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Friday, 14 March 2008

RESPONSE TO POLLY NASH

Polly Nash's expression of dismay in Gulf News and Marketplace at 'the pace of development' and her wish that 'our microcosmic uniqueness' will remain is an unwitting summary of the reason for the petition to the Local Government Commission to transfer us from Auckland City Council to Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC).

Auckland sees us as its suburb, which is why that sort of development is happening at an accelerating pace. Thames-Coromandel lets communities have their say, which is why when Hahei said it didn't want urbanisation the councils prevented it (both councils: Thames-Coromandel District Council and its regional council Environment Waikato). If we were with TCDC we would have more say, and not only for that reason. Democracy is all about numbers. With TCDC we would have 23.3% of the vote and the say. With Auckland we have 2.2% of the vote, but even less of the say because Auckland is run by party machines.

The Local Government Commission, not me, will make the decision on the petition, after a rigorous public process, and in law its main criterion is good local government. If it thinks we get better local government with Auckland it will keep us there. If it thinks Thames-Coromandel is better it will move us. But the question should be put to it. If a question is not asked the answer has to be no. If it is it may be yes. It will at very least be valuable to get a definitive ruling on the quality of Auckland's governance.

It is wrong to say that I do not have authority to be doing the petition. I do. I have the authority of the Local Government Act 2002. I am following the legal, democratic process set down there (and available to all New Zealanders). Hundreds of Waihekeans have joined in support, thus adding their democratic authority.

Rates on Waiheke will definitely NOT rise to match those in Thames. Under the TCDC rates are different in different areas because different areas have different facilities. Thames has facilities we do not have on Waiheke--mainly expensive wastewater and water reticulation. And the way TCDC's rating system works is also much fairer for low- and middle-income people. Deliberately so.

Library books can be got from any library in the country from any other library using the interloan service. That would not change. What it would cost overall is for out community to decide, via the community board.

The ferries are run by a private company. It will carry on, regardless of which council we are under.

Under TCDC community boards are like mini-councils. They virtually set the rates, and charges, such as library charges, would also be under our control.

When I visited Thames on the 27th of February and watched the council at work for several hours, amongst other things handling a very thorny issue, I was particularly impressed at how it sheeted all its deliberations home to the Local Government Act 2002, especially to its principles and most especially to the word that sums up the Act's overall aim: well-being (sections 14 and 10 if you want to look them up). I was also impressed by the way it referred things down to community boards. And by the outstanding quality of its CEO, Steve Ruru.

At lunch I spoke with a community board chair who had previously served on a board under Auckland City (in Eden-Albert). I asked her if she wanted to go back under Auckland. She was adamant: 'No.'