Is it dry? Yes, but for how long?

Thanks to a new service at NIWA we can now get some of their cool climate data plots for a site much closer to home than previously.  Up until recently the nearest climate station that I could get plots of rainfall from was at Whangaparaoa. However the climate out on the peninsular is slightly different than on Waiheke thanks to the positioning of the Waitakere Ranges.

NIWA process their various climate stations around the country into a tidy grid of virtual climate stations each about 5km apart. This allows us to have a better idea of the real data for Waiheke.

Here is the key plot – for detail of how to get your own see http://andrew.avowkind.net/wren

It shows the accumulated rainfall for this year, compared with last year and the long term average.

This is a live chart so each week you visit it you’ll get the latest information.

Last Year

Take a look at the blue line. Compared to the long term average – the black line it is nearly flat from Dec to May. That was our four month drought. But as you can see it followed an equally dry Oct/Nov broken only by what I recall as a single rain storm at the beginning of December.  We caught up again in May but the total for the year was only about 1000mm compared to the average of 1200mm.

This Year

Follow the red line, and look at the red bars which show monthly total rainfall for each month. August/September were wetter than average while again Oct/Nov have been dry.  If we don’t get a burst of rain in December then we are back in the same situation as last year.

El Niño, La Niña

One thing is different – The state of the El Niño Southern_Oscillation.  This irregular fluctuation in the boundary between the cooler drier south polar air and the warmer wetter equatorial air is one of the main causes of annual variation in our climate.

From NIWA’s latest climate outlook: A moderate to strong La Niña is well-established in the tropical Pacific, and may strengthen further through the rest of 2010.  La Niña conditions are likely to continue through to autumn of 2011. In the North Island, rainfall is likely to be normal or above normal, with above normal soil moisture levels and stream flows in the east,

The basic rule to remember is: El Niño = Drier, La Niña = Wetter (for NZ North island at least)

So it could go either way – we may see a return to wetter weather and an average year in total, or we could miss out on a couple of crucial storms and have more drought than last year.   This is one issue about climate change that you need to bear in mind – things can change in either direction – what rising CO2 levels really mean is more energy in the atmosphere and more volatility in the climate.  Drier drys and wetter wets and extreme events more often.

Note: I am not a climate scientist or a meteorologist I am just reading the graph as I see it.

Soil Moisture

Here is a soil moisture plot from the same source. I’ll leave you to interpret it. but basically if there are red bars along the bottom your plants probably need watering.

For Waiheke weather see: http://www.waihekeweather.net/

Our Man in Cancun

Luke Carey is a young man on an environmental mission.The 16-year-old Ostend resident is the youngest person to be selected from more than 120 applicants as one of 12 New Zealand youth representatives to attend the COP 16 international conference on climate change in Cancun, Mexico.

The conference is being held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). http://unfccc.int

COP 16 is being held in conjunction with the sixth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), the thirty-third sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), the fifteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the thirteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA).

From Luke Carey, Cancun

Ola!

I’m sitting on the computers at cancunmese fully registered for COP! with my badge and all stating me as a member of the UN i feel so important! The african delegation is sitting next to me and the japanese behind me. The venue is a long way out of town so if we don’t want to be missing important events we figured as a delegation we’d better be leaving cancun early each morning. It’s amazing here! it’s a giant center as big as the asb showgrounds or bigger with hundreds of different stalls with the organization’s name on the top. I’ve sat at the European Union stall and taken a photo for you guys which i will bring back home! There are plenty of others though, ranging from countries such as ‘malawi’ and ‘Tuvalu’ to the ‘Asian counter alliance organization’ (ACAO) and the ‘Global Wind and solar energy fund’ and ‘Jewish People’s Alliance’ and even the ‘Oil Producing Economies Coalition’ (OPEC) which is made up of Saudi Arabia,UAE, Russia, Iraq and those countries, who just try their best to turn the negotiations into a shit-fight and make more money out of oil extraction in the meantime!

Registration was easy, there were no queues, and it took like two minutes, a huuuggggeee improvement from last year where the delegation was standing in a line two miles long for 5 and a half hours while it was snowing! And to top that off, they were gated in by barbed wire fences and patrolling riot police with guard dogs at the same time! The mexicans are brilliant! (and it’s like, 26 degrees here!). I am glad that they have computers here because the internet at the hostel is terrible! I’ve been resorting to ‘Le Casa Del whopper’ or Burger King, which in mexico has free wireless internet instead, but it’s still so slow! This is like a godsend!

The security here is insane though! on the 20min drive out of Cancun along the motorway we must have passed at least 6 army trucks parked in the bushes on the side of the road with army men poking their heads out of the top armed with MK 57’s and ready to shoot. There was three ‘federal policia’ checks much like the drunk-driving road checks in NZ, and even once we got here We lined up and had our passport checked by armed army officials. The Taxi driver said to me they have over 9,000 federal police here in Cancun at the moment and I walked outside just before and looked out past the barbed wire fence into the rainforest just long enough to see a camouflaged army guy hiding in a little treehouse up in the tree looking straight down at me and armed with an automatic rifle!

I love Mexico. I have had no problems with sickness or anything, i am enjoying the spicy food now and it’s far healthier than in NZ, it’s so lovely and warm all the time and the beaches are amazing. The spanish language is beautiful and the city is so bustling and full of culture, like the “celebration of diversity’ festival and the independence day festival there’s just so much exciting stuff on here. The other NZ guys are calling me a human GPS because i just seem to intuitively know how to get places, what buses to catch and where things are!

I was yesterday put in charge of setting up the YOUNGO text alert system, so have been getting the contacts of over 700 youth delegates, which i then hope to put onto a laptop (not mine!) and then send out instant text notifications of actions within minutes, which gives us the ability to mobilize thousands of people within minutes for marches, protests, media campaigns and more. As youth we more easily gain approval for actions from the COP secretariat and are already building a giant climate pyramid out of over 50,000 boxes from a disused warehouse 5min walking time from our hostel. these actions frequently become the associated pic that international media put on COP headlines to the world and each millions of people.

I went to a workshop yesterday where  I heard about the zero carbon strategies of Costa Rica, Australia and the UK from international researchers around the world and good old Kirkle is leading the long term strategy working group which is addressing the inability to properly act upon climate change because of our economic system that relies on infinite growth on a finite planet. We are looking at this issue and the possibilities of an alternative non-growth based economic model but there is not alot out there yet. The best option that has become obvious to me to avoid catastrophic economic meltdown in the next twenty years with high inflation and the US$64 trillion of debt of the US alone is to diversify local economies that work independently of the global economy through the introduction of import-replacement quotas and strict foreign investment rules. This is important for NZ because we have been importing more than we are exporting for the last 20 years, which creates a financial deficit that is only met through loss of economic value in the dollar or by the selling of assets, NZ’s most valuable asset;land, to foreign control. This experience is constantly expanding my idea of climate change adaptation and connecting the dots for me, and i have had a fair few lightbulb moments and alot of ideas to present when i get back.

Probably most important that I have come to realize after flying halfway around the world that the whole concept of international climate change negotiations is an absolutely ludicrous approach and is going to get us nowhere. The only legally-binding agreement that founds COP is the kyoto treaty which is reaching the end of it’s first commitment period with no or very little progression made and little progress on finalizing a second commitment period, once this is gone countries have no reason to actually meet their promises. It is a process of consensus decision-making within 160,000 people making any sort of an agreement here, so no wonder it’s taken 17 years and we still haven’t had viable, measurable and legally binding outcomes! These guys have been negotiating my entire life! (but you can’t force a negotiator to stop negotiating and find a solution if he gets paid to keep on negotiating!). Of course that’s not the case of all the negotiators because many are passionate about finding a solution but it is an issue we face.

Any action addressing the issue of climate change is far more likely to come at a grassroots community level. I am sorry to say. But when i look around i see so many ways and contacts that can be really useful for waiheke as a community to become more sustainable, and that for me is inspiring.

Sure it’s busy as hell here, but because of our vigorous delegation planning we are managing this “structured chaos” okay and are coming out a mile ahead of any other youth delegation on the planet. We are recognized as being super-organized now, and everybody knows us! We have a policy document that is becoming widely read and is recognized as being well-written, we’re very well-positioned in COP, and have awesome matching shirts and a giant fern,and apparently we’re even more good-looking than any other youth delegation! lol.

I’m having a ball of a time! I have never been so motivated and enlightened in my life as being here in Cancun, my first time overseas, in viva la mexico, with such an awesome bunch of like-minded people and an incredible opportunity to change the world. Cop hasn’t even started yet! It’s awesome!

Adios Amigos!
Luke.

If you have a moment and wonder what our 12 intrepid climate change youth are doing in Cancun, take a look at this link:

http://youthdelegation.org.nz/youth/

They are really into it, and doing us proud.

They’d also LOVE some feedback, comments, and a word from home.  They’ll be clocking up some hours, and sooner or later the tiredness will get to them, and about then a word from home will be just the ticket.


Phone mast and Community Board

Part 2 of Stephanie Honeychurch’s overview of phone mast issues.

The role of the (previous) Waiheke Community Board regarding the phonemast issue

Recently  Andrew Crawford, Dr Stuart Reuben,  Ruth Gracie and I were interviewed by another TV researcher about the Waiheke phonemast protest.    In June, Stuart and I were interviewed for a doco called ‘Invisible Forces,’ due to go to air in March.  I mention this, because if the second doco goes ahead that will be two TV programmes (particulary, the second), that relate to and shine a light on our previous Community Board’s farsighted actions on  behalf of Waihekeans and by extension, all New Zealanders.

Denise Roche, as Councillor, was delegated by the Board to write to the Prime Minister to ask him to “urgently instigate a review of the National Environmental Standards (NES) for Electromagentic Radiation and the placement of cellphone masts.”  The Board made a resolution to keep lobbying Parliament to review this clearly unjust and inadequate law which was largely written by the cellphone companies themselves and acts to their benefit and to the detriment of ordinary people.  Anyone doubting this, should look up “Txt ‘M” To Mobilise,” by John Landrigan, written for The Aucklander, in which the telcos openly admit their involvement in the NES.

The Community Board’s awareness of this issue began in August, 2008, when Dr Stuart Reuben presented medical evidence of a multiplication of ten times the national average rate for cancer  at Netanya in Israel for two consecutive years after the installation of a cellphone transmitter.   This is by no means the only study showing serious harm.  Stuart is an internationally recognised medical scientist having discovered the formulae by which blood flow is measured all over the world, he is an Oxford graduate and has four degrees with Honours, a background in cardiology and was Head of Research for Pfizer in America.  Stuart is more highly qualified than the doctor advising our Government.

Thanks largely to Andrew Crawford’s brilliance and sheer persistance, all three of the telcos sent management to meet with the Waiheke Community Board. The telcos were asked to take four actions;  to involve the public in the process, to implement a post-installation health monitoring programme, to update the relevant standards (unchanged since 1998) and most importantly, to sign a guarantee that there will be no health effects. All four actions were declined.  Disturbingly, whilst insisting phonemasts are safe the telcos emphatically refuse to sign a guarantee that there will be no harm.

After this Chairman Tony Sears said “one of the things that came out of the meeting is that communities need to put greater pressure on central Government for stronger standards.”  The letter to the PM states that “It is the Waiheke Community Board’s view that the standards that are currently in place offer no protection to ordinary citizens and we would appreciate your response on how soon the National Standards can be reviewed.  Members of our community also have criticisms that the independent panel of experts that were part of reviewing the existing standards are not independent and are too close to the industry.”

The Board’s letter to the PM also states that “On Waiheke our community has concerns based on the growing international evidence that there are health risks associated with living near cellsites.  In addition the real estate industry is reporting that properties situated near cellphone towers are devalued by their proximity to the sites.  It is unfair in the extreme that it is the neighbours that bear the consequences of living near these installations, but have no say in their placement.”

It is known that proximity to  even a lampost-type phonemast automatically devalues neighbouring properties from 10 to 15%.  This figure can go higher because the larger the number of masts, size or public notoriety of the cellsite the more it devalues surrounding properties..  Marine 3G cellsites transmit for up to 30kms, the older, 2G versions transmitted for up to 11 kms.   The current proliferation and closeness of 3G phonemasts is purely profit-driven, but as the long term effects of EMR come to light, it seems our children will be the ones to pay.

Raising a standard up the mast

children in movie signs wearing tinfoil hats to protect against alien signalsDiscovering the One Waiheke website recently has given me joy (which goes to show what a boring life I lead).  Alan Knight’s superb ‘Media Watch’ in particular, has given  great pleasure but some mental anguish and confusion also.  I voted for Nikki Kaye, but help pack the Gulf News for a couple of hours on Thursday mornings, which must surely qualify me to be a “Bolshevik Cohort” or at least have latent pinko tendencies according to Alan, (who makes more sense than  most politicians).  My political leanings ARE decidedly wobbly having veered from side to side voting either Labour or National, whichever one appeared to be the lesser of two evils at the time.  Rather like voting for Len Brown because he is not John Banks.

After many years of total political apathy/cynicism/disinterest I underwent a strange transformation when in a fit of NIMBYism I did some serious research on phonemasts.  Over the last two years I have met (and harangued) MPs Cath Tizard, Nick Smith, Nikki Kaye, Phil Twyford and Jacinda Ardern.  Once one of the world’s worst correspondents, my Cornish cousins assumed I was dead for years.  Now, in my evangelistic fervour I have become a Forrest Gump of letter writers in my determination to publicise this issue.

It is true that ignorance is bliss, but it is not true that what we don’t know doesn’t hurt us.  Therefore, I intend to share the burden of accumulated information on this subject with One Waiheke readers as time and energy permit over the next few weeks in the hope that in becoming aware of all the dodgy aspects (vested interests, junk science, etc.) others will join the push for change.   We expect our elected government to protect us, yet history has proven that when it comes down to money, governments everywhere are reluctant to let go of the lolly.

With regard to the phonemast issue (National Environmental Standards)  both major parties are as bad as each other.  Trevor Mallard, as Minister for the Environment, pushed the NES through, under unexplained urgency in the dying days of the Labour  Government.  The usually nosy, noisy Nats said nothing and the folk-dancing Green’s drug ridden views were pointedly ignored by the media, who because of the timing of this Bill were in a pre-election feeding frenzy anyway and couldn’t be bothered with real reporting.  Since then a number of petitions objecting to the NES including the Crawford (Waiheke) petition were sent to Parliament.  A Select Committee was formed, made certain recommendations such as removing vested interests from the Government’s advisory panel.  The Government declined to accept any of the recommendations.  This is like Rothmans and Pall Mall advising the Government not to listen to those naughty, trouble-making malcontents who sign petitions or even to pay attention to their own MP’s recommendations such as smoking is perfectly safe because Big Tobacco says so.

Campaigners do not want to abolish cellphones or to halt progress.  Since 2008,  New Zealand has had one of the most permissive, slackest standards in the world in relation to the siting of phonemasts and levels of radiation.  Marine 3G cellsites can transmit for 30 kms.  The current proliferation of masts is purely profit driven.  Campaigners believe that New Zealanders should at least have the same standard of protection that much of Europe and even such countries with poor human rights records such as China and Russia have.  This is not unreasonable.

In case in the future anyone whose name has been associated with mine wishes to disown me, ( for whatever reason), please note that unless quoted, all opinions given are entirely my own.

Media Watch Part Three. The Inauguration coverage.

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This wondrous story seems destined to keep us enthralled for a while yet. The letters pages of both papers seem to have settled down a little yet the letters are still coming in. I was amused to see that one correspondent described the heckling at the meeting as ‘Lewd’. Now I believe I know lewdness when I hear it and I certainly didn’t hear any last Saturday. But there you go, one man’s idea of boisterous democracy in action is another man’s idea of anarchistic madness.

Chris Walker from Waiheke Radio summed it up best. He wondered why there are those who view the recent upheavals with dismay when they should be celebrating the fact that our local inauguration was attended by the largest and most politically engaged crowd seen across the entire region. After all, can you imagine what some of them must have been like? Sparsely attended events featuring dull people in suits or ridiculous hats applauding politely and then going away to forget that it ever happened. That’s not the Waiheke way and I for one am damn glad of it and I’m pretty sure Len Brown was too.

However, I realise that not everyone feels this way and, since I have estimated that there could be as many as a dozen of you out there that HAVEN’T written to the papers to air your views yet, I have provided this handy all purpose letter.

To use the letter, simply delete the highlighted lines according to preference and send it off.

Ready?

To The editor;

I was;
delighted/disgusted
by the;
splendid/disgraceful
scenes at the Ostend Hall last weekend. The swearing in of our;

slightly dodgy/serious and responsible
new Local Board was;
enlivened/ruined
by the;
boisterous free speech/anarchistic ravings
of a;
large/small
number of;
locals dedicated to democracy/crazed Bolsheviks.

These;
protesters/malcontents,
many of whom had;
arrived early/clearly been drinking heavily since breakfast,
seemed determined to;
show their support/wreck the entire event.

It was clear that the new Mayor was;
delighted/horrified

at the support shown for;
popular local representative/crazed Maoist harridan
Denise Roche. In view of her;
Considerable majority vote/Insignificant support
Some people felt that she should;
At least be given a degree of influence/allowed to rule the island like some Soviet style despot.

The whole;
splendid event/drug fuelled rampage
made me;
proud/ashamed
to live in this community. If that’s freedom of speech in action;
I’m all for it!/then it’s time we looked at banning it.

Yours………………

Education- short term gain and long term pain.

In the first of a series of guest postings from a wide variety of writers, Jacinda Ardern Labour List MP for Auckland gives her personal view on some current education issues.

Jacinda AdernI think that most people can probably point to a teacher, that at some point in their life, made a pretty big difference to them (hopefully for the better). For me, that was my high school history teacher.

While I’m a proud Grey Lynner, I grew up in a small rural town where anyone who wore khaki was immediately labelled a communist, let alone someone who taught you about Ghandi and Parihaka. But this teacher taught me to question everything, and how to stand up for injustice when I saw it. And he did it all within our fantastic education system.

Education has to be one of the most important things we can invest in to secure the best opportunities not only for our kids, but for everyone. The most important place to start is of course with our little ones through early childhood education (ECE). We figured that out when we were in Government and introduced 20 hours free ECE. But I’ve now had to sit and watch as the new government cut $295 million out of this sector, meaning centres like those on Waiheke are having to fund a pretty hefty shortfall, or face the awful reality of having to sack qualified staff.

Primary schools are also going through an incredibly difficult time. They have all just implemented a fantastic new curriculum but, on top of that, the Government asked them to take on the untried and untested National Standards. While I absolutely agree with the argument that parents deserve to know how their child is doing in school, the National Standards go well beyond reporting and have the potential to really hurt our youngest learners. It’s not surprising that quite a number of the Board of Trustees for our local primary schools have decided not to risk participating in National Standards- at the very least this is a policy that should have been trialled first.

But I also believe in lifelong learning, which is why I was also so disheartened by last year’s axing of funding for adult and community education- another cut which hit the Waiheke community.

We are in a recession, I understand and appreciate that- we all do. But I also believe that the way to make New Zealand a smarter and more productive economy is not to cut chunks out of education, but to invest in it. This is the area where we can make our greatest gains, and gains which benefit everyone.

I don’t want my contributions to this blog to always be so overtly political; I do think people are worn down by how antagonistic the political world can be sometimes. But there are some aspects of politics where I make no apology for getting stuck in, and education just happens to be one of them. My old history teacher wouldn’t have it any other way…

Jacinda Ardern | Labour List MP
Labour Party Spokesperson for Youth Affairs
Associate Justice Spokesperson
Wgtn: +64 4 817 9388 | Ak +64 9 360 1641

For Your Information

Last week I wrote about FixMyStreet.org.nz A place where you can inform the council and other bodies about local issues that need fixing such as rubbish, graffitti, broken paths, pot holes etc.

This week I want to introduce For Your Information – fyi.org.nz a website that lets you make requests under the Official Information Act.

What is Official Information?

Official Information is any information held by the Government, including:

  • Ministers of the Crown in their official capacity;
  • Government departments and organisations;
  • Local authorities, territorial and regional councils and community boards;
  • State-owned enterprises;
  • Educational institutions, including Boards of Trustees;
  • Public hospitals.

You can read more about the Official Information Act (OIA) and how to make requests at this government web page: Official Information: Your Right To Know.

Continue reading For Your Information

Denise Reflects

Hi all,

I’ve had a few days to recover and reflect and I want to thank all the fantastic and wonderful Waiheke people who turned out in force on Saturday to witness the inauguration of our first local board.  I know a lot of you were hacked off about the chairmanship but we knew early on that the result was unlikely to change. For me it wasn’t about who got to be the chair it was the process, the predetermination of the decision-making, that worried me.  I’m really grateful that so many of you picked that up as the issue and tried to make the other local board members aware of your concerns by email, phone, text messages, facebook entries, blogs and petitions before the meeting happened.

I’m also damn proud of all of you who came to the meeting and got the message across to the mayor and the new local board members with humour and warmth and passion and not a lot of disorderly conduct at all. ( I particularly liked Inga’s sign that said “No Gangs on Waiheke.”)  Being at the ‘vortex’ of that passion, as Alan Knight put it so well, was a remarkable experience and truly humbling.

I’ve never been particularly worried about the ‘divisiveness’ or lack of agreement in our community.  I’ve always believed that conflict is ok, it can be useful – because often where there’s heat there’s light.  What we as a community have got from this stoush is an awareness that we all have to keep a close eye on the decision makers in charge of our local governance (including me!) and we need to continue to let our elected representatives know what it is we want.  Yep, sometimes we wont be listened to and we wont get what we want – but we will at least engage in the discussion and that’s crucial. Cos decisions without discussion is not democracy.

This new structure for local governance calls for the local board ‘to engage’ with the community…I’d suggest we’ve already started that. The coverage of this issue with the footage and photos and fabulous commentary here and on facebook and in the local papers has certainly ensured there was a good range of opinions being canvassed in the public arena and the dissent made it all quite interesting – and maybe even exciting at times.

I’m not sure it’s possible to maintain that level of excitement – but we do need to make sure our community doesn’t disengage. I agree with Alan Knight’s criticism that Faye’s speech on Saturday was dull; our local board will need to find a way to make sure the fun doesn’t get sucked out of the room as soon as local politics is mentioned.

I don’t think it’s possible to combine a Roller Derby with Local Board meetings (although it would be interesting I’m sure) but if you have any other suggestions for keeping people interested let me know!

Once again, thank you to all of you.

Naku noa,
Denise

Waiheke Local Board Inauguration Gallery

Sorry Folks the photo slide show is unavailable for the time being having used up my bandwidth allocation.  Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible

Photos courtesy Linds Redding
The Dept. of Motion Graphics
www.dmgltd.co.nz


Creative Commons License
Waiheke Local Board Photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License.

Democracy in Action, Waiheke Style

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Angry Mob fun run from the simpsons2.25 PM. Those saying you’d have to be in early were right. The Ostend Hall is filling up fast and there’s over half an hour until this thing is due to kick off. It is already getting warm and stuffy. This hall was never very comfortable with a crowd in and that’s what is rapidly growing.

The board members are already here, milling around looking stiff and awkward. They look like they just want this to be over and I can’t say I blame them. You can already tell that over half the people here have protest in mind and even Denise is looking nervous despite the obvious support she’s getting. Don McKenzie is wearing his Sunday best. In a suit, he looks diminutive, almost fragile. Jim Hannan seems to have aged decades in less than a month. There’s a slump to his shoulders that he keeps trying to straighten and he can’t seem to get comfortable. He sits, then stands, wanders about a bit and sits down again.
Faye Storer is determined to show her professional thick skin. She’s well turned out, a far cry from her low key look during the campaign. The fact that she knows most of the council staff milling about the front of the hall clearly helps.
The biggest presence is Jo Holmes. Jo isn’t wasting any time trying to appear tough. She IS tough. Her outfit, though colourful, seems well suited to the possibility of a bar brawl, and she knows she has a decent number of supporters in attendance. I’m still proud that she’s made it to the board. I may disagree with her judgment over the last week or two and some of you may roll your eyes at this but I’m damned if I’m going to regret voting for her and I’m still sure she’s going to prove herself in the long run.

2.45 and Len Brown arrives with Mike Lee. Their reception is loud and heartfelt. You can tell right away that both of them know that this is going to be different from the other ceremonies that they’ve sat through recently. The new Mayor works the room well and seems energised. Mike Lee seems relaxed and clearly in his element. The hall is now seriously full and I’m wondering why we couldn’t get this many in for the campaign meetings.

By five to three the crowd is still trying to fill the remaining spaces and the mood of expectancy is tangible. There’s tenseness for sure, but a lot of good humour too. A bit like the Roman Coliseum must have felt during a Christians V Lions final.

Council chief Doug McKay looks amazed at the turnout as he begins his opening remarks. The Maori protocol stuff happens with considerable gusto. Then the crowd sits down and waits for the ref to blow the whistle.

As the new board are introduced you can see the way the crowd sympathies lie. The applause for the Gang of Four is light to say the least but as Denise Roche is introduced the uproar must be audible in Onetangi. Looking around I can see there are those who are not happy with the way this is going. I’m sitting next to Tony Sears and his face says it all. Len Brown on the other hand looks like a kid on Christmas day. He hasn’t had this much fun in ages. Doug McKay then returns to his prepared remarks. These are worthy but dull and the crowd seem restless as he waffles on.

Then it’s on to the declarations. Jim Hannan lurches to the podium first and I almost feel pity for the lad. The actual declaration is a limp and bloodless thing to have to read out, full of dry legalese and devoid of any big words or soaring rhetoric. Jim stumbles through it drawing derisive laugher at the word ‘impartial’. He looks like he’d rather be mopping up regurgitated tourist lunches from the deck of the Superflyte during a northerly swell than doing this and you can’t blame him.

Each board member is entitled to have their supporters join them for a photo after their declaration and Jim has to summon his two from the back of the hall.

Jo Holmes goes next and also draws a few derisive snorts as that word impartial is uttered. But the applause is more determined and her supporters make a decent go of it as they line up behind her. Jo really does have some ‘core support’ and they have seen that they need to make their presence felt.

Don McKenzie gets it over with quickly and sits down. I almost can’t watch. Don is a decent and admirable man and deserves to be on the board. That his induction to it has to be under these circumstances is little short of tragic. Let’s hope he can put Faye-Gate behind him and show us his true worth.

The order is alphabetical so we all know who’s up next. The collective intake of breath in the sweltering hall is so intense you can almost feel your ears pop. Denise Roche is called and this time the noise can be heard in Orapiu. For over half the people in attendance to stand behind her is impossible. Yet somehow it happens. Clearly emotional, Denise makes her declaration. She’s not a powerful speaker. She doesn’t have that Toastmasters knack of hammering words home like nails into thick timber. Yet that hardly seems important right now. The clumsy machinations of her rival have turned this woman into the focal point of huge community feeling and she now has a power beyond anything she could have dreamed of.
The rest of the board are expressionless. They can’t be enjoying this yet they made it happen. Just a slightly different approach two weeks ago and Denise would be making her declaration simply and resuming her seat like any of the rest of them instead of standing at the centre of a huge vortex.

Faye Storer cuts straight to it. She rattles her declaration out in seconds to light applause, stands for a few moments with about fifteen supporters and sits down again. If any of this is hurting then she doesn’t let it show. Faye may have made some disastrous miscalculations of late but she has a hide a rhinoceros would envy.

Can it get more intense? Hell yes! That was just the declarations. Now it’s time for the real meat of the business. Time for the new board to elect a chairperson. There will be no surprises of course but then that’s what caused all this. Doug McKay gets the ball rolling. Now you can see that his carefully prepared remarks are of little use and he’s into the realm of politics. Faye is nominated and the heckling begins in earnest. Any other nominations? Denise stands and nominates herself to huge cheers. But the audience’s voice is not what works in this case and she’s not getting any traction where it counts.

Faye Storer it is and the mood is now plain ugly. As she begins her speech the hall begins to empty. Many stay to listen though and there are some who try and match the feeling by catcalling those departing. Which is as it should be. Faye’s speech is businesslike but strangely embarrassing. It sounds like she wrote it the moment she knew she’d been elected and felt no need to alter so much as a word to reflect all the upheaval of the last two weeks. Controversy? Never heard of it. So the platitudes come thick and fast. Moving forward. Challenges that lie ahead. New era for Auckland etc etc….

Finally it stops and its time for Len Brown to speak. What a contrast. No fudging the issue for this Mayor. He begins by removing his tie. He must be glad to. The heat and humidity are now close to unbearable. His speech is heartfelt and inspiring. He has the ability to speak without recourse to the well worn bag of political clichés and it goes down well. And unlike the new chairperson he goes straight to the heart of the debate that’s kept us all enthralled of late. There is division and while that may be healthy for the democratic process it is now time to put it aside and work for Waiheke.
Jim Hannan rises and makes his way over to shake hands with Denise. The rest follow. Does it all seem a bit forced? Maybe too little too late? Time will tell.

Ultimately, Waiheke is better off for what has happened. All too often we go into these elections, choose a board then forget about it for three years. This time was different. We debated, we got involved, we had opinions and we chose sides. We got reminded of how good it is to live in a democracy.

As someone just said, You Had To Be There.

Faye Storer and Jim Hannan at Local Board Inauguration
Faye: "Jim we want you to go up first to hug Denise, if you survive we'll all follow"