any functions, powers, or duties delegated or transferred by it,--and take appropriate action where this is shown to be necessary.' The Act also says in section 34(9) 'Every person authorised under a delegation ... is presumed to be acting in accordance with its terms in the abscence of proof to the contrary.' The Board, obviously, can supply that proof, in the form of gross abuses of delegated bureaucratic authority, which should mean that the authority that has been so abused will be removed or operated only under strict supervision.

There are also Planning Commissioners on the Board who have, or should have, the same delegated authority, but who by virtue of being Board members as well should be able to over-rule the bureaucrats.

There is another way of cutting through the abuses bureaucratic power. The Board could simply apply to the Council under section 34(1)&(2) of the Act for full delegated authority for all consent matters on the island, and have the planning staff subordinate to them. That would make all consent processes on the island fully democratic. All bureaucratic power would be removed. Sadly, the Board would not be able to over-ride the Council on, for example, Plan 201 for Matiatia.

One way or the other, the Board must do the hard yards to make sure the pleasantness of the island is not compromised.

See the end of this posting for thoughts added after the election (24th of October and the 13th of November 2007)

.......

The Board should also be communicating better with the island. This is the twenty-first century, so why, at very least, doesn't it have a blog, up-to-date and updated frequently? They can be set up in an hour or so and cost nothing. Google's blogs (the ones at blogspot.com) now have a polling feature, which makes it very easy to get feedback on any issue.

The Board should also have, in the boardroom and at hand, all the modern computer tools and library resources that will enable it to come rapidly to well-informed decisions. Access to the Internet, for example, is a no-brainer. So is that CD-ROM of the Resource Management Act annotated with the major court decisions.

.......

The number of community lobby groups that have sprung up on the island over the years is an indictment of a long succession of Community Boards that have failed to take full advantage of their general and specific democratic powers, and therefore have failed the community. The Community Boardroom should be the 'family' conference room of the island, the focal gathering-place, and the Board should spearhead all discussions and considerations that concern and interest the community. When it doesn't, others feel obliged to. If people see a vacuum and fill it, because the Board has not being doing its job, they by their actions are, very rightly, condemning it for failing to be what it is meant to be in statute and in statutory promise. If it were, they would no longer feel the need to exist and spend time, energy and money making up the deficit.

The Board should be a resounding symphony of substance, never a hollow drumbeat of procedure.

.......

After the election, when I saw the list of delegations of authority made by the Auckland City Council to Community Boards, I was aghast to see that there has been, all along, the overview mechanism needed, but the Waiheke Board has obviously not been using it. The member responsible, who resigned to create the vacancy I was elected to fill, had not been doing her job.

Delegation 16 gives the power: 'To appoint a board member to consult with the Group Manager, Auckland City Environments and Group Manager, City Planning and the Regulatory and Fixtures Subcommittee on whether proposed non-notified, non-complying land use or subdivision applications should be notified or not, except where the application is non-complying due only to the bonding of a financial contribution.'

If the Planning Spokesman had been awake and functioning as commanded by that, such things as the horror on the hilltop at 89 Nick Johnstone Drive would never have gone through non-notified.

That delegated authority, coupled with what has been outlined in the bulk of this posting, would achieve what is needed--to shift the control of resource consents from the bureaucracy to the democracy.

Another post-election discovery was that thanks to a member of the Eden-Albert Community Board, Virginia Chong, boards get a list each month of all the resource-consent applications, which they should be studying and using. Waiheke has not been.

If neither the information provided and the authority provided are being used, there is no excuse for failure.