Hauraki Gulf Islands

Waiheke at the cross-roads – we need to work together to find the right way forward

Mike Lee says its time to ‘look through’ the Auckland City regime into what could be an exciting future

The forthcoming election has got to be the most important in Waiheke’s history. From 1st November – along with the rest of the Auckland region is about to enter a completely different world in terms of local government.

Direction-finding - Mike Lee monitoring bellbirds from the sea off Whakanewha Regional Park

Direction-finding - Mike Lee monitoring bellbirds from the sea off Whakanewha Regional Park

For the first time in more than 20 years, the opportunity exists for the Waiheke community to regain a large measure of control over its own island. Its very important therefore that Waiheke quickly moves out of the defensive posture forced on it by years of abuse from Auckland City and its bureaucrats andworks together on a common programme of action that the whole community can buy into as we move into the Super City.

There is an assumption from some on Waiheke that the ‘Super City’ will just be more of the same – and given its size perhaps even worse than the present Auckland City regime. That I believe is wrong. I’m really concerned that if we adopt that negative mindset then that could become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The Super City in essence will be a regional entity which I am sure initially at least will look more like an enlarged City Council than a regional council – but who knows how it might evolve. Whatever – instead of the present thee tiers of local government – there will only be two. As I say the Auckland Council will be regional in its geographical jurisdiction and regional in its responsibilities. Local Boards will definitely be local in their jurisdiction and local in their responsibilities. So what will go is the middle layer – which is the layer occupied by Auckland City Council. A lot of people don’t seem to appreciate that – even John Banks who rails in support of the forthcoming demise ARC whenever he can.

The Super City will enable the devolution of significant powers to the local Boards – how much will be determined on the one hand by the political make-up of the new Auckland Council on the one hand – perhaps more importantly – by the determination and unity of the Local Boards. There is a saying about power ‘use it – or lose it’. So I am advocating that Waiheke works together to take over as much control of the island’s affairs as it can. A large degree of self-government will be much easier to achieve on an Island as I am also advising the Great Barrier people.

First of all we need to get control of basic infrastructure like roads, carparks, boat ramps, local parks, halls, the library, liquor licensing etc. We also need to assert some control of the wharves and argue for the devolution of Harbourmaster responsibilities to enable local management of our moorings. We need to fight to regain control over our waste system infrastructure. Most importantly we need to think as a community on how much we value or privately-owned water and wastewater systems. In other words, our water tanks and our septic systems. This form of water and wastewater management as far more sustainable than the standard mainland reticulated sewerage systems – and what’s more is under the direct control of residents who own them. Lets not take this for granted. While ensuring these systems are properly managed we need to be on guard against the small army of bureaucrats on the mainland (especially in Wellington) who would make regulation of septic tanks and water tanks so exacting and so expensive for the average householder so as to encourage reticulation.

And of course once we have reticulation there is nothing to stop the island being virtually covered with houses – in an ugly soul-less sprawl just like Whangaparaoa – along with the inevitable high rise buildings looming over our best beaches. Mainland based Super Council will not understand these concerns – and depending on the political composition may even support such development. So this is another reason why this basic aspect of our island lifestyle should not be taken for granted.

Another concern which the island should be debating is our ferry services. Despite relatively high fares the island has had in general pretty good service from Fullers, the company founded by the visionary George Hudson in the 1980s. However with the long periods out of service of the QuickCat, SuperFlyte, the realisation is dawning that along with the Jet Raider these vessels are now past the expected economic life of a ship. And given that the recent owners’ (Infratil and now Scotland-based Brian Souter) main objective has been to extract as much profit from the Waiheke run as possible, there are no signs of interest in investing the significant amount of money needed to buy new ferries to cater for Waiheke’s needs for the next 20 years or so.

This should be a major concern for Waihekeans. We have some choices. We could lobby the Auckland Council and request that the new Auckland Transport Agency buys out Mr Souter and takes over Fullers.  Or failing that we should think about as a community buying a new vessel ourselves. The new vessel or vessels could be owned by a Waiheke residents’ Trust and could even be run by a management company in turn also owned by such a trust. Or we could get Fullers to operate under a management agreement. I would also like the Rakino service currently run on a limited basis by Pine Harbour Ferries for a very handsome ARTA subsidy to be run as a regular twice a day feeder service to Matiatia and be run by a Waiheke or Rakino-based business.
I am open to ideas and would like Waiheke residents to think seriously about this issue.

A final point for the future. Clearly the island will stand and fall on its economy and the ability of a critical mass of people to make their living here. We are so fortunate that Waiheke’s soil and climate is so suitable for growing grapes – and olives. Tourism is another important source of revenue. This leads me to a personal concern of mine. The conservation of the island’s landscape and the conservation and restoration of native species. In May I was instrumental in persuading the ARC to undertake the major logistic effort of releasing bellbirds here. This is my second attempt to introduce bellbirds to Waiheke in 20 years. Whether we succeed or not this time depends on how well these birds can resist the onslaught of predators especially rats. Clearly we have already lost a large number of birds – but at the same time a small population is hanging on in our protected areas like Whakanewha Regional Park. We are very hopeful that breeding amongst those surviving birds will begin soon. Early next year we hope to reinforce the remaining Waiheke bellbirds with fresh birds from Tawharanui Regional Park. I am also working on another bird release to also take place early next year. But in the meantime rats are and will be a major concern.

I would like to propose a solution.

Why don’t we take the future into our own hands and work out a bottom up, step-by-step plan, to work with our community to come up with an environmentally safe plan to totally rid the island of rats within 5 years. This would enable native birds to really flourish on the island and enable the reintroduction of a whole range of native birds now absent from the island. The whole island could become something quite new – an open wildlife sanctuary with people living and working in it which would create a major tourism attraction of international significance. This would create huge benefits for our economy, our natural environment and Waiheke Islanders’ quality of life.

Total rodent eradication has been achieved on much bigger islands than Waiheke – Great Barrier has been debating eradicating rats but because of deep divisions in the community this unfortunately is unlikely to happen anytime soon. It will require careful planning and most of all community buy-in. This is happening on the Australian Lord Howe Island. Here is a chance for Waiheke to seize the initiative.

Whether these ideas find acceptance from the Waiheke community remains to be seen. But the Super City means we have the opportunity to take our future into our own hands.

 Delivering for Waiheke – Mike Lee a record of public service

Community leaders - Mike and the late Kato Kauwhata (stand together) at the reopening of the new look 'art deco' Omiha Memorial Hall Labour weekend 2004

Community leaders - Mike and the late Kato Kauwhata (stand together) at the reopening of the new look 'art deco' Omiha Memorial Hall Labour weekend 2004

Mike Lee has represented Waiheke on the Auckland Regional Council since 1992.

Over that time he has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for Waiheke people,

List of some of Mike’s achievements as a community leader, councillor and Chairman of the Auckland Regional Council:

  • Founded the Waiheke section of the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society in May 1982
  • Organised the first volunteer tree planting trips to Tiri Tiri Matangi in 1984
  • After being elected to the ARC was instrumental in stopping the privatisation of the Ports of Auckland  with Bruce Jesson in 1992
  • Stopped Ports of Auckland dumping dredgings in the Hauraki Gulf (from 1993).
  • As ARC Chairman of Parks purchased the Whakanewha Block as Whakanewha Regional Park (1994)
  • Battled for five years along with other Waiheke environmentalists to successfully prevent a hostile C&R dominated ARC from allowing a neighbour ing developerto be given a key hilltop in Whakanewha to extend an airfield runway into the Park
  • As president of the Omiha Welfare & Recreation Society fund-raised to buy the Crosby reserve in Rocky Bay and gifted it to  Auckland City Council
  • Campaigned despite initial resistance from ferry company to have life jackets available on all Waiheke ferries (from 1995)
  • Negotiated with Chris Reeves on behalf of the Hauraki Islands branch of Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society to secure two key sections of land to be included in the Kuakarau Reserve
  • Persuaded the ARC to remove all rats from Rakino Island in 2002.  Eight years on Rakino is still rat free and bird life is flourishing
  • Ensured the ARC carried out a full survey of the Waiheke ground water aquifer (from 2005)
  • Ensured that Waiheke ratepayers did not have to pay higher rates be ensuring Waiheke was not placed into a higher level in the ARC Public Transport Rateable Areas table. (from 2004)
  • Kept ARC rates increases below average of 5% for last 6 years
  • after years of campagning succeeded in having ferries not dump sewage in the Hauraki Gulf and instead use pump-out facilities which Mike lobbied to have installed at the ferry terminal in the City
  • Battled the ferry company on behalf of Waiheke commuters in opposition to fair gouging on the Waiheke service
  • As President of the Omiha Welfare & Recreation Society fought successfully to save the Rocky Bay store from demolition through the Environment Court and succeeded in having Auckland City Council schedule the building
  • As President of the Omiha Welfare and Recreation Society rebuilt the Omiha Memorial Hall in a 1940s art deco style (2004)
  • As Chairman of ARC organised official opening of Whakanewha Regional Park by the Prime Minister in February 2008
Ceremony official opening Whakanewha Regional Park led by Ngati Paoa rangatira Hauauru Rawiri Prime Minister Helen Clark, Mike Lee and other dignatories walk on to Whakanewha Regional Park

Ceremony official opening Whakanewha Regional Park led by Ngati Paoa rangatira Hauauru Rawiri Prime Minister Helen Clark, Mike Lee and other dignatories walk on to Whakanewha Regional Park

  • Lobbied 3 Ministers of Conservation to carry out a pest eradication programme on Rangitoto and Motutapu Island s. This was finally achieved in 2009 creating one of the biggest potential bird sanctuaries  in New Zealand.
  • as Chairman of the ARC successfully arranged for the release of 100 bellbirds on Waiheke Island (May 2010)
Leadership Mike speaks at Whakanewha opening ceremony Feb 2008 - from left to right General Manager Regional parks Lance Vervoort, Hon Judith

Leadership Mike speaks at Whakanewha opening ceremony Feb 2008

 

Waiheke Marketplace – on Mike Lee

The full unedited story  by Lyndal Jefferies

Mike Lee stands for a strong Waiheke voice.

Mike Lee believes he is the only candidate standing for the Waitemata and Gulf Ward councillor seat with local knowledge of Waiheke and the needs of our community.

Resident on Waiheke since 1972, Mr. Lee has raised a family on the island and owned properties in Ostend, Onetangi and Rocky Bay. He now shares his time between Rocky Bay and Auckland however he has mud on his coat that proves he is a real Waihekean.

Under the new Auckland council he thinks locals should focus their energy in a constructive way. Creating a strong mandate for working with the new local board and councillor on an agreed project of action for Waiheke.

Mr. Lee says, it’s time for Waiheke residents to “turn their swords into plough shears” and work together to enhance the local economy and environment.

Endorsed by the centre left City Vision ticket Mr. Lee is standing on “his own record.”

 A founding member of Forest and Bird on Waiheke Island in 1982 he was part of the core group that began the revegetation of Tiri Tiri Matangi Island now a renowned bird sanctuary.

 He began his political career as a member for Auckland Central in 1991. Fulfilling his election promises of: stopping the sale of the Ports of Auckland, and stopping the dumping of dredgings in the Hauraki Gulf.

In his role of Chair of Parks and later Chairman of the Auckland Regional Council he secured Whakenewha as a regional park and saved it from becoming an airfield. Lobbied for rat eradication on Rakino, Motutapu and Rangitoto islands and secured the purchase of Kaikoura Island for conservation purposes.

 He was elected chairman of the ARC in 2004 and changed the culture of the ARC to ensure rates increases have been kept to a minimum. He also stopped Waiheke from being included in the Public Transport rateable area.

 With first hand experience of life on the island and a deep understanding of the issues facing the future development of Waiheke. Mr. Lee believes in sustainable development that enhances the unique qualities of the island.

 He believes population growth should be capped at 10,000, and we should never be reticulated.

 Our development should be based on “quality not quantity” focusing on enhancing the environment. He suggests urban renewal in the village and enhanced beautification and habitat repair around the island. Working in unison with our viticulture, arts and tourism industries.

 He is not so keen on all those blue signs either saying the three signs at the Rocky Bay turnoff are, “absolutely over-the-top.” 

 As far as the UNESCO biosphere idea is concerned he says “he doesn’t want to discourage people”, but is concerned that only Waiheke Island would be protected to the beach under it. He feels the entire gulf should be protected under laws which “we develop and manage like the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act and the Resource Management Act” and that we shouldn’t pass control of our assets into others hands.

 After a brief chat about how the Bellbirds are doing, his parting gift to the island as the ARC comes to a close.Mr. Lee says the most important thing is that Waiheke residents “turn up and vote” the higher numbers we get at the polls on Saturday October 9 the more say we will ultimately have in our future.Times up, Mike is going back to Rocky Bay for the weekend, at least the car starts today and he doesn’t have to be jumped again. Like the night he farewelled friend and colleague Andy Spence, former Whakenewha ranger at the Lazy Lounge.  I wonder if the other candidates for the Waitemata and Gulf Ward: Janis Marler, Tenby Powell, Craig Thomas, Alex Swney and Rob Thomas know where the Lazy Lounge is?

 

Great Barrier Island

Mike has had a good working relationship with Great Barrier Community Board – here with GBI Community Board Chair Paul Downie

Mike has had a connection with the Barrier since 1973 when he bought a section at Mulberry Grove from Ivan Miller when he was 24 years old. He sold the section 8 years later. 

He chaired the meeting which set up the island’s Forest & Bird section in 1990. 

In February 1992 he was elected to the ARC for the former ARC seat of Auckland Central (Western Bays, Waiheke and Great Barrier). Though this electorate was replaced by an Auckland City wide constituency including the Gulf islands) late in 1992 Mike has represented Great Barrier during his whole time on the ARC. 

During his time on the ARC he became involved in Barrier related issues such as opposing the Navy using explosives in Bowling Alley Bay, opposing dumping of harbour sludge in the Hauraki Gulf, leading the 9 year campaign to secure Kaikoura Island into public ownership ( as a member of the ARC and as a member of the Government Nature Heritage Fund), More recently he led the ARC’s successful removal of rats from the Broken Islands. Mike also persuaded the ARC to intervene in support of the Great Barrier Community Board to ensure Sealink stayed at Wynyard Wharf. 

Mike with Argentine Ant Busters at Tryphena 2007

Mike with Argentine Ant Busters at Tryphena 2007

 

Mike is an environmentalist but is also a strong believer in the need to promote the economic development of GBI – especially through tourism and has spoken out in support of the need to protect farming on the island. 

“Just as the whole country is reliant on farming – so is Great Barrier, yet the importance of farming on the Barrier is not understood by urban-minded planners. That has to change.” 

Mike at meeting with Ngawaka family on Rangiahua (Flat Island) at meeting to discuss Ngati Rehua Trust Board request to remove rats from the Maori-owned Broken islands off Great Barrier Island. This was completed last year.

Mike supports as much power as possible being divested to the future Great Barrier Local Board and sees the role of the Board and the Ward Councillor to foster economic development while building unity and harmony in the GBI community. “Its time we brought an end to the un-declared civil war on Great Barrier – the things that Barrier people have in common are much greater than the things that divide them. There are enough challenges for people making a go of living on the Barrier without having to deal with ongoing tit-for-tat fractiousness within the community. As an outsider I would like to help build harmony within the Barrier community. Great Barrier Island has a tremendous future if everyone pulls together.” 

Mike supports farming on Great Barrier island and is working with the present community board on formulating Gold Card style discount scheme for Great Barrier superannuitants. 

“I will work to ensure that the voice of the Great Barrier community is not drowned out by the big city focus of the Super City.”

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