Auckland Council bureaucrats’ sneaky plan for Waiheke – my letter to ‘Gulf News’

I write in regard to Auckland Council’s perfunctory ‘Draft Waiheke Area Plan’ public consultation. Gulf News readers may recall I warned the public about what the council was planning last year. Clearly nothing has changed since then. The opening sentence of the feedback form, (so revealing of Auckland Council’s manipulative culture) states the plan is “led by the Waiheke Local Board”  and “is a 30-year vision…to ensure a more sustainable and more liveable future”. Frankly those claims are not true. The truth is the direct opposite. The essence of the plan was conceived in Auckland Council’s headquarters tower by planning bureaucrats, no doubt as the result of lobbying by developer interests. It is all about driving the non-sustainable growth of Waiheke Island, facilitated by a series of hugely expensive sewerage reticulation schemes which Waiheke ratepayers will be forced to pay for. All the rest is secondary to those two intimately connected goals. The real plan is to turn Waiheke into something much closer to a crowded city suburb. The trick in the disingenuous public consultation process is to contrive a narrative that rather than reticulation and suburbanisation being imposed on Waiheke by city planners, it is in fact the brain child of the local board – and if the feedback responses can be finessed well enough – even the public itself.  Do not believe it.

The Council officers in their public consultation meetings have been evidently careful to downplay the real agenda but it hasn’t taken many question by alert members of the public to draw out the real objectives.

This agenda is unwittingly revealed in the ‘Have Your Say’ feedback form where after some vague questions about “vision”, the 5th and 6th questions (leading questions I might add) get to the point. They make it clear that the council considers it a bad thing that most of us live in “single family homes on large sections” (perusal of their planning maps confirm that by “large sections” the planners are not talking about mansions on lifestyle broad acres – no, just the rest of us). 

The diligent Waiheke Islander completing the questionnaire is then deftly steered to suggest alternative forms of housing.  I know from the numerous confidential closed-door briefing sessions I attended last year, the answer the bureaucrats are fishing for is for more “intensive” development (à la Auckland suburbia). i.e. infill, units and apartment buildings, (including no doubt shoebox apartments) initially focussed on Ostend [around the Countdown supermarket], and planned to begin in Oneroa, high-rise tourism accommodation.

But as this is quite impossible with our present onsite sewage treatment system, so we have the next leading question wherein quite disingenuously the council claims it is concerned about maintaining the island’s water quality and “the health of the Hauraki Gulf”. The behind-closed doors solution to this according to council planners is reticulated sewerage to be progressively rolled out in packets across the island.

But it doesn’t take much reflection to realise reticulated sewage will be disastrous for our island and our coastal waters.  Just look at the Waitemata Harbour where more than 2.2 million cubic metres of raw sewage, and sewage contaminated storm water is spilled into the isthmus streams and harbours every year from the city’s reticulated system. The council bureaucrats know this as much as anyone but they know reticulation will open the way for quantum increases in property development, much more people and many more dwellings, And just think how much ratepayers’ money the council’s private construction contractors will be eyeing up. Then there will be the disruption and environmental impacts of the construction itself which is likely to go on for years – how long?  Well, have a look at the simple culvert Downers are trying to build outside the refuse transfer station. How long have they been at that now, – over a year? And how much is that costing? It would be a bad joke if the implications did not constitute such a grave threat to our island way of life – and our environment. The people of Waiheke do have an alternative to the Super City agenda and its “Waiheke Area Plan” and that is to protect, maintain and where necessary improve our own sustainable onsite wastewater and roof tank systems. The Waiheke Area Plan public consultation ends this evening but the battle for our island is only beginning.

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