Supporting OneWaiheke

Did you know that is the host and supporter for  several other community based websites:

As well as some personal blog sites:

If you have a local project that would like its own website, blog or data entry system the I am happy to do this for you as a community service for Waiheke.

This does not cost a lot to run – but its not free either. There are website hosting fees and domain name fees – a few $100 a year.

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​The Devil You Know

The following post is sure to raise the ire of a good many people who I  probably have much in common with. I have largely kept these ideas under wraps due to the high profile enjoyed by The Marketplace in the community at this time. I have voiced the views expressed here to small groups and invariably I have been answered with uncomfortable silence. A few people have quietly told me they agree, but there seems to be a taboo on openly expressing these thoughts.

I feel compelled to state that the views expressed here relate in no way to a personal political opinion, although I know right now that that is the basis on which I will be attacked- that I am merely expressing “The Leftie Point of View”. How convenient to reduce a detailed argument to a red or blue/green dichotomy. I urge people to avoid succumbing to this simplistic portrayal because the whole point of the article is about how we as an island have been manipulated into taking sides and how much this has cost the island as a whole. This is about a local newspaper dependent for its survival on its readers and local advertisers up against a goliath of a newspaper corporation. Most communities have lost their authentic local voice. I wonder how long we will be able to hold onto ours if we carry on with our current delusion that we can get something for nothing without any terrible cost to ourselves.If you are going to criticize this article please feel free…. but take the time to address the points raised accurately rather than blasting out a knee jerk political condemnation.

I remember the early days of the Marketplace. In 2002 they were engaged in a full-on campaign to take down the Gulf News by the sheer force of their false advertising. Does anyone else remember the paper’s heading at the time? “Largest circulation on the island” as if stating such an erroneous claim in such a bald-faced fashion could make its false assertion true. To be more accurate, they PRINTED more copies of their weekly rag, which were given away for free to anyone who would take them. In the heady, early days, such bolshy statements were pervasive throughout the weekly pages of the Marketplace. Blowing one’s own horn seemed to be the business model at the time, that and having the deep pockets to throw money out the door in the vain hope that someday some would stick. This hope died hard, but eventually reality crept in and the paper had to be sold off to a conglomerate that specialized in fronting for the real estate business.

These types of property rags have long been around, but less often do they receive the reverence accorded The Marketplace on Waiheke. By virtue of the force of personality, this second rate, parochial rag has played its part as an element in creating the divisiveness in Waiheke Politics. My assertion is that as long as Waiheke coddles this paper, pays it money to advertise, gives it copy to print, and picks it up off the stand or has it delivered, then Waiheke is feeding the cancer that is destroying it.

Waiheke does not carry a large enough population to support two paying newspapers. That fact is evident in the reality that one paper has never charged readers a price for picking it up. The old adage that when you pick something up for free then you can bet you are the commodity being exploited is fully in evidence here. Shaping the readers view of the island as a more divided, partisan place than it actually is, is its goal. Regardless of whether one likes or dislikes the articles contained within, the reader comes away with the notion that there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ on the island, and thus the paper’s goal is accomplished.

The Marketplace is a Tinkerbell newspaper. It has no legitimacy therefore it must ingratiate itself with its public by offering itself for free. The minute everyone decides simply to not pick it up, not advertise in it, not read its duplicate ‘news’ stories, it dies forever. The Marketplace is completely dependent on another age-old truism- that people like to think they are getting something for nothing. That is the premise the Marketplace is based on.

But lets look at the true cost to the community, besides the degradation of public discourse into a Fox News-esque false dichotomy of Right vs. Left. The Gulf News is the newspaper reliant on and responsible to its readers, but its income is sliced in half or worse by the splitting of ad revenues with the faux newspaper. The Marketplace, funded from off island sources, which are fundamentally indifferent to the island’s culture and needs, can pull in added revenue based on its backing and its business model, which says- “Everyone likes a free newspaper, so your advertising dollars will go a long way with us”. This keeps continual pressure on an authentic local news organization which cannot rely on copy from its parent organization, subsidy to cover hard times, staffing, and the various perks enjoyed by a franchise of a large organization.

That The Marketplace has been unable to bury the Gulf News in over 10 years of draining its revenue should tell everyone that all is not rosy with the aforementioned business model- it is deeply flawed. If it were true that one could gain market advantage by giving a paper away then we would have only the Marketplace to read now. It’s funny that everything is contained in the faux paper’s title- it is not news, it is a marketplace vehicle, whose services are replicated by the small town newspaper’s classified section anyway. So it actually serves no unique purpose.

Over time, the long game played in grinding the Gulf News down has taken its toll, with high staff turnover there, and a large burden placed on the few journalists employed at any one time. I can hear people now blithely declaring that all markets benefit from competition. I will counter that claim with Gresham’s Law. The free bad newspaper eventually drives out the good local newspaper, due to the true cost of putting a newspaper out not being absorbed by Marketplace. So it is not fair competition, it is a PR campaign dressed up as competition using unfair market advantage and hiding behind the false claim of free and competitive markets.

Like Fox-News is a faux, branded look-alike to an actual news organization with the twist that it is a propaganda machine for a particular political view, so the Marketplace is a propaganda vehicle for its vested interests, supporting their candidates and constituents in a mutual back patting exercise. Being such a partisan paper, it assuages its guilty conscience by constantly declaring the Gulf News to be partisan- just another example of the guilty pointing the finger anywhere but at themselves. The Marketplace has an agenda, which is easily recognized, however everyone has bought into the mantra that if one wants to reach the whole island, then one must advertise or publicize in the Marketplace. Has anyone ever stopped to examine for themselves whether this bit of conventional wisdom is true to any significant extent? It is rather like today’s big multinational banks telling us that we need them, loudly and often. It does make one wonder if they protest rather more than necessary to keep everyone from discovering that they are not, in fact, necessary at all.

The Gulf News has towed a  delicate line lo these many years, and has countered the brash horn- blowing by The Marketplace by going about its work and garnering recognition from the various press organizations, letting their awards tell the story. I have heard the personal and professional criticisms leveled at GN over the years, to which I would counter- However imperfect the staff or product delivered at any particular time, the value of a local, independent outlet for the community’s voice is incalculable. If everyone simply stopped clapping for the Tinkerbell Rag and put their full advertising/news copy weight behind their own local paper, instead of constantly hedging their bets, then we could hold that paper to an even higher standard and expect even more from them than we do now. If people are unhappy with the Gulf News, they should work at holding its feet to the fire, rather than cutting and running to the paper next door.  And finally, if we keep on with the charade that the island can sustain two competing news outlets we stand a greater chance of losing both in the end.

As for the fallout to the local economy, I can’t see any downside- local businesses and even real estate agencies would save money on the current duplicity in advertising. Staff would be readily absorbed by the existing newspaper and the news coverage can only improve with sufficient revenue.

Regarding Water ‘Crisis’ letter in 21 March Gulf News- Care for the Community

As Sarah Williams is the self-appointed ego-massager for the local board, we would not expect to get an in-depth look at the issue of water on the island, but someone needs to poke holes in the current myths being passed around. To be fair, some of the points she makes most of us agree with. My own family has decided not to buy water and we adjust our usage carefully to match the water supply, sometimes with drastic reductions. But we can afford to get off island regularly and use up mainland water supply, which is fortunate for us.

Most agree we do not want the Council to engage in a master flustercluck operation to try to bring reticulation to the island. One of the recent Gulf News issues had an article from 10 years ago, wherein one of the Council employees was emphatically stating that they had no interest in reticulating at the time, and I am inclined to believe him. Judging by their habits of budgeting, Councils seem to favor self-financing or as-limited-as-possible expenditures as far as Waiheke is concerned. The cost of such a venture compared to the small benefit the Council might receive back from it is so out of balance that I doubt the bureaucrats are seriously considering such a plan now, if they ever were. We can’t afford to get a pool or library built but somehow we are going to have a massive public works operation to hook up every bach on the island? Not likely.

The statement that Council does not control water supply is self-evident. What is at issue is how local government responds to a water shortage. Many ideas were put forward and in the end residents themselves mounted a coordination effort to look out for each other. This raises an interesting discussion point around just what people can expect from their local government. If the local board cannot mount an effective response to a low level crisis such as water shortage, just how do they expect to mount a serious emergency response to, say, an earthquake?

That Ms. Williams has the disposable income to “invest thousands” on her own system is quite a fortunate position to be in. It suggests a couple of things. The first is that she owns her own home, and second that her expenditures are such that there is  quite a surplus left over in which to invest in optimizing her living situation. That in turn suggests that perhaps things such as pensions and gold cards might be available to her, which provide that cushion of support and security that everyone looks forward to later in years. Good for her. We all hope to get such support some day.

Now lets look at how the other half lives.  Some of these are the people who were not lucky enough to buy a house by the mid-90’s at the latest, or to have inherited property from their own parents who bought property during the affordable years. Locked out of the now “severely unaffordable” housing market (as named in the Demographia 2012 survey) they are renting. If you have looked at many rental properties you will have noticed that the majority have undersized water tanks that were appropriate for 6 weeks of summer bach use back in the day. Since the new, landlord-friendly law states (rushed through in haste in 2011 during a wet year so no one noticed its passing) that these people are responsible for filling their own chronically under-capacity tanks, this means that in addition to paying severely unaffordable rents, they must now stump up for inevitable water costs, no matter how frugal they might be. The landlord is not required to supply water storage sufficient for the year-round occupation of a house because the law doesn’t recognize the unusual circumstances of those relying on tank water.

I agree that there is a lot of  water wasted on the island and the island’s aquifer is being drawn down by too many extravagant users, which I won’t go into here. But the place to start is not by scolding the less fortunate.

I would also like to alert Ms. Williams that Big Government, Big Business, Big Developers and Big Landowners have been in residence for quite awhile now, with predictable results. Our current ratepayer-funded boondoggles include the $5m Library, the likely $5m Esplanade roading project, future ones include the proposed multimillion dollar luxury Marina project and the Supermarket, whose estimated bills ratepayers have not received yet. There are numerous developments in the works as we speak, many of them requiring ratepayer funding one way or another.

Almost all our major, most-frequented businesses are from over the water. This trend is on the upswing as tradesman move to more affordable and lucrative business locations and old tradesmen retire without selling their businesses on. Countdown, 4 Square, Placemakers, BP, etc are the cornerstone of Waiheke commerce. The Top Shop and other local businesses are frequented mostly by tourists. So our island is anything but “local”.

Lastly, I thought it was the prime job of local government to be keeping an eye on the welfare of ALL of its citizens. Obviously NZ has done a great job at putting together a retirement package for the elderly that is the envy of most places in the world. Since we will all be elderly one day, no one faults this effort. But for those receiving such benefits, please remember who is footing that bill at the moment. They are the same people who are experiencing hardship right now and they deserve a well-considered response instead of a letter-bashing.  I found the statement that people should ‘get strong’ misleading and insulting as well as grossly ill-informed. I do not know Ms. Williams, but then I don’t think Ms. Williams knows who she is addressing as the weak and  worthless.

The Nightmare Continues

This is like a nightmare you can’t wake up from. Every week the Gulf News brings fresh reports of Unbelievable Local Board Disasters. Did they really fast track a horrendously inappropriate building to be loaded onto the public reserve at Wharetana Bay against the wisdom of so many experts in the field?

Are they really going to pave paradise out on the Esplanade- a road that was built before cars were on the island to allow walking and horse cart traffic between Surfdale and Oneroa which was never intended to handle car traffic?

Did they really just award the Golf Club the outrageously preferential permission to expand its Waiheke Aquifer water gobbling from 9 holes to 18 holes without any restriction? So that a small group of islanders can finally fulfill their own personal dream of an extravagant 18-hole golf course?

Are they really going ahead with closed door meetings with the Owhiti Bay developers?

Did Local Board Member Don MacKenzie actually presume to take sides in the tangled debate between users of the Rangihuoa Park and go on record in the Gulf News slandering one group of stakeholders, saying that “riders who were not golfers were badly behaved”? Really? I didn’t realize there had been an official public enquiry which unequivocally established the guilt of the riding club and completely exonerated the golf club. You don’t think that perhaps Don might be a bit biased toward his friends at the golf club and unfairly prejudiced against the riders who don’t show up at his club?

The list goes on, the headache grows.

This ongoing contempt for representing the best interest of the entire island as opposed to the small group of constituents privileged to hold the ear of the Local Board Chairman is cruising for punishment this September at the next Local Board Election. This current crop, aside from Paul Walden, is the most brazenly partisan, glad-handing group in recent memory.

This is all so wrong and it doesn’t have to be this way. Make your voice heard in this year’s election. Other communities around Auckland voted in local boards that are working for the best interests of the whole community. We can do the same.