Submission from Bernard Urquhart Rhodes
(Associate Member, Royal Institution of Naval Architects)104 Wharf Rd. Ostend, Waiheke Island 1081, New Zealand.
Tel +64 9 372 5621 email email@example.com
Waiheke Island needs independence.
I have a vision of a new, locally elected Waiheke Unitary Council, constituted so it can be run by consensus rather than adversarial descision-making, with the ability to call public fora on important matters. I’d much rather spend my time there in robust, constructive debate than trying to deal with the present shambles, where time after time we have to drop what we’re doing and object to the latest of Auckland City Council’s outrageous, expensive, incompetent bunglings.
The Bill’s proposals for a ‘super City’ with no representation at all for Waiheke Island (the ‘Local Boards’ as proposed would be totally ineffective) would lead to an even worse situation, practically a dictatorship by the Mayor.
The present relationship of the Community and People of Waiheke with Auckland City is dysfunctional. With the notable exception of a few long-standing employees in the local office, we have to deal with a faceless, authoritarian bureaucracy that has taken power to itself, is seriously wasteful of resources and money, and is unaccountable for its actions. The resulting frustration and anger in this community is huge.
Wide support for these views
Although the permanent population is only about 7,000, submissions from Waiheke to the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance were 28% of the 3,500 total, a strong indication of the degree of concern. Large turn-outs to protest marches up Queen St. to the City Development Committee meeting on Waiheke’s waste disposal contract, widespread anger at their blatant, undemocratic breaking of their own rules in formulation of the contract and awarding it to a failing multinational company over the not-for-profit exisiting local contractor is provoking ongoing actions. A Sunday meeting to decide what to do next attracted over 100 attendees.
How Auckland City sees us
From the point of view of Auckland City also, Waiheke is a thorn in their side, always complaining, incomprehensible, ‘on another planet’. The present Mayor famously said that dealing with Waiheke is like herding cats! They obviously want us to go away, as amply demonstrated by new ‘super city’ proposals that would give us no representation at all. We’d love to get out of their way, to do our own thing.
Ignoring us is not an option. We won’t go away. The thorn would cause a festering wound that would do incalculable damage to Auckland City’s image.
Examples of Council fiascos
From among many are:
- 10 years of campaigning to build a simple boat launching ramp, the entire, extravagant budget swallowed by bureaucracy. The result a second-rate ramp, because they wouldn’t listen to those who actually use it.
- The “Proposed Hauraki Gulf Islands district Plan”. The bureaucrats who dreamed this up just can’t see the wood for trees. They’ve invented their own language, best described as Acronyms Galore! Dense and unreadable, far more complex than the last Plan and poorly related to it, failing to represent our views and aspirations, so badly wrong it drew hundreds of objections, and is still in litigation, a worse mess than ever! And at great expense to us, the ratepayers.My respect goes to those among us who have put in the thousands of hours of voluntary time to understand it, to submit in detail, only to have their submissions dismissed. Many of the submissions were that the whole plan be scrapped as unworkable – that too was dismissed.
- The Rates revaluation fiasco. Bureaucrats in the City made the bold assumption that if a house in a street sold for a certain price, then all the others in that street were worth the same. This is far from the case on Waiheke, the contrast between funky little baches and flash mansions is huge. The resulting enormous and unjustified increases, many up to 300%, a few even up to 1200%, caused huge distress and worry, a storm of objections, necessitating hiring extra staff to finally come to the island and see for themselves! At our expense…The process took over a year, meanwhile we were required to pay the new, incorrect, extortionate rates, then they had the complication of eventually refunding them where the appeals were successful.
There is a total loss of confidence and trust in Auckland City Council. The goodwill is long gone through bitter experience. Without the support of the populace in general, democracy is impossible, and we have no wish to be dictated to. The new ‘Super City’ as proposed would be much worse, unless all locally relevant decision-making powers are vested in greatly enhanced Local Boards.
I submit that half measures won’t work. A beefed-up Local Board for Waiheke would just be more of the same. The only workable solution is complete independence, a new Waiheke Unitary Council, with control of the local foreshore and seabed.
Financial economies and efficiency gains
An argument against independence heard in ACC is that Waiheke is subsidised by Auckland ratepayers, and could not survive financially on its own. I believe this is totally untrue, the figures are compiled by Council ‘officers’ who are themselves a part of the problem. 15 years of witnessing gross inefficiency, wastefulness, blundering and mis-giuded development have convinced me that all local government decisions made locally would be far more cost-effective with much better ratepayer satisfaction. A budget proposal for the new Waiheke Unitary Council , prepared by competent persons appointed by the Community Board, would be needed to confirm this.
Also an important part of any economic assesment is the thousands of unpaid hours spent by volunteers opposing Auckland City, which could be much better spent in productive occupations.
Present legislation – proposed minor change
At present there is a requirement for a minimum population of 10,000 to form a separate County. At 7,000 plus the many owners of holiday homes, we already have traffic near gridlock and little room for expansion, due to lack of relevant planning. A simple alteration of this arbitary threshold would enable the Local Government Commission to make the necessary changes if petitioned to do so.
Strength of Community
This island has a unique and very special community, many recently arrived citizens, diverse in background and views but united in our passionate love of the place, our strong desire not to see it spoilt by over-development, and to make it sustainable in a fast-changing world. We have many skilled people among us, keen to play a part if we’re given a chance; but we need to be able to run our own affairs to do it.
There is a precedent in the Chatham Islands, a Unitary Council for a population of less than 1,000 that broke away from the mainland after being forcibly amalgamated.
There is also a precedent in the UK, where local government decision-making is being de-centralised to the local level.
Great Barrier Island
I am very aware that in seeking independence for the Hauraki Gulf Islands, I have little knowlege of the views of residents of Great Barrier Island. What I do know is that there is huge frustration with Auckland City Council, but they appreciate the $5million spent on tar-sealing roads last year. I”m not sure how much of this was central government money.
A priority would be to work with the Great Barrier Community Board and concerned residents to optimise their capacity for self-governance while assisting them financially in view of their (Government induced) depleted population.
(a) Redefine ‘Auckland’ in Clause 5 of the Bill to include the isthmus, but to exclude the Hauraki Gulf Islands.
(b) Add a clause to the Bill to establish a separate Unitary Council for the Hauraki Gulf Islands, or for Waiheke Island.
(c) Adopt all the recommendations of the Waiheke Communtiy Board submission, particularly the concept that Local Boards should decide what powers they should assume instead of the patronising, condescending draft Bill which continues Auckland City’s dictatorial dishing out and withdrawing of powers at its whim. The Draft Delegation Schedule, Appendix 1, should read ‘Draft legislated Assumption of Powers’.
Also of great merit is the proposal for Waiheke to gain the necessary self-governance to apply to become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
(d) Adopt all the recommendations of the Waiheke Island Community Planning Group, a voluntary organisation which has been a staunch advocate for the Island’s best interests.
I wish to be heard in person, and hope there will be a hearing on Waiheke Island.