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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...

Thursday, 18 March 2010


I had a call from Nielsen Research last Sunday, calling on behalf of Auckland City Council. Why bug me on a Sunday? And why hire a research company at great expense? Is the Council not capable of using a telephone itself?

Nielsen wanted to know how the Council had responded to my complaint. 'Which complaint?' I asked. They did not know. Much later I realised that it was one I had made last year. So why did it take so long, at great expense, to get another organisation to ask that question?

The researcher read a blurb that said something along the lines of, 'The Council wants to make sure it is delivering the best service, so it is important to it to find out what you think of it.' I laughed. 'Everyone laughs when I read that bit,' she said.

If Auckland City was genuinely concerned to know how its staff handled your complaint, it would get them to ask you at the time, and would record your response for playing back to a senior manager. That would be instant feedback where it counts, at virtually no expense. Nielsen records its conversation with you many months later, but at great expense. The delay is so long that you will probably have probably forgotten the details, or even what it was all about, as I had, and the researcher will not know, so cannot jog your memory, because she has not been told. Bad management, at great expense.

So the result of the call was zilch. Zero. Nothing. Except for what went into Nielsen's pocket--out of the pockets of ratepayers.

Friday, 12 March 2010


Potholes are not historic places. There is no requirement to preserve them for future generations. So before roads are resealed all the lumps and bumps and hollows and pits should be removed. Otherwise all we get is more chips stuck over the same shonky surface.

And roads are thoroughfares for all forms of transport, not just motor vehicles. Next to them, pedestrians are the most numerous and Auckland's traffic engineers should never, ever forget that.

Therefore on the many roads on the island that are too narrow for formal footpaths (and at a minimum of $422 a metre should never be provided with them), the natural grass verges and the tracks worn into them by countless feet should be sacrosanct. Obliterating them with seal that gets wider at every resealing is thoughtless and
stupid. It puts every pedestrian in harm's way.

Auckland City Council, like all New Zealand councils, has a legal responsibility to promote the well-being of the community. That means caring about human beings. Putting them in front of motor vehicles could be regarded as less than careful.

Unless you want them flattened into all those potholes. Cheap filling!

Monday, 1 March 2010


The ATA's 54-page discussion paper on the Local Boards for the new-and-shiny 'super'-Auckland regime is a nice marketing exercise, full of smoke and mirrors. But what are we offered? Community Boards, depending on their Council, already have, or can have, the same or greater responsibilities and powers (look at North Shore's Community Boards, who decide on resource-consents, Thames-Coromandel's that decide the local rates, Southlands that are used to the hilt). What it will boil down to, as always, is the will of the Council and the bureacracy.

Much of the wording governing Local Boards is exactly the same as that governing Community Boards, except that Local Boards are part of the Auckland Council structure, not the community structure--which is not a good move from the point of view of democracy: their precious independence has gone. And the agreement between the Council and the Boards has a different label. But Local Boards, just like Community Boards, do not have control over local staff. They cannot hire and fire. All staff are controlled from the centre.

This statement on page 12 in the ATA's puffery is a killer: 'The purpose of the local boards is to enable democratic decision-making by, and on behalf of, communities within the local board area, and to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities within the local board area. Local Board are part of the Auckland Council, so they do not need to have their own powers to acquire, hold, or dispose of property, or appoint, suspend, or remove employees. They are not community boards, a committee of the governing body or incorporated bodies.'

Note the weasel-words 'so they do not need...' A logical connection is pretended, but there is no such connection. For real local control they need those powers. That is obvious. But they are not being given them.

In contrast, Community Boards in Thames-Coromandel can second staff for projects of their own. Auckland's Local Boards will have to wait at the CEO's door, cap in hand. 'Please sir...'

If we get a Council that is not on our side, as Waiheke has now, it will be struggle and battle all the way. And ditto if that huge, powerful, centrally-controlled bureaucracy wants something different to what the Local Board wants.

If we had a re-run of the rubbish contract saga under this new regime the outcome would be exactly the same.

The fact that councillors do not sit on the Local Boards as they do now means that there will be no direct contact between the Boards and the Council at that level.

The only bright spot in the ATA's document is in the discussion on page 25 on the role of Local Boards in such things as libraries, in which it says they should decide what new library buildings should be. So we can take them at their word and enlist their support to get the library we want--i.e., a library, not a libary/service-centre. The budget has been allocated, but the building is not what we want, so we can ask the ATA to approve funds only for what we want.

Words are easy. So are lies. Auckland City Council's governance statement trumpets 'subsidiarity'--i.e., decisions made at the lowest possible level. Do they do that? No. They treat Community Board with contempt. So the trumpeting is arrant lies.

Legislation is like the lock on your door. It only keeps honest people out. You cannot legislate honesty, integrity, adherence to human rights, local determination. The dishonest, the knaves, the liars, the fools, the incompetent will still be what they are. If they are in power all we will get is YMCA--yesterday's muck cooked again.

Does Waiheke need this monstrous edifice? No. And Great Barrier even less (it used to be run by three people; now it will have 6000). Both communities can run themselves far better than any unsympathetic mainland empire ever could.