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Monday, 17 September 2007

INDEX/SYNOPSIS

This is the index for the posts I made before the election in October 2007 in which Waihekeans voted me on to the Board. Some may have been updated slightly since then (such as the one on a better system of calculating rates, because more data has been dug out), but most are exactly the same as they were for the election campaign.

Scroll down to read all the pre-election posts, or click on the headlines below for individual ones.

20 IF, IF AND ONLY IF
How not to make stupid decisions and waste public money. An example of stupid waste.

19 CONSENT APPLICATIONS ARE NOT CRIMES
People should not be punished for wanting to build legal buildings.

18 WEED ISLAND AND NOXIOUS WEEDS
New Zealand's environment should be protected from bio-threats.

17 WAIHEKE'S MONEY GROSSLY OVERSPENT IN AUCKLAND
Auckland spends about $3 million a year on its side of the water, not ours.

16 ANTI-DEMOCRATIC CONSENT PROCESSING MUST END ON WAIHEKE
A shameful stain on the national escutcheon must be obliterated.

15 BEST INTERESTS MEANS PROACTIVE NOT REACTIVE
The Board should play Waiheke's game, not Auckland's.

14 SHOULD THERE BE CARPARKS AT MATIATIA?
Beam them up, Scotty?

13 A BAD DISTRICT PLAN MEANS A BAD DISTRICT
A District Plan should be democratic, not bureaucratic.

12 YAY! A SUPER-RICH AIRPORT ON STEROIDS
DC10's landing on Waiheke? Should we sell Auckland International Airport?

11 MORE ABOUT ME
More biographical stuff and what sort of Board member I would be.

10 ESCAPING FROM AUCKLAND‘S RUINOUS DOMINATION
Waiheke's biggest problem is Auckland City. How we could get rid of it.

9 PUBLIC SERVANTS, BUREAUCRATS, POLITICIANS AND STATESMEN
A lightly scientific discussion on why bureaucrats are they way they are.

8 SHOULD THERE BE A SEWERAGE SYSTEM ON WAIHEKE?
Should there be a what!?

7 WHERE SHOULD THE LIBRARY BE?
Waiheke's main village and cultural heart: Oneroa or Ostend?

6 HOW THE COMMUNITY BOARD SHOULD OPERATE
What the Board is there for and how it should function.

5 THE UGLY SHOCKER ON THE MATIATIA RIDGELINE
The systemic and mental corruption that put it there and what should have stopped it.

4 HOW SHOULD WE BE RATED?
My ideas for a fairer rating system.

3 MATIATIA AND PLAN 201
What I think of what Auckland City wants to do to Matiatia.

2 GIVING 200 PERCENT AND CONTACTING ME
What I meant in (1) by giving 200% and contact details.

1 WHY I AM STANDING FOR THE BOARD
What sort of Board member I would be, and some biographical stuff.

IF, IF AND ONLY IF

One of the subjects I took at university was logic. In logic you very soon learn a new word: iff, which means 'if, if and only if.' And you get dinned into you, with broad Lancashire accent if you had my logic lecturer the basis of all logic: 'If, if and only if your premise is true and your reasoning is true will your conclusion be true. In other words, iff the start is true and the middle is true the end will be true.

If that simple formula were used in all public decision-making, money would never be wasted. But all too often the premise is false, or the reasoning is false, or both, which means the conclusion cannot possibly be true. Thus money is flung down the toilet.

There is a small, but very visible, example outside Video Ezy. Small as in many thousands of dollars wasted, rather than millions. But many a little makes a lot and there are only a thousand thousands in a million.

The bus shelter there used to be as close to perfection as you could hope to get on this earth. It was one of those glass-walled ones, it gave 360-degree views of the village, the beach, the approaching buses--everything. It protected waiting passengers from the weather. It was a very pleasant place to sit. We had a German exchange-student on the island for a year who used to sit there by the hour, enjoying the island and its people.

But someone on the Community Board had the irrelevant idea that the buses should go past the front entrance to Artworks in Ocean View Road rather than the back in Korora Road, so that visitors would not have to walk as far to the Information Centre. And she tried to add justification to her premise by saying that buses stopping outside Video Ezy were blocking Waikare Road. She saw two minutes once an hour of minor inconvenience, sometimes (when cars were using the bus-stop) as a major problem. So she fought to have the bus routes changed.

That would also mean that instead of coming round through Waikare Road, and giving everyone that breathtaking view along our northern coast as they rounded the Korora Road-Waikare Road corner, they would come along Ocean View Road and have no view.

Her premise was false, firstly because visitors were not greatly inconvenienced by coming into Artworks from Korora Road. They had to walk an extra 70 metres, but they were also exposed to the front entrance of the Art Gallery and Whittakers rather than missing them altogether, so the imaginary negative was a double positive. Secondly, buses always hold up traffic in narrow roads. Doing it in a side street is better than in a main thoroughfare.

Then her premise became even more false, because only one bus-route was changed. Only the Onetangi buses were directed along Ocean View Road past the front door of the Information Centre. The other one stayed on the Korora Road-Waikare Road segment.

But that meant two bus stops were needed at the top of Oneroa. So a new one was built at the cost of thousands of dollars in front of the Lazy Lounge for the Onetangi bus (Route 1). Then, because of the nonsense about blocking the road outside Video Ezy, the wonderful bus shelter that had been there for years was taken away. More wasteful expenditure. That bus stop was moved up the road to be above the fish-and-chip shop. But there was no room there for a shelter, so the bus stop was only a post and a dotted yellow line.

But no one used the post. They wanted a shelter. So they walked down to the one opposite the Red Cross.

Tourists were bamboozled by the double bus-stop nonsense. Before all that happened they had gathered outside Video Ezy and when the two buses came along they would ask the drivers which was the best place to go--Onetangi or Rocky Bay. But with two bus stops, one a barely noticeable post, they were at a loss to know where to go.

So the post was removed and at great expense a new bus shelter was built outside Video Ezy: an expensive wrought-iron and hardwood balustrade, a hardwood platform, and a wooden-walled shelter. A very strange shelter with two sides. One side faced the beach, which made you invisible to the bus-drivers, the other faced the buses--and looked straight into the teeth of the prevailing winds, so it was no shelter at all.

A false premise, false reasoning from it, and we ended up half way back to where we started but the half solution was nowhere near as good as what we had started with.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The saga of wasted money did not stop there. A member of the Board was told that visitors were bamboozled by the two bus-stop stupidity, so she had signs made for them so that visitors would know where they were going. She had signs put on other bus-stops as well (with arrows pointing in the direction of the traffic--as if no one can see that!). More money down the toilet. She failed to see that tourists would get from her signs only half the information they want, because signs cannot tell them what the drivers used to--i.e., which was the best place for them to go on the island.

Poor research, poor analysis. Result bad premises. Bad premises and bad reasoning. Result: many thousands of dollars of ratepayers' money wasted.

Friday, 14 September 2007

CONSENT APPLICATIONS ARE NOT CRIMES

Applying for a resource consent is not a crime. But too many people are being put through such suffering and hardship you could be forgiven for thinking that they have committed some terrible criminal offence and are being punished for it.

At this stage (the 13th of September) I have met over a third of the eligible voters on the island, and expect to meet perhaps half, and I have been greatly encouraged by the way I have been accepted, or welcomed, or welcomed warmly. Before I started I was passionate about Waiheke Island. Now, having met so many fellow islanders, I am very passionate, and even more thankful that I live in such a special place.

But there are three people in particular who stand out in my mind, people who if I were on the Board would sum up the reason I was there, why I wanted to be there, and why I would have to put everything into the job. Two are women, the other is a man.

The woman is the mother of a handicapped child. All she wants is to build a carport. Hardly a major construction. She needs protection from the weather while she is getting her daughter and all her equipment out of the car. But time is vanishing away and money is vanishing down the maw of the bureaucracy. And it rains... [Footnote, mid 2008: She got her consent, after eight months, for a mere $1600. A carport!]

The man has a small business. He is a down-to-earth fellow, about fifty, the sort who is the salt of the earth, trustworthy and straight as a die. He has had to go through the resource-consent mill over and over again because of the business he is in, and has been getting a raw deal. His weary sigh as he said, 'There should be honesty,' expressed all evils of the world.

Then there was the woman who was ruined by a botched consent application and now lives in very unsatisfactory conditions. She has no bathroom, there are holes in her walls, she is only just hanging on. Grinding poverty in an advanced country, where that is not meant to be.

Those are the faces I would keep in mind if I were on the Board, and they would make me even more determined to make sure that those who carelessly inflict such misery are brought to heel.

Set against those three people is the planner who told me that she had never seen any application go through in the twenty working days that the Resource Management Act lays down, a fact that very obviously caused her not the slightest distress. Then there was the planner who when kindly reminded that she was not processing bits of paper, she was processing people's lives, retorted, 'Oh, don't lay that one on me.'

No one should have to suffer because of the application of law. Laws are made for people, not the other way about. Those who are being cruel to others using the excuse of due process must change, or be changed.

WEED ISLAND AND NOXIOUS WEEDS

The control of noxious weeds on Waiheke is so lax that they call it Weed Island. It is about time something was done. Those plants have been declared noxious in law because they are a threat to our environment. They should be dealt with. The Council is not fulfilling its legal and environmental responsibilities.

WAIHEKE'S MONEY GROSSLY SPENT IN AUCKLAND

The lead story in Gulf News in the issue that came out on Wednesday the 5th of September, and Liz's accompaying editorial, on the exorbitant sum that Auckland trucks off the island (nearly $1900 for every man, woman and child) were brilliant, and again underlined Gulf News' imense value to Waiheke.

But why did it take Gulf News to dig out that information? Why does the Community Board not keep on top of those figures as a normal part of its operation? Members must, under the Local Government Act 2002, promise in writing to act to the best of their judgement and ability in the best interests of the island; and the Board must be an advocate to the Council ditto. It should therefore watch the money, and know all its comings and goings.

The information supplied by the Council raises many questions and rings many alarm-bells, such as the fact that we contribute far more to run Auckland than to run Waiheke. $3 million is spent on the Auckland side of the water, pouring into general running-costs, roading and transport. Roading! North Shore residents, even Hamiltonians, use Auckland's road far more than Waihekeans. What do Auckland's roads have to do with us? We are an island. If you drive off the edge you get wet and go nowhere but down. Only a fraction of our vehicles can go off on the ferry. Has no one on the Council noticed that?

With nothing to check against we must assume that all the figures are true, but I was intrigued by the figure for the Community Board's operation. $154,000 looks high, because each member is paid $10,000 and the chairman $20,000, which makes a total of $60,000. Adding a bit of the salaries of the Councillor and assisting officers for their attendances surely could not explain the other $94,000. So what was it spent on?

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

ANTI-DEMOCRATIC CONSENT-PROCESSING MUST END

The processing of resource consents is a national disgrace. Consents that should breeze through are too often forced into huge expenditures of time, energy and money. Ones that should be rejected out of hand can breeze through with mysterious ease. The Resource Management Act is often blamed, but it is not at fault. It is the administration of the Act. Incompetent, careless, power-mad bureaucrats are the problem. There can be huge penalties for applicants who breach the RMA, but there are none for bad administrators. So their hubris continues to mess up people's lives and the New Zealand environment.

Therefore the litmus test for the new Community Board--for any Community Board--is whether it succeeds in shifting that power from bureaucracy to democracy. It is the democratically elected representative of the people of Waiheke, bound by a solemn statutory promise to act to the best of its judgement and ability in their best interests. So it must control the resource-consent process. The bureaucrats have failed their trust, they have abused their trust, they cannot be permitted to continue with it. Democracy must rule. If the Board fails to seize control it will have failed to be what it is meant to be, what it is bound to be, what in conscience and natural justice it should be.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

BEST INTERESTS MEANS PROACTIVE NOT REACTIVE

The Board has to promise, in law, to act to the best of its judgement and ability in the best interests of the island. Which means it has to put the island's interests first, not the Council's. Which means it has to be proactive not reactive. It has to play Waiheke's game not Auckland City's. It has to work very Hard at being the bat, not the ball.

Democracy is meant to be government of the people, by the people, for the people. So the public service is there to serve. It is there to execute the will of the people. It is not there to execute its own will.

Local decisions should be made locally.

SHOULD THERE BE CARPARKS AT MATIATIA?

What an extraordinary idea! Fancy thinking that cars need parks. Everybody knows they can be folded up and put tidily in your pocket. Like handkerchiefs. So why ask such a dumb question?

Seriously, yes. Of course. Why should that even be a question?

Personally, I would prefer all cars to be powered by electrons (see my EStarCar), not the black stuff because the planet is of some importance, but there have to be carparks no matter what powers them. And the Council owns the land, so it should provide them. But the valley, thanks to the Resource Management Act, should look pleasant, so the parks should be combined with green stuff in a way that fulfils that. Which is not a task that needs an Einstein. Nor does it take an Einstein to see that two of the three carparks near the wharf are not well laid out. If they were, it would be possible to get perhaps twice the number of cars into the same area.

As I have said in earlier posts, I would submit every proposal to a simple question: 'Is it necessary and/or good for the island?' Carparks obviously are, and they can be done in a way that is good. End of discussion.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

A BAD DISTRICT PLAN MEANS A BAD DISTRICT

District Plans are meant to fill in the details in the Resource Management Act for the district they apply to. They should be made by the people, because they live there, not the planning-bureaucrats. When the bureaucrats do it, we get the sort of result we are seeing on Waiheke.

Recently in Marketplace Gordon Hodson was reported as wanting to dump the new Plan being put forward by Auckland City. He's right. It should be. It's badly conceived, badly written, too long, too complicated, and in essence ignores the very existence of the Resource Management Act.

The RMA, as it makes crystal clear, and as the courts have underlined again and again and again to blind and deaf planners, is effects-based. It is interested only in the effect of a proposal on New Zealand‘s environment. But the bureaucrats want to make things prescriptive. They want to lay down rules in minute detail. They want hard measurements that they can tick off.

They don‘t want to have to decide on what the RMA demands of them, such as in section 7 (aa), (c) and (f) where it says they must have 'particular regard' to 'the ethic of stewardship', 'the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values‘ (amenity means pleasantness), and 'the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment', etc.

I once taxed the Team Leader at the Council Service Centre with that one about amenity. He told me it was too hard. That is an admission of incompetence. If you say that deciding what is pleasant is too hard you are saying you cannot do the job. You should get another one. Sweeping the streets, perhaps.

Small wonder that the pleasantness of the island is being trashing by bad consent rulings.

The District Plan does not have to be lengthy or have a zillion sections or land-units. Once the effects of 7(aa), (c), (f) etc., in the RMA have been fulfilled there is little or nothing left to consider. A few simple pages would cover the whole island. Then each consent application would be considered on its effect on the environment, as the RMA intended. KISS KID. Keep It Simple Stupid, Keep It Direct.

Why have the bureacrats made the District Plan so complicated? The answer is obvious. To keep themselves employed for ever, by making themselves necessary.

I expect Gordon could write a Plan that could outdo the lot of them--and probably make them all surplus to requirements. Oh dear! That sounds suspiciously like democracy--that little-known system of government in which the people decide. We can't have that, can we?