True life – stranger than fiction

True life can be sometimes stranger than fiction can’t it?

Who would have dreamed that I would be back as the councillor for Waitematā & Gulf only a few months ago? Certainly not me. The Super City imposed on Auckland twelve years ago is not working. In terms of both financial performance and democratic accountability it is clearly failing. The remarkable outcome of the recent elections shows that the people, especially of this ward, have had enough and are demanding change. In Wayne Brown we have a new mayor and a refreshed governing body. Essentially we have been given a mission to save Auckland.  We must not fail. 

My thanks to all those people who supported me in this campaign, here in the city and out in the Gulf Islands. A special thanks to all those volunteers led by Puneet Dhall who worked so hard for this result. My success was due to local people who put national politics and labels to one side because they recognised the Council and its CCOs were out of control.  They wanted accountability – not apologists for the council and AT. They recognised that the only way ordinary people have any chance of standing up to the system was to come together. That’s why the ‘Auckland Independents’ was formed. It’s high time we put Auckland first – not Wellington.

The election outcome is a firm riposte to the government’s ill-advised National Policy Statement on Urban Development which if it proceeds will effectively destroy our special character suburbs.  I campaigned long and hard on this and while I have heard predictable ‘tut tutting’ about my ‘broad church’ of support, bear in mind the attack on our special character areas is not just government policy it is a firm policy alliance between the Labour, National and Green parties. This has now been firmly rejected by the people of this ward because nowhere in New Zealand would these policies do more damage than here – the historic heart of Auckland. The people of Auckland central have spoken. The MP’s and the council would be wise to heed the message.

I intend to ensure that this is acted on by the council. Hopefully, rather than inexpertly trying to rig the supply side of the market to somehow engineer cheaper housing prices, the government will stop relying on property developers and begin to act like a genuine Labour government and start actually building houses as Labour governments famously once did.

Also on my agenda is the need to address planning rules which govern consents for helicopter landing sites. There is widespread public opposition to these right across the electorate, from Westmere to Waiheke to Great Barrier Island. I am presently getting expert advice on how to tackle this problem which has been ignored for too long by those in authority. I will be consulting with the local boards, Waitematā, Waiheke and Aotea-Great Barrier on my planned way forward.

Another major concern is deeply unpopular Auckland Transport. The new mayor has already put this organisation on notice. Changes around the board room table will not be enough. Thoroughgoing root and branch reform is needed. In the meantime in response to complaints, especially Grey Lynn and Surrey Crescent small businesses and even cyclists, about the ‘Inner West Cycleways and Street Improvements Project’ I have written to the mayor asking for a moratorium on funding for this and AT’s other big spending projects until the Council‘s finances are sorted out. AT does not listen therefore we must turn off the funding tap until it does.

Then there is the state of the Hauraki Gulf which is facing an ecological crisis. The government’s response touted as ‘Revitalising the Gulf’ frankly will not. The government is proposing 14 so-called ‘High Protection Areas’ (HPA) from which all fishing will be banned – except for ‘customary fishing’ by Māori. The Seafloor Protection Areas (SPA) will ban bottom trawling but fishing from boats will continue. Two ‘Protected Areas’, adjacent to Leigh and Cathedral Cove marine reserves will come under intense pressure to be open to ‘customary fishing’. None of these concepts are yet legal, they are experimental and because of their mixed objectives and discriminatory nature they will be controversial.  Moreover they will do precious little for nature conservation. The Friends of the Hauraki Gulf, which I chair, is running a petition calling for the Hākaimangō-Matiatia (NW) Marine Reserve, which was supported by 93% of 1303 submitters during its recent public notification through the Marine Reserves Act be included in the Plan to give it some credibility. Again, the government would be wise to listen. A council term is 156 weeks. That’s time I have given myself to make a real difference. My thanks again. Its good to be back.

This article was published in the November 2022 edition of Ponsonby News

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