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Tuesday, 23 September 2008

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

Some islanders say that Thames is too far away--i.e., they trot out the inconvenience objection to being administered by the Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC).

But Great Barrier is much further from Auckland, which no one makes a fuss about. And how often does anyone want to go to a council meeting anyway? Most of our council matters are dealt with over the phone, over the Internet, over the counter at our Service Centre in Ostend, or in the public forum at Waiheke Community Board meetings.

That 'inconvenience' is also exaggerated., partly because the timing of Thames-Coromandel's council meetings is a lot friendlier to islanders than Auckland's. In Thames the meetings start at 9:00am and go through the day, which is a much better fit to our ferry schedules than Auckland's meetings. Theirs start at 6:00pm, and although under their standing orders they are not meant to finish later than 10:30 they sometimes do.

So if you were coming from Great Barrier you would have to stay in the Auckland overnight because Great Barrier's airport cannot function at night. If you were coming from Waiheke and using only public transport you would have to catch the 4:00pm bus, and the 4:45pm boat, which arrives in the city at about 5:20. If the meeting went till 10:30pm you would catch the 11:45pm boat back, you would arrive back on the island at 12:30am and get home about 1:15am. The journey would consume up to nine hours at night.

If you were travelling to Thames, you would catch the 6:00am bus, the 6:40am boat, then the Intercity bus that arrives in Thames at 9:15. A bus leaves Thames for Auckland at 3:00pm, so you would arrive in time to catch the 5:30pm boat and link to the 6:05 bus on Waiheke, which would get you home at about 6:40pm. That journey would consume up to twelve and a half hours during the day.

If you were driving yourself to Thames the journey would be shorter, because the Auckland to Thames trip is only 1 hour 20 minutes, so if your item was early on the agenda you would be home in the early afternoon. You would consume about eight hours during the day.

But with Auckland you would be going to a council that doesn't like us, doesn't care about us, doesn't understand us, doesn't listen to us, treats us like a city suburb and is therefore wrecking our village-rural communities.

With Thames you would be talking with people of like mind--they live on a peninsula of village-rural communities; people who believe in real consultation; and people who are passionate about grounding their decisions on democratic local decision-making and the four well-beings in the Local Government Act 2002--'the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities.'

Against all that, making a fuss about an occasional extra few hours of inconvenience misses the point--getting much better local government. The important thing is the quality of our day-to-day administration not the convenience of occasional transportation.

And we would not always have to go to the council. It would, as it sometimes does for communities on the peninsula, come to us--the whole council--to listen, to consult, to make a decision that will promote our four well-beings. As the mayor, Philippa Barriball says: 'We like to go out and tap people on the shoulder.'

So with Thames you might spend an extra three and half hours oif you ever wanted to a council meeting, but when you got there you would get a much better standard of local government, and be treated as one of them, with friendly courtesy and understanding. You would not be treated as another nuisance from those pestiferous islands. A little inconvenience occasionally for a few people is a trivial price to pay for good local government--a very small coin for an immeasurable reward.

Going east to Thames is well worth some inconvenience. Going west to Auckland is not.