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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...

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Saturday, 31 May 2008

DOGGED BY LIES

For the record, on the subject of dogs, but this time the truth in a publication worthy of being called a newspaper--unlike Wicked & Weak, which has yet to print the truth associated with my name--what I advocated in my submission on the proposed dogs bylaw was not what W&W 'reported.'

I did not say that no one should ever be allowed to have more than one dog.

I simply pointed out an anomaly in the bylaw between the mainland, Waiheke and island wastewater systems. The responsible, healthy thing to do with dog poo is chuck it down your loo, and therefore the capacity of island wastewater systems on small sections should be heeded when setting limits for the number of dogs on a property. On small sections (under 850 square metres) systems were installed for a maximum of two residents, and because a dog can produce as much solid waste as a person, that should be taken into account. On those small properties only there should be a limit of one dog.

(On Great Barrier, more than one dog is already not allowed on properties under two hectares--20,000 square metres, 5 acres.)

So the woman who called me, sounded off and hung up without waiting to hear the truth, and said she has half an acre (2000 square metres) and more than one dog, what I advocated would not affect you.

Please, Waiheke, never believe anything that Wicked & Weak prints in association with my name. It either lies outright or misreports and distorts a mischievous selection of out-of-context snippets to craft the cleverest kind of lie--'The truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.'

Friday, 30 May 2008

ACC'S SHADY DOINGS IN THE WATERWORKS

Last year Parliament's Local Government & Environment Select Committee called into question what can only be called the less than ethical way in which Auckland City Council intended using water and wastewater charges to plump up its revenue. Click here for the page giving the link to the full PDF report issued by the committee. Well worth reading, partly as yet another example of Auckland's questionable behaviour and partly as an example of what a few determined people can do by heading off to Parliament with a petition. Take a bow, Penny Bright!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

ACC: PARTISAN NOT IMPARTIAL

Under the Local Government Act 2002 everyone elected to a local-body position must make the same statutory promise when sworn in: 'I [name] declare that I will faithfully and impartially, and according to the best of my skill and judgement, execute and perform, in the best interests of [the name of the commmunity], the powers, authorities and duties vested in or imposed upon me ... by virtue of the Local Government Act 2002 [etc]'

Which means that the council on our western horizon, Auckland City Council, has been operating contrary to law for years, because it has long been dominated by parties--Citizens & Ratepayers and City Vision, which are just National/Act and Labour under different names.

Auckland councillors who belong to those parties are therefore by definition partisan, which means they cannot possibly be impartial. Nor, if they are voting according to party lines and kept to them by party whips, can they be acting according to the best of their individual skill and judgement. They are acting according to party ideology or policy. They are in breach of their statutory oath right from the start.

Only councils made up of independents are in accord with the letter and spirit of the Act. Only in such councils can there be true democratic debate. Only in such councils can there be true consultation, because that requires listening, and that can hardly happen when councillors are fitted in advance with party ear-plugs.

The council on our eastern horizon, Thames-Coromandel District Council, is 100% independents, and it is very refreshing to watch their deliberations. They are individuals, each debates according to the best of his or her individual skill and judgement. And they emphasise again and again and again the 'four well-beings' which the Act commands them to promote (social, economic, environmental and cultural, in section 10).

Monday, 26 May 2008

THAMES-COROMANDEL: THE VISION AND MISSION

Copied from pages 8 and 9 of the Thames-Coromandel District Council's Annual Report for 2006-2007:

THE VISION

The Vision adopted by the Council in March 2005 is:

'The Coromandel Peninsula will grow in a way that embraces its spirit and natural beauty, by working with our communities to acknowledge diversity, nurture ecology and value our identity.'

The statement acknowledges that the challenge and vision to guide change and growth in our District in a way that ensures the Peninsula retains its special character including its diverse communities and natural environment.


THE MISSION

The mission adopted by the Council in March 2005 is:

'To ensure the enhancement of the special nature of the Coromandel.'

The statement recognises that Council's role is to act as a 'guardian' of the Coromandel Peninsula so that residents and visitors are able to experience the 'magic' or special nature of the Coromandel. This 'magic' includes the District's environment, the character, or spirit of its diverse communities that help create a strong Peninsula identity and their different needs.

The Council has a role in providing leadership to the community. This approach is consistent with the purpose of local government as defined in section 10 of the Local Government Act 2002. [section 10 is copied in the previous posting, plus section 14: see below]


PRINCIPLES

The principles are a set of core values that support Council's Vision for the District as a whole. They represent the way in which Council wishes to work with the community and they underline the key policies.

The Core Principles of the Council:

1. One Peninsula
The Council will act in ways that:
* Support and nurture a sense of community,
* Acknowledge the stewardship of our special environment,
* Respect the need for fairness and equity while recognising diversity.

2. Sustainability
The Council will act in ways that:
* Accepts responsibility for our future generations.
* Promotes environmental, social, economic and cultural sustainability,
* Are financially sustainable long-term.

3. Inclusive
The Council will act in ways that:
* Engage our community in setting the overall direction for the development of the Peninsula,
* Ensure that those affected by our actions have the opportunity to contribute to Council decision-making,
* Ensure our communities are well informed,
* Respect the different perspectives that we each have.

4. Leadership
The Council will work with communities to:
* Develop a clear vision for the future of the Coromandel Peninsula and the individual communities that together create the District as a whole,
* Work with our communities to achieve their visions,
* Acknowledge responsibility for future generations.

5. Striving for Excellence
The Council is:
* Committed to providing an environment that promotes excellence,
* Committed to improving the way we carry out business,
* Committed to encouraging innovative solutions to the challenges we face.

THE PURPOSE AND PRINCIPLES OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Sections 10 and 14 of the Local Government Act 2002, which are constantly emphasised and referred to when TCDC is going about its business and in its deliberations--in particular 'the four well-beings' in s10(b):

10 Purpose of local government

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.


14 Principles relating to local authorities

(1) In performing its role, a local authority must act in accordance with the following principles:
(a) a local authority should--
(i) conduct its business in an open, transparent, and democratically accountable manner; and
(ii) give effect to its identified priorities and desired outcomes in an efficient and effective manner:
(b) a local authority should make itself aware of, and should have regard to, the views of all of its communities; and
(c) when making a decision, a local authority should take account of--
(i) the diversity of the community, and the community's interests, within its district or region; and
(ii) the interests of future as well as current communities; and
(iii) the likely impact of any decision on each aspect of well-being referred to in section 10:
(d) a local authority should provide opportunities for Maori to contribute to its decision-making processes:
(e) a local authority should collaborate and co-operate with other local authorities and bodies as it considers appropriate to promote or achieve its priorities and desired outcomes, and make efficient use of resources; and
(f) a local authority should undertake any commercial transactions in accordance with sound business practices; and
(g) a local authority should ensure prudent stewardship and the efficient and effective use of its resources in the interests of its district or region; and
(h) in taking a sustainable development approach, a local authority should take into account--
(i) the social, economic, and cultural well-being of people and communities; and
(ii) the need to maintain and enhance the quality of the environment; and
(iii) the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations.
(2) If any of these principles, or any aspects of well-being referred to in section 10, are in conflict in any particular case, the local authority should resolve the conflict in accordance with the principle in subsection (1)(a)(i).

Saturday, 24 May 2008

PAYBACK-TIME ALWAYS COMES

Those who like to have Auckland City Council governing us, because they see it as a council that 'spends more money on the island than it collects', are overlooking the fact that whenever that seems to be the case what is really happening is that we are borrowing Auckland's money. Then, sooner or later, we pay it back in higher rates.

In short, any money above what we put into the island is not a gift. It is a loan.

(And to Auckland it is money in a high-interest investment account.)

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

DR ZHIVAGO

A marked change from the normal fare here is this passage from Boris Pasternak's famous novel Dr Zhivago. It is also a good description of our politically-correct age, except that the consequential deaths are generally psychological and spiritual not physical. Larissa Fyodorovna Antipova is talking to Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago.

'I can still remember a time when we all accepted the peaceful outlook of the last century. It was taken for granted that you listened to reason, that it was right and natural to do what your conscience told you. For a man to die by the hand of another was a rare, an exceptional event, something quite out of the ordinary run. Murders happened in plays, newspapers and detective stories, not in everyday life.

'And then there was the jump from this calm, innocent, measured way of living to blood and tears, to mass insanity and the savagery of daily, hourly, legalised, rewarded slaughter.

'I don't suppose this ever goes unpunished. You must remember better than I do the beginning of disintegration, how everything began to break down all at once--trains and food supplies in towns, and the foundations of home life and conscious moral standards.'

'Go on. I know what you'll say next. What good sense you make of it all! It's a joy to listen to you.'

'It was then that falsehood came into our Russian land. The great misfortune, the root of all the evil to come, was the loss of faith in the value of personal opinions. People imagined it was out of date to follow their own moral sense, that they must all sing the same tune in chorus, and live by other people's notions, the notions that were being crammed down everybody's throat. And there arose the power of the glittering phrase, first tsarist, then revolutionary.

'This social evil became an epidemic. It was catching. And it affected everything, nothing was left untouched by it. Nor did we escape its influence in our home. Something went wrong in it. Instead of being natural and spontaneous, as we had always been, we began to be idiotically pompous with each other. Something showy, artificial, forced, crept into our conversation--you felt you had to be clever in a certain way about certain world-important themes.'

'Children are more honest. They aren't frightened of the truth, but we are so afraid of seeming to be behind the times that we are ready to betray what is most dear to us, and praise what repels us, and say yes to what we don't understand.'

Or say no to good things because we cannot be bothered considering them.

Friday, 16 May 2008

ACC's TRUE INCOME ON GREAT BARRIER

Auckland City Council has just supplied revenue figures for Great Barrier, which were requested back in March under the Local Government Official Information & Meetings Act (known as LGOIMA, pronounced ligoyma). They show that the figures given in Barrier Bulletin and Gulf News a few months back by Paul Downie were wrong. Those letters did not have a single correct figure in them (not even Auckland's population). For example, he said the income for 2006/7 was $1.9 million. Auckland says it was actually $2.587 million. So he was 36% out.

Excluding penalties the average rates per property in 2006/7 for GBI's 1418 properties was $686 and in 2007/8 was $735 (a rise of 7.3%). In 2005/2006 the average per property was $534, so the rise from 2005/6 to 2007/8 was a huge 37.7%. So much for being better off under Auckland.

The average rates per property across all of Auckland's administrative area in 2006 was $857. On GBI the average was $686. On Waiheke the average was $1624.

The Council's income per head of population for GBI works out at $3036 in 2006/7 and $3320 in 2007/8, far higher than the $1364 average over Auckland's entire administrative area, or even the $1964 average for Waiheke (all averages use 2006 census figures). The Council's average income for GBI in 2007/8 is $3320 per property.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

DETAILED RATES COMPARISON: THAMES v AUCKLAND

There has been a lot of misinformation spread by rumourmongers, the hate-machine, and others who should know better, about what our rates would be if the Local Government Commission rules that we would get better local government under Thames-Coromandel than Auckland, and transfers us. All sorts of wildly imaginative figures have been put up, like scarecrows in a cucumber patch. 'Rates will be three times as high, five times as high, ten times as high.' have been flung out as if they were statements of fact.

The fact is that Waiheke's rates now average $1624 per property, and Thames-Coromandel's average $1541 (on data from Quotable Value, Auckland and Thames).

But those figures don't tell the whole story. They don't say anything about the power and autonomy that Community Boards have under the Thames-Coromandel District Council, and how deeply involved they are in setting budgets and local rates in consultation with their local communities. One effect of that system is that rates under TCDC can vary considerably from one board area to another, so if we were with it our rates would be OUR rates, not any other area's.

That point is underscored by the draft reorganisation proposal, which emphasises a financial firewall, (click here for the full text), and by that fact that the proposal also says that the total rates-take shall not rise in the first year after amalgamation, and that it shall then not rise by more than the rise in the Consumer Price Index (unless the community wants a greater increase to fund some desired project or projects).

To make the point even more clearly TCDC's rates team worked out what our rates would be if we were under them, and as if we were in each of its five existing Community Board areas (but, of course, leaving out charges for water and wastewater reticulation, which would not apply here). They used values from a real property on Waiheke, in Palm Beach, because it is close to Waiheke's averages (a capital value of $564,587, a land value of $406,775, and an improved value of $157,812). The sample Palm Beach property has a capital value of $570,000, a land value of $380,000 and an improved value of $190,000. Its rates under Auckland are $1557.

If it were magically put under the Thames Community Board's jurisdiction its rates would be $1685; under the Coromandel-Colville Community Board they would be $1417; under the Tairua/Pauanui Board they would be $1227; under the Whangamata Community Board they would be $1196; under the Mercury Bay Community Board they would be $1185.

But if the sample property happened to be in a part of Waiheke where the stormwater charge did not apply, the rates would instead be $1415, $1176, $1130, $1131 and $1066 respectively under those five boards. The stormwater decision would be made for each village and area by the Waiheke Community Board--which shows how fine-grained a board's authority is under TCDC.

You can see the range of rates, and therefore why it is impossible to say from looking at the rates in one area what they would be in another, and therefore why it is bunkum to quote rates in Thames as if they would be Waiheke's or Great Barrier's or Rakino's (or Smelly Nelly's), especially when you are including Thames's wastewater and water reticulation charges, which is what is usually done.

Obviously the rates we would have on Waiheke if we were with TCDC cannot be known to the last dollar because the local-rates portion would be decided by our Community Board after community consultation. But we do know that they would have to obey the firewall, the no-initial-increase, and the CPI-increase clauses in the reorganisation proposal. We also know from the comparison of averages and the comparison for the sample property above that they could not be three times ACC's rates, or five times, or ten times. Or even double.

But it is obvious that if the Waiheke Community Board tried to set such outrageous local rates, it would the very next day--quite rightly--be hanged, drawn and quartered in the supermarket carpark to the loud cheers of the whole island.

GO FOR THE BEST

We owe it to ourselves to get the best local government--the best available government at local level. That is also our legal right, and the Local Government Act 2002 provides a way of making sure of it, by enabling citizens to petition the Local Government Commission (LGC) to move them to a better council.

For nineteen years we have been under the Auckland City Council. Is it the best local government available? That is a question that should be asked. The petition to the LGC to move us to the Thames-Coromandel District Council will answer it. And because the LGC's over-riding criterion is good local government, its process rigorous, and its ruling law, that is what we will then have. East or west, we will have the best of the available options. (Having our own council is impossible under the Act, because a population of 10,000 is required.)

For the detail of what we would then have, read the Draft Reorganisation Proposal.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

LOST IN THE TRACK-FULL WASTE

Bravo! to Diana Worthy for the front-page lead on Waiheke tracks in last week's Marketplace.

As a member of the Waiheke Community Board I have been trying to get some sense into shemozzle that is Auckland City Council's tracks 'policy.' But with that infernal empire every piddling little thing is made more involved than the D-Day landings.

I was recently asked to sign off a new 120-metre track between O'Brien Road and Valley Road. I refused, saying that the budgeted $8000 was far too high, and asked them to get quotes, not just go to a 'preferred' supplier (they are, in law, meant to have 'sound business practices' and 'stewardship'). But they went ahead and did it anyway. It cost us $5230, which included a massive $3970 for the six steps at the top.

Even worse those platinum, gold-plated, diamond-studded steps are ugly, out of keeping with their surroundings, and have risers so high and treads so deep that they are hard to use unless you have the legs of a praying mantis and the muscles of Pop-Eye.

I tried to put on the agenda of the last board meeting a notion of motion asking for a review of tracks standards, and the development of an island standard so that our tracks would not only be safe but pleasant to use and in harmony with the environment. Too often new tracks give people a construction experience not a nature experience. But the Machine deleted my notice of motion.

It is about time Auckland's profligate waste, disregard for the island environment, and bureaucratic arrogance were stopped in their tracks. Permanently.