“Many people tell me that they are concerned that the new Supercity will ignore their needs and the needs of their community. We can’t let that happen – too much is at stake.”
-Mike Lee – the Regional Council Period
Mike Lee has been Chairman of the Auckland Regional Council since 2004. A former ship’s officer and passionate conservationist, Mike has lieved and worked in the Gulf and Waitemata ward for most of his life.
- Capped ARC rates increases;
- Bought back 100% public ownership of Ports of Auckland;
- Acquired new coastal regional parks, including future headland park at Wynyard Point;
- Opened Queens Wharf; and protected natural and built heritage;
- Mike has fought to improve public transport and persuaded Government to electrify rail;
- Successfully campaigned to recommission the Onehunga Branch Line
- Under Mike’s leadership rail patronage increased from 2.5 million to nearly 9 million trips per annum;
- Advocate for CRL and rail to airport.
Michael Lee was the last Chairman of the Auckland Regional Council. A former ships officer, Mike holds an MSc in biological sciences.
Mike was first elected to the ARC in a by-election early in 1992. Soon after his election in March 1992 he co-sponsored a notice of motion with the late Bruce Jesson that effectively halted the privatisation of Ports of Auckland.
As Chairman of regional parks from 1992-95, he led an energetic land acquisition policy acquiring two new coastal regional parks Duder near Umupuia and Whakanewha on Waiheke Island and adding significant new parkland to the Waitakere and Hunua ranges. He also led negotiations with the Government, persuading it to cancel plans to sell Hamlins Hill near the motorway at Mt Wellington to enable this land to be managed as parkland.
It was because of Mike, a passionate conservationist that the ARC became involved in native bird species management – beginning with intervention to save endangered kokako in the Hunua ranges. This intervention led to a whole new eco system based approach to parkland habitat management of which the ARC is a leader.
Regional parks ecosystems have been restored and birds like kiwi, kokako and bellbird have been returned to the Auckland region from where they had been absent in some cases for more than a century.
Since Mike became council chairman in 2004, the ARC through its subsidiary Auckland Regional Holdings the ARC bought back a 20 per cent share of Ports of Auckland. Ports of Auckland (New Zealand’s biggest) is now 100% publicly owned.
During this period the ARC has acquired four new coastal parks and added to existing parkland. He also led the opening of the waterfront and the acquisition of waterfront open space – a future 4.75 headland park at Wynyard Point (with Auckland City) and 3ha Queens Wharf (with the government) Queens was opened to the public in April 2010 after being locked away behind the red fence for nearly 90 years.
However, most of the ARC effort during Mike’s time as chairman has been dedicated to transport.
Passenger rail ail in Auckland neglected for decades and on the brink of extinction, has seen patronage grow from 2.5 million passengers per year to 8 million in five years. Mike lobbied in turn both Labour and National governments (successfully) for electrification of Auckland’s rail network and integrated ticketing. He succeeded in having the Onehunga Branch Line recommissioned and has been an outspoken champion for extending rail to Auckland International Airport and for the CBD Loop tunnel. The Northshore busway opened in 2007 has been a remarkable success.
Mike has actively championed the idea of a heritage tramway first proposed by light rail enthusiasts for Wynyard Quarter linking to Britomart. Over the past 18 months Mike has worked to ensure a good idea becomes a practical reality. Work on the tramway is now underway.
During Mike’s time as chairman, ARC rates increases have been kept below 5 per cent per annum – the lowest in the region.
Mike Lee’s leadership of the ARC over the past six years has been distinguished by the high degree of harmony, cohesion and good relationships between its elected members, including a number of strong personalities who represent a broad range of political opinion.