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Monday, 12 October 2009

MINUTES OF PUBLIC MEETING 11TH OCTOBER 2009

Minutes of a public meeting in the Memorial Hall
on Sunday the 11th of October 2009
to consider the next stage of the super-council process

Called and chaired by Councillor Denise Roche.

55 people present, sitting round an assembly of tables in the centre of the hall.

Denise opened by setting out the purposes of the meeting:

1) To give an update on the 'train-ride‘ to the super-council;
2) To get feedback for the Local Government Commission on what we wanted our ward for councillor to be, and what system we would have;
3) What we should be doing to get what we want. A campaign? If so, what?

What ward should be going into? Auckland Regional Council and City Vision think it should be the Central Business District plus Western Bays.

Pita: Expressed great anger that the Waiheke Community Board has been reported as saying that we should be with the CBD, that that was what the community wanted. He did not want to hear any more Board members saying that they knew what the community wanted.

Brian: The first thing we should do is revisit what we want. Then we can see where we fit.

Bernard: We want our own ward.

Inge: If we were in the CBD we would have no say. Would we have to pay for CBD things?

Denise: No, because the Local Board will be deciding on that.

Nobilangelo: This comes down to representation. We need to ensure that whoever represents us understands us, empathises with us. So if we cannot get a Hauraki Gulf Islands councillor as we have now, we must have one from a community as much like ours as possible. That means a village-rural community, not the CBD or any urban area. We often say of Auckland, 'They don‘t get it.‘ We need someone who understands us.

Christopher: The boundaries of the CBD have not yet been determined. We do not have to go along with Auckland City Council‘s thinking. We can dismiss it. We can ignore them completely. We need to get rid of the Citizens-&-Ratepayers-minded. We need to be free to align ourselves with people of like values.

Eileen: What I actually presented to the LGc on behalf of the Community Board was that we want our own councillor, and that Devonport was only a possibility. The UNESCO heritage status was being considered by the powers that be.

Carol: What about Great Barrier? The idea of the super-council was to get a regional focus. For us the regional focus should be the Hauraki Gulf Islands. We should be together.

Mike: All this is against the law. They have ignored the law. They will do it again. It is corruption. What is super about this 'super-city‘? This will just be a super concentration of power. If you think it is bad now, see how bad it will be.

George: It depends on our negotiating a proper contract for our Local Board. We need to be able to say what we want. If we can do that it will matter little what the councillor/ward is. If, as has been proposed, there is a truly independent arbitrator for the negotiation process we should get a good result. We must fight to get as much power as possible for the Waiheke Local Board.

Denise: Our councillor will be our key negotiator, so who it is not irrelevant.

Basil: We have to be realistic, then we will not be disillusioned when the results come out. On National Radio recently there was a discussion by 'experts‘ about the super-council, some from overseas. They never once used the word democracy. They were all agents of big international corporations. They want us. Which is why they have taken over the waste contract. Those people have no interest in the opinions of the people. They operate on the same principle as Hitler--you can manipulate public opinion. They don‘t want us to be talking like this. They want to dumb us down. Don‘t put too much emphasis on who the councillor will be. He won‘t have much power. All the people in charge want to do is paint over the rotten weatherboards. They have set up a new priesthood, with a new language: 'workstreams.‘ They are working on the Auckland Transition Agency to destroy Auckland. They are not on our side.

Mike: Why don‘t we ask the Auditor-General why they are ignoring the law?

Bernard: The mayor will have enormous power. We have to support the mayor most in our favour. That is our only hope. If we get John Banks it would be a disaster.

Denise: We may end up with first-past-the-post, party-dominated council.

Roger: I‘ve been listening for a change [laughter]. I asked the ATA to take into account the Human Rights Commission and human rights. One of the ATA‘s 'workstreams‘ is run by the person from Auckland City Council who wrote its report on Auckland governance. The person was seconded to the ATA. Others have been seconded there from ACC. They are in with the ATA. This ward system is driving us to where we do not want to be. This was an opportunity to change our local governance, but we are being pushed down a path. The community policy here is shocking: everything has been done to take us to corporatisation. Even our Recreation Centre is being run by a private company. Our community has been destroyed. We cannot comply with what ACC wants. We cannot fit in with it. All this is wool across the eyes. What we have now does not work, and this [new system] will not work.

Colin: This is a question of vision. The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance was presented as being about economy of scale. We know what that means! This [new system] was presented presented as peri-urban. That means the urbanisation of the islands. The Royal Commission and the Select Committee never analysed what Waiheke is. We want a separate councillor.

Nobilangelo: A very important point, which will make or break the Local Boards, is remuneration. The Remuneration Authority is corrupt, it wilfully breaks the law, it is more powerful than Parliament because Parliament is afraid to take it on. And it has been kneecapping local government for years. The result is that Community Boards in particular, and many councillors, cannot do the job they are meant to do, and want to do; they cannot afford the time, because they are paid so little. Some are on only $206 a year. The average for Community Boards is $4000-odd. But it is a full-time job. It should be a minimum of $30,000. Then the job can be done as it could and should be. Auckland Regional Councillors, on $22,000, are the lowest-paid councillors in the country. We need to pressure those spineless MPs to sack the Remuneration Authority, and change the law so that if the Authority does not keep to the law it sacks itself.

Pita: We have to come together. We have to use all the resources we have. I do not want to hear anyone say he knows all the community‘s views. The Waiheke Community Board reports to the LGC: we have to get a much better way of getting the community‘s views to it. A campaign and a working party.


Pita then put forward a resolution, which was seconded by Roger:

'The meeting advise the Waiheke Island (sic) Community Board that the Board must form a Community Working Party as soon as possible, in the Board's name and with the Board's facilitation and arrange meetings of the working party as necessary:

'Firstly: To finalise the Community views on Ward boundaries and membership in relation to the Auckland Council legislation and in particular the community's preferences in terms of representation for this community.

'Secondly: To assist the Board in presenting those views to the Local Government Commission and to represent and advocate for those views where ever and when ever possible.

'Thirdly: To assist the Board in lobbying for support of those views.'


Tony: I am concerned at the negative comments about the Waiheke Community Board. We said to the LGC that we did not want to be with Thames-Coromandel. We want to be with Auckland. We prefer to have our own councillor. Our first choice is a Hauraki Gulf Islands councillor. Second to go with Devonport. Third is to be with the CBD. That was our presentation. {{As a member of the Waiheke Community Board, I note here that that was never debated in the Community Board, either in open meeting or in a workshop; not even in an email discussion. There was no discussion, no vote.}} In the Thames-Coromandel application Nobilangelo pointed to a synergy of the two communities, because of their similarities. But there would be a lot more travel. It took me an hour and half to get to a meeting in Waitakere. We are blessed, because the Waiheke Local Board‘s area has already been defined. I think that the Local Boards will have more power than the Community Boards. The wards will be 65,000-70,000, so I think we will be lumped with someone else. Our biggest hope is to have an HGI ward. I hope ACC never gets its wish to have six councillors elected at large. We want all the councillors to be elected from wards. If the community wants Devonport, I will be happy with that; if wants the CBD, I will be happy with that; if it wants something else, I will be happy with that. My personal preference is (1) A Waiheke councillor; (2) A Hauraki Gulf Islands councillor; (3) Somewhere sensible.

Pita: Membership of the working-party should be open to anyone who wants to join it.

A woman: Why more talk?

Pita: To get a more comprehensive idea of what the community wants.

Andrew: What if we say what we want and the answer is no? Do we just accept it? How does the Waiheke Community Board know if it has a mandate? Would they resign, and thus cause an election with what we want as the election issue? (Nobilangelo pointed out that resigning would have no effect, because the timing is now such that there would be no election.)

Tony Sears then got up and walked out.

There is more work to do than can be done in a monthly community board meeting. Transport links are irrelevant. My personal view is that we should have a stand-alone councillor. If we don‘t get that we should make a fuss.

A woman: Everyone wants our own councillor. So people don‘t want options. We want our own councillor. The working party would get the same view.

George: Nikki Kaye emailed me to say, 'Make a representation.‘ So make a representation to her that you want to make a submission.

Christopher: [Reading] The record shows that the Waiheke Community Board said it wanted us to be with the CBD. This is all about vision. Devonport in the past has said it wanted to go with us. It is not practical to say we want our own councillor.

Inge: If Great Barrier wants to be with the CBD, we should let them go with that, and if we want Devonport we should get that. We don‘t have to have the same thing.

Pita: We have a powerful argument to put to the government that the Hauraki Gulf Islands should have its own ward and councillor.

His motion was then put to the meeting:

Ayes: all but two hands went up.
Noes: no hands.
Abstentions: two.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

UTU AND THE PLATINUM STEPS

The obscenity that is Auckland City Council has produced some shockingly excessive examples of crass stupidity and bureaucratic waste in its time, from the huge to the small. A still-current example of the smaller end of the Fathead Scale is the saga of the supermarket steps. Many people who walk to the supermarket from further up Ostend take a shortcut by going down the steep berm and over the gently-sloping grass at the top corner of the property instead of going right round the footpath. Very sensible: it is the quickest way to the front door.

But because the berm is steep it is not an easy route, and is hazardous when wet, or when going back up carrying shopping-bags, so soon after the 2007 election I put forward as a SLIPs proposal that we build a flight of steps at that corner (SLIPs is Council-speak for Small Local Improvement Projects). Eight wooden steps and a handrail going down the public berm. A very easy task.

But the council officers, for some reason that had nothing to do with reason, did not want the steps. So they invented lies to serve as obstructions.

Lie Number One said that putting steps there was illegal because it would create trespassers. It is impossible to fathom how they managed to think that anyone could take seriously the notion that giving people easier and safer passage into a public shopping-area, down a route that they had been using frequently for yonks, would create trespassers. But why let reason and the truth get in the way of malign bureaucratic intransigence?

That lie, of course, was finally compelled to crumble in the face of the truth.

The SLIPs empire comes under Michael McQuillan, king of the wheelie-bins and unflagging pusher of a hidesouly expensive sewerage system for the island. His empire, nothing daunted, recently switched to Lie Number Two. After beavering away from nearly two years, off and on, mainly very off (with the help of its 117-page manual), it arrived at a quotation for these eight steps and a handrail: $29,880!!! With a footnote that it might cost more. That makes pale into petty cash the outrageous $3970 they spent last year on six steps and a handrail in O'Brien Road.

One of the reasons for the huge cost is that McQuillan's empire added a completely unnecessary 50-metre path across the very land that they said the steps would create trespassers on. They proposed paying for a gravel path across Tony Pope's grass. A breakdown of all their costings shows $1000 for someone to stand there for a total of 24 hours counting pedestrians (who use the shortcut so much they they have worn a rut that shows in Council aerial photos); $16,203 for the steps and the path; $2821 to secure the easement for the path that no one asked for; $4656 for project-management (read consultants fee?); $200 to maintain the steps, then $600 a year to maintain them thereafter.

You have to hand it to them. They have raised incompetence, profligate waste and separation from reality to a stunningly high level. As the acid old joke says: 'You can't criticise the organisation because there isn't any.'

A true costing for the supermarket steps, with the helpful assistance of Placemakers, comes to no more than $1100, and that includes the building consent, and, to underline the point, quoting on H6 treatment (timber treated for immersion in the sea) even though only H4 is needed (the Council insists on H5).

Anyone with a working brain-cell and two functioning hands could get the whole thing done in a few days. When I did the twenty-nine wooden steps across the berm at my place it took only a few days, ant that was in the heat of February, and working with hand-tools because my power was not then connected.

Fortunately we have a Community Board, which at its monthly meeting in September voted to cut through all that nonsense, and ordered that nothing be done except to build the steps as specified.

As Councillor Roche accurately summarised during the Community Board's discussion, the $29,880 gambit was nothing but utu (a Maori word that means revenge)--aimed at me personally, and at Waiheke in general, by council officers driven by malice rather than responsibility and the rule of law.

We shall see if we get the steps, and how much longer it takes, and what the final cost turns out to tbe.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

WHY AUCKLAND RATES RISE AND RISE

The reason was discovered by a nineteenth century genius, an Englishman called Charles Babbage, who amongst other things invented a mechanical computer.

He found that the more mysterious the means by which a product or service came to market the higher the price would be. Auckland City Council keeps getting more and more mysterious. The law says it should be open and transparent and democratically accountable, but why let good law get in the way of a swelling empire?

REPLY TO JOHN COLLINGS' LETTER TO MARKETPLACE

In a letter to Waiheke Marketplace published on the 30th of September John Collings asked why anyone should vote for me in the local body elections at the end of 2010 for a seat on the Waiheke Community Board, because I had led the application to the Local Government Commission to shift the Hauraki Gulf Island from under the council in Auckland city to being with Thames-Coromandel District Council, and in his view that exercise was huge waste of time and money. He added up some imaginary figures and arrived at a total of $100,000.

In his lettere he made a string of errors and baseless assumptions. First, there will not be a Waiheke Community Board after 1 November 2010. Under the new legislation there will be a Waiheke Local Board. Second, he made assumptions about costs, then treated them as facts. Third, he obviously does not like democracy and the democratic process, which equally obviously means any opinion that he does not agree with. Fourth, democracy costs money; that is a fact of life. Fifth, Auckland City Council wastes more money before breakfast than his outside guesstimate. Sixth, if he had done some homework, he would know that Thames-Coromandel is provably a much better council than a city empire to the west, especially for a village-rural community like ours. Seventh, I made a solemn, statutory promise to do my best for this community. Trying, with the support of the statutory number of Waihekeans required to validate the application, is one of the actions that has kept that promise. Eighth, I hope that someone as incapable of logical thought as that letter demonstrates will not be standing. Ninth, he is assuming that I will be standing again.

If you ever studied logic, John, you show no evidence of it. For in logic there is a fundamental dictum: 'If, if and only if the premise is true and the reasoning is true will the conclusion be true.' To be true, a view must be founded on true premises and arrived at by true reasoning. Otherwise it will certainly be false.

Your letter, like the opposing petition to the Thames-Coromandel initiative that you cooked up with Mervyn Bennett, was devoid of any research worthy of the name, and equally devoid of true reasoning. Therefore the consequence was false premises and a shonky path from them, so the conclusions could not possibly be true. Your letter, like your Thames-Coromandel opposition, was misleading, manipulative, lacking in facts, logical reasoning and true conclusions.

You should also realise that some of the costs you complained about were due to the cardboard opposition created by you and Mervyn, which makes your complaints rather hypocritical.

It is instructive, and should be instructive to the pair of you, that it was necessary to write your letter to Marketplace due to the fact that the paper run by Mervyn, which was founded on his world-view, could not survive on Waiheke, lost money, and folded--and lost a good deal more money, if the island grapevine is correct, than the amount that you rail about in your letter. People in glass houses should not chuck rocks.

But if you and Mervyn are so against me I must be doing something right. Thank you both for your effusive inverted praise...