On a limb

Alan Knight threw down the challenge some days ago:  Who will dare to predict the outcome of the current Waiheke Local Board election?  In the tradition of inrushing fools, here goes:

The first task is to estimate the size of the A-Team and Essentially Waiheke bloc voters, those whose ideological commitment drives them to vote for a party line.  To do that we need to look at the 2010 and 2012 election results.

In 2010, as many observers remarked, left-leaning votes outnumbered right-leaning ones but were scattered amongst so many Greenie contenders that only one of them got onto the Board.  In that election 3857 voters partipated, casting an average of 4.43 votes per person out of the 5 permitted.  Thus there were 17,104 votes cast.  If we add up the votes for Denise Roche, Andy Spence, Paul Waldon, Marijke Ransom, Dorte Wray, Colin Beardon, Ewen Sutherland, Charissa Snijders, and Millie Watkins, we arrive at 8722 votes or 51.1% of the total.  At 4.43 votes per person, that’s about 1969 Green-leaning voters.

On the other side, Faye Storer, Jo Holmes, Don McKenzie, Jim Hannan, Herb Romaniuk, and Graham Hooper took 7797 votes, or 45.6% of the total, representing about 1760 A-leaning voters.  I’m making some simplifying assumptions here, and ignoring some candidates entirely as ideological unknowns, but the political split that emerges looks suspiciously like the 53-to-47 split in 2011 over the Esplanade closure.

By 2012 the left side was united behind Paul Walden, who took 1154 of the 2791 votes cast, or 41.3%.  The other side is harder to measure, as not much was at stake for them; but if we take the two candidates who are now endorsed by Jerry Flay (Graham Hooper and Sue McCann), plus Herb Romaniuk, we come up with 1101 votes, or 39.4%.  Voter turnout was lower, but the totals still show a rather close ideological divide, with the left side still slightly larger than the right.

Projecting these numbers forward, let us assume that (1) voter turnout will be about midway between 2010 and 2012, or about 3249 voters; (2) the size of each side of the ideological divide will also be about midway between its 2010 size and its 2012 one; and (3) about 80% of each side will cast their votes in a bloc, for all of the candidates in one team or the other.  The other 20% will split their votes, either because they have reservations about one or more members of their preferred team, or because (like George Washington) they oppose party discipline in principle.  Add these to the voters who genuinely have no ideological preference, and we have a sizeable group of independent voters.

Following those three formulae we arrive at 1249 bloc voters for the Essentially Waiheke team, 1145 for the A-team, and 855 independent voters.

The trick, then, is to guess how the independent voters will behave.  Two important principles here are that name recognition means a lot, and that many independents are such because they dislike the stridency of the two blocs.

One complicating factor is that the A-team bloc voters will still have two votes to play with after they’ve ticked the three required boxes.  I’m picking that 35% of these votes will go to Sue McCann; 30% to Graham Hooper; 17% to Richard Melville; and the remaining 18% won’t bother.  On the EW side, there are four official candidates, with Shirin Brown “endorsed” as an unofficial fifth.  I’m picking that Shirin will get 75% of that fifth EW vote, with the rest divided between Ross Gillespie and Sue McCann.

So, on with the show.  And the winners are:

1. Faye Storer:  1658.  That’s all of the A-team bloc plus 60% of the independents.  Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  Faye has by far the best name recognition of the pack, and her deep knowledge of the city bureaucracy and its inane processes impresses many.  No one else will come close to her appeal with the independents.  The irony is that now she will know what it’s like to be the top vote-getter, but not be chosen as board chair.

2.  Beatle Treadwell:  1591.  All of the EW bloc plus 40% of the independents will vote for her.  Again, name recognition as a carer in the community will be all-important.  Her quiet advocacy will go a long way with the independents.

3.  Paul Walden:  1506.  He’ll get all of the EW bloc and 30% of the independents.  Paul is an EW champion and his name recognition is high, but it won’t benefit him as much as it does Beatle because of the baggage he carries.  (For example, no golfers will vote for him no matter how Greenie their political leanings might otherwise be.)

4.  John Meeuwsen:  1463.  John will benefit from this year’s “Nobelangelo effect” — a fresh face articulating reasonable-sounding arguments, on whom people are willing to take a punt.  A quarter of the independents will vote for him, in addition to the EW bloc.

5.  Jo Holmes:  1444.  Name recognition is high, which will earn her 35% of the independents.  The score would have been better except for her willingness to play the heavy in the A-team’s good cop/bad cop game.  Independents don’t like stridency.  She will nonetheless be reelected.

6.  Becs Ballard:  1437.  The EW team figured she’d be this year’s Nikki Kaye, but I don’t think it will quite work.  Despite an energetic campaign her name recognition is low.  She’ll get less than a quarter of the independents and will just miss out.  In other words she’ll be this year’s Andy Spence.

7.  Don McKenzie:  1401.  Everyone likes Don, but see my earlier OneWaiheke article for the reasons why I think his electoral support will wane this year.  He will still gather 30% of the independents, but it won’t be enough.

8.  Shirin Brown:  1219.  It’s probably just the rumour-monger in me, but I’d love to get a straight answer as to why Shirin “decided she was happier running her own campaign” (in the words of the Essentially Waiheke website).  EW’s sideways endorsement of her will give her 75% of the bloc, and her well-run campaign will gather a third of the independents, but the numbers will fall well short.

9.  Sue McCann:  1140.  I’m picking that Sue will garner 70% of the A-team bloc, 10% of the EW bloc, and 25% of the independents.  I may be underestimating her name recognition and the appeal of her quiet, independent manner, so she might do better than this, but she will not come close to getting elected.

10.  Richard Melville:  828.  Richard has great appeal with the independents (fully half will vote for him), and may pick up 35% of the floating A-team votes; but most of the bloc voters will ignore him as just not nasty enough to be an effective politician.

11.  Graham Hooper:  773.  60% of the A-team’s floating vote will come his way, but only 10% of the independents will take him seriously.  Stridency will be a big problem here.  This will nonetheless be his best showing ever.

12.  Ross Gillespie:  316.  A serious tree-hugger, he’ll earn 15% of the EW floating vote, and a similar percentage of the independents.  But he’ll still place last.

So that’s it, folks.  I’m out on my limb.  Anyone care to saw it off?


To The Barricades!

Well, as the election hoardings turn damp and dog eared in the rain and the trickle of ballot papers speeds its way to the city for counting, I find myself thinking back to elections past. Specifically to the election in 2004 that saw Dick Hubbard installed as mayor of Auckland. The Herald ran an election results feature in the Sunday edition that weekend, providing us with a detailed breakdown of how the city council shaped up with the grinning breakfast cereals magnate having to balance the left, in the shape of City Vision and the right in the shape of Citizens & Ratepayers.

There, just enough to his left to be comfortable was our own Faye Storer, perceived by the papers as being closest to Hubbard ideologically, and a much needed ally as his term began. More importantly, she was an independent, keeping up Waiheke’s habit of refusing to commit to any of the Labour/National Mini-Me games played in the city by CV and C&R. All seemed fine, yet within three years it was all over, not only for Hubbard but for Storer as well. Down she went as local councillor, in came Denise Roche (waving her new, and distinctly GREEN broom) and off to the Gulf News went ‘That Letter’.

So what had gone wrong? What killed the Storer brand so swiftly?

Well, at the time of the election there was a popular perception, (Among that pesky, tiny minority of left/liberal/greeny voters that keep stealing elections from decent people) that Faye had given up being ‘Our Voice Over There’ and become ‘Their Voice Over Here’. That she had, in public sector parlance, Gone Native. On the other hand, that huge majority of right leaning, ‘Develop the crap out of everything, turn Waiheke into the Gold Coast ASAP and get rich in the process’ types never liked Faye to begin with, seeing her, (Quite rightly at the time) as just another bloody tree hugger and progress opposer. Fairy Storey they called her.

Sadly, Faye had stopped being the kind of councillor who might be found at the front of protests and turned into the ‘Process’ fixated bureaucrat we know today. Her regular appearance every Saturday morning at the Ostend Market stopped. Her friends and followers continued to sit forlornly at the table but one by one they drifted away. Yet there was still enough support to give her a place on the new Local Board in 2010 though she continued to trail Denise Roche by quite a long way. But, she now had three little playmates to back her up so it was bring on The Fun & Games time in October 2010. We won’t go back over all that again. We were all there. We were all pissed off.

But this was when we really got to meet the new, robotic Faye Storer. The one with the cold, blank stare who didn’t have to listen to your bleatings and whinings any more since she knew best. It was all about Process. Process and Protocol. Which I suppose is fine in its own way. Faye and her chums can point to success in dealing patiently with the city mandarins and getting funding for projects various, but is it enough? Are the people of Waiheke being unfair in expecting a little more leadership and, here comes that word again, ADVOCACY?

One of the things that we all know about life on Waiheke is that we are sitting on some VERY desirable real estate. Yes, OK I know the smart money didn’t want any part of the place until recently, but now they do. Many entrepreneurial types see Waiheke purely for its profit potential and those of us who love it simply as a quiet and beautiful place to live will have to be endlessly vigilant, keeping inappropriate development at bay. Remember Aesop’s fable concerning the Golden Egg Laying Goose? If you don’t, then google it right this minute and have a read. The rest of us will wait until you get back.

Read it? Well, that’s us. We will feed that goose, try and keep it safe and continue to reap our glittering eggy harvest in the form of good property prices and agreeable living standards. But, there will never be an end to the queue of cold eyed bastards quite happy to tear that last egg out for themselves and leave us with a mound of feathers and some cold goose for dinner. Stupid ‘shopping centres’ at Matiatia, high rise beach front developments, private marinas and great big barges bringing in pre built holiday homes that would never have been consented if the council planners weren’t as dodgy as a bucket of week old prawns. Because, let’s face it, the debacle of Wharetana Bay showed us very clearly indeed how the new city works. Just like the old one. Find a few crooks and bastards to do the paperwork, slide some cash in the right direction to the bent planners and you can do what the hell you like. Our problem in this country is we got so used to patting ourselves on the back about how free of corruption New Zealand is that we never noticed how corrupt it’s actually got.

So if I, and others like me, feel that maybe we’d like some back up from our elected representatives as we face the developers then what’s so wrong about that? To Hell with ‘Process’ and bloody ‘Protocol’! Much good may those do us if we can’t present a decent argument to our potential invaders. ‘Bugger off! We got here first and we like this place just as it is. Take your sleazy get-rich-quick schemes some place else!’

Frankly, I’m voting for the kind of people who would be prepared to turn out on a cold morning and face arrest from rent-a-cops in freezing sea water to stand up for what’s right. And I’m damned if I’d vote for the kind of smug idiots who’d sit on their hands bleating about how’s it’s not their place to do or even say anything on any contentious subject until suddenly it’s election time and they stand there grinning like toddlers who’ve just used the potty successfully telling us all how bloody marvellous they are and how lucky we are to have them.

It’s not enough. We deserve better and we will vote until we get it.

Life in The Bubble

So here are our ballot papers. Hooray! Let’s open them, sort out the actual papers from the pamphlet that comes with them and begin. Are you the type that’s already made up your mind and have other things to get on with? Do you place five ticks with a flourish, thrust the paper back in the envelope and post it with dispatch?

Or are you the type that likes to take your time? Do you read the whole booklet first? Do you marvel at how weird some of the candidates in other constituencies look and wonder how their campaigns have gone? How are THEY getting on now their supporters and detractors have Facebook to play with? Once you have read all there is to read and put off the moment long enough, do you begin voting with slow and deliberate care? Do you let your pen linger for just a moment over the name of a hated candidate, teasing them for a moment with the possibility of a vote before moving to the preferred names and ticking them with a firmness that dents the paper? (Like the Russian chess grand master who employed the daunting tactic of setting down each piece on the board with a slight twisting motion, as if he was screwing it in place.)
Do you tick your ballot paper like that? Oh good. It’s not just me then……

But, if you’ve agreed to any of the above then you are one of the ones that TAKES AN INTEREST. Good for you! Because, while you are not alone, you are certainly not in the majority. Let’s not forget that out there, beyond ‘Waihetians Interested in Political Posturing’ and its strange and knobbly little offshoot, lies the real world. The world whose inhabitants take only a passing interest in politics and could barely name half of the candidates in the running, if that. People that skim over the election coverage in the Gulf News the way I skim over the sports coverage.
People that might well throw their ballot papers away unopened, or employ some random approach such as ticking the first five names, or ticking at random, or only ticking one. People that keep meaning to fill out the ballots properly but get distracted and only remember once the results are announced. People that let their kids use them for crayon scribbling. Maybe even people that cook and eat their ballot papers in strange and disturbing late night rituals?

How are THESE people getting on I wonder?

Which candidates have managed to catch their eye or said something that resonated enough to make them stand out? Because for the politically disengaged the criteria are somewhat vague.

‘Oh, I’ve heard of him/her.’ Is the standard one. If you’ve been involved with a local school, medical practice, fund raising, the arts scene or a high profile business then you have an advantage. You’ll have been pictured in the papers and have some profile.

But some candidates have no choice but to get out there early, ride the ferries and the buses, attend the events and generally get in people’s faces if their public recognition is low. Possibly the greatest example of this was the former board member Nobbleangelo Ceramalus. (2007-2010) ‘The Nob’ managed to be both ludicrous AND sinister at the same time, (which is no mean feat) and was also handicapped by an aloof and patronising manner. Yet he succeeded, by dint of making sure that there wasn’t a single island resident hadn’t been baled up and talked at at least once. His persistence was astounding, and it paid off. On to the last Community Board he went and the rest is history.

Just really embarrassing, awkward and confusing history.

So who is managing to impress the floaters this time? Is the EW Team’s work at the ferry terminals and market having an effect? Are the A Team getting traction outside Countdown? Personally, I’m having difficulty finding out since I only seem to know people who take an interest. Answers on a postcard please….

But, back here in The Bubble, we take notice of every nuance and detail. We obsess over every word uttered as well as speculate on the ones that aren’t. Now we have our online habits working properly it all becomes so immediate. The floaters wouldn’t get it and would be horrified to see how seriously we take it all. ‘Really?’ they’d think, ‘Getting that worked up over a local board election? Shouting and arguing and carrying on? Calling each other rude words? Why?’

Damned if I know. I’ll have to drink about it and get back to you.

Process This

A short note here about following process. We have heard a lot recently about how the current local board are unable to do various things as they are bound by the ‘process’. This misses the point so much that I wonder at it.

Business processes are set by leaders for staff to follow. They codify good practice, the layout ways to solve problems. They allow business as usual to carry on and simplify decision making.

Processes are great while they work, but from time to time changing circumstances mean that problems arise, sand falls into the oil pump of life, and yesterday’s sweet solutions becomes todays smelly precipitates.

It is at this point that leaders lead, decision makers decide, and chief executives execute. It is the fundamental role of any politician to review and change processes. Why do you think law makers make laws?

When all is going smoothly things can be left to the officers and staff. It is not the role of the local board members to rubber stamp the actions of their staff. It is the role to identify when the system is wrong, when its not working, when it needs fixing. It is the role of our representatives to listen to our pointing out that all is not well and that things need to change.

If they only ever do what they are told they can do they are a waste of space and resources.

So to all potential new LB members I would ask – what do you think is broken – and what will you do to fix it?

In Defence Of The Realm.

I was delighted to receive this article from Jerry Flay who has asked me if I’d post it up on here. I do so with the greatest of pleasure and thank him for his contribution to our robust debate. I have of course assured him that it will be presented as it was sent and not mucked about with. Over to you Jerry…..

It is with some trepidation that I have decided to take up the invite, nay, the challenge, issued by Alan Knight, and put finger to keyboard in order to defend the A Team in this arena.

I shall have faith in my metaphorical suit of kevlar and trust that the bullets which come my way after publication will be equally metaphorical.

So, in defence of the A Team……..

A true leader does not care about popularity, they care about taking the right decisions.

So said Margaret Thatcher, and she was right.

Hang on, push down those hackles….

Such is the lot of the successful leader. One who recognises that some decisions may not endear them to elements of their electorate, but who acknowledges that within the parameters available, the decision they take is for the best in the long term.

During the past 3 years, the Waiheke Local Board have taken at least one decision which has made them unpopular with a segment of the community, that of re-opening the Esplanade to cars.

Personally I was opposed to it, but having listened to and understood the facts involved, I was able to comprehend why the decision was taken. And I accepted that, and moved on.

Since opening, the road has not collapsed. No-one has been injured walking or riding it. In fact, the LB have achieved exactly what they intended. A safe, properly maintained, mixed use facility, primarily funded by Auckland Council.

Those who oppose the decision, however, do not see it like this. They still believe that their group of 550 opponents, “the community” as they refer to themselves, were not listened to.

Well they were. Anyone with ears was forced to listen to them.

What actually happened is that they were not agreed with. It would easy to suggest it is that, not the future of the Esplanade itself, which motivates them to continue to make it an issue. Which is perfectly natural. Anyone who believes they are right hopes to get their own way. Those of you who have children will be very familiar with behaviour of this kind. It’s called sulking.

Let’s look at another recent decision, that to grant the Street Traders a further 6 month extension of their licence.

Prior to that, one of the traders took to facebook to create a sense of perceived injustice. The LB didn’t like him, they were going to revoke his licence. It wasn’t fair. In fact, quite the opposite happened. The LB extended his licence, and gave him fair warning of forthcoming process as dictated by their masters, Auckland Council. Forewarned is forearmed, and the smart street trader would plan accordingly.

However, this particular individual took to Facebook once to more, to complain again about the lack of fairness, this time because he had been booted out of the Saturday market. It’s just not fair, is it.

And still to this day there are those, Mr Knight amongst them, who bemoan the “attack” on the street traders.

This completely ignores the facts. Is there a pattern emerging here?

Then there is the elephant in the room, the proposed marina. My personal view is that of absolute opposition, not to the location, but to the fact that it would be an entirely private marina, with no causal access, and as far as I can see, absolutely no benefit to Waiheke.

The LB have refrained, quite rightly, from expressing personal opinions on this. Personal opinions are not their job. Doing the best for Waiheke rate payers within the processes laid out by Auckland Council is their job, and as far as the marina is concerned, this is what they have done, raising in writing their concerns about the proposed location.

That they haven’t chained themselves to bulldozers or firebombed the environment court seems to have caused some consternation amongst those who, yes you’ve guessed it, are still banging on about the Esplanade, The Coffee Carts and for all I know, the pro nuclear stance of Jo Holmes great great uncle Neville. Those who choose to ignore the facts and base their stance on conjecture.

This is the first Local Board we have ever had, under the first super City Auckland Council.

The last 3 years has been as much about establishing process and protocol as it has about governance.

Let’s look at some more, possibly inconvenient facts that have arisen during those 3 years, shall we?

This LB has delivered more projects than any other LB in the super city. Fact.

This LB, by following process and applying knowledge and experience has generated far more co-funding from Auckland Council than any other LB in the super city. Fact.

Only yesterday, the swimming pool project has become an Auckland Council project. This has happened because the LB have a good working relationship with AC, and have followed process. Fact!

There are good leaders and bad leaders. Bad leaders want to be liked, and amend their decisions and actions accordingly.

Good leaders listen to all available evidence in front of them, then take a decision based on their assessment of that evidence. In so doing they earn respect from those smart enough to recognize what they have done.

Jo Holmes, Faye Storer and Don McKenzie have done just that. And Waiheke should be proud and positive about what they have achieved, not sulking like schoolchildren because not every decision went their own way. Luckily most of Waiheke is proud and positive.

It would be remiss of me to avoid mentioning the antics of one LB member who in my opinion has let the side down rather badly. The only LB member to engage in a public brawl with police. The only LB member to have an official complaint against them for their behaviour on Facebook.

The only LB member to consistently vote, on the record, against many good and beneficial LB initiatives which even the harshest critics of the A Team would struggle to oppose. It’s there, time and time again.

” Member Paul Walden requested that his vote against the motion to pay for a swimming pool feasibility study be recorded”

Member Paul Walden requested that his vote against the motion to develop a directional and naming signage template in keeping with Waiheke unique identity

Board Member Walden requested his vote (against 24a) be noted.

Member Paul Walden requested that his vote against the motion be recorded.(Rangihoua Wetlands restoration)

Board member Paul Walden requested that his vote against the motion be recorded.(increased mobility parking)

Paul Walden requested that his vote against the motion to fund the Oneroa Bowling Club Upgrade of $125k and the following SLIPs be recorded at the October 2012 meeting.

Member Paul Walden requested that his vote against the motion be recorded. (Onetangi rd cycle lanes)

It goes on. And on.

This is not the way to behave. It looks churlish and childish. And quite frankly, to borrow his own phrase, I and many others have had enough – of him.

Yet despite this constant opposition, this LB have gone quietly about their business, getting things done for Waiheke.

Unbelievably, they are now the subject of a campaign of vitriolic misinformation, one which entirely ignores the facts. Their crime? Not joining the Waiheke Island People’s Parliament.

Are you surprised?

Waiheke is a diverse and vocal community. Or it was. Now it is a diverse and opinionated grouping of factions who between them are destroying the once harmonious fabric of this community.

In such an environment, you cannot please all of the people all of the time. Any adult will tell you that. Instead, take one for the team now and again, and dwell on the positives.

But no. Sadly that’s not the philosophy of a small group of people. They live, it seems, to oppose.

Surprised? No, but you should be ashamed.

Who’s the ventriloquist?

In case you’ve just returned from Saturn, there was a debate on the Island last Saturday that nearly ended in bloodshed, albeit of the broken-nose variety.

The debate itself was all good fun, with a delightfully ambiguous outcome, but a comment made by Bruce Davis-Goff during the negative side’s closing speech provoked one listener to threaten physical violence unless Bruce “shut the hell up”.  Bruce’s comment is worth analysing in some detail, because like much of his humour it combines a deep contempt for political correctness with a sharp political commentary.

Early on during the debate, Denise Roche described her affirmative team as “the A-Team” — a label laden with irony, as none of the three affirmative debaters could remotely be described as supporters of the “A-Team” currently running for the Waiheke Local Board.  It was an irony that did not escape Bruce’s tender attentions as he began his closing speech.

Pretending to confuse the two A-Teams, Bruce made reference to the slick, overphotoshopped billboard promoting the candidacies of Faye Storer, Don McKenzie, and Jo Holmes presently gracing the kerbsides of our island.  The production values of this billboard are curious.  While the waxed smiles and precise hairdos make Faye and Jo look youthful, energetic and happy, the same cannot be said for Don.  Instead of portraying him as focused and articulate, which is how he comes across in person, the image makes him look detached, weak, perhaps stoned.  The billboard can have an eye-catching, slightly disturbing effect, especially for someone who doesn’t know Don is blind; and I’m sure that’s exactly what its designers had in mind, on the principle that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Bruce quipped that his eight-year-old was “still in therapy because she came around the corner and saw the A-Team poster.  She did ask me, ‘Is that one in the middle a ventriloquist?'”  Making fun of a blind man’s appearance was too low a blow for the punter who threatened to disrupt the proceedings, but it contains the following kernel of truth.

What the child meant, of course, was not that the “one in the middle” looked like a ventriloquist, but that he looked like a ventriloquist’s dummy.  The ventriloquist is the one who controls the puppet and gives it voice.  And from a political point of view, one can argue that Don has abandoned his own voice in the service of the A-Team party line.  For those who have concerns about the direction that the present board has been taking us, this is a bad thing.

Bruce’s comment also goes to the heart of the A-Team’s election strategy, and this I think explains the apoplectic reaction to it (since removed) on Jo Holmes’s blog.  The A-Team understand that their present control of four of the five board seats was a fluke of the 2010 electoral landscape and that, even if public opinion had not shifted in the interim, it would be unlikely to recur this year.  Therefore they have wisely selected their three strongest personalities and have discouraged other rightward-leaning candidates from diluting their efforts.

Their opponents on the Essentially Waiheke team, meanwhile, started out with three candidates (Becs Ballard, Beatle Treadwell, and Paul Walden); have since taken on a fourth (John Meeuwsen); and now “endorse” a fifth (Shirin Brown).  Their efforts are thus less focused but more diverse.  If most Waiheke voters are ideological bloc voters, the Greenies have the better chance.  If they are pick-and-choose voters, the A-Team have a tighter scrum line.  Faye is calculating that we are a pick-and-choose bunch, and she may be right.

If, however, one of the team turns out to have a weaker appeal than the other two, then even a pick-and-choose electorate may return only two of the A-Team members to the board.  This is where Bruce’s comment is sharp.  Faye and Jo were elected in 2010 because everyone knew who they were and where they stood politically.  Nobody was surprised when they turned into a team.  Don, on the other hand, was elected based largely on his extensive community service; he has been involved in community organisations for decades and would have been expected to bring his unique experiences and concerns to the political world.  Instead of revealing a unique voice, however, both he and Jim Hannan gave themselves up completely to the us-versus-them dynamic that took hold immediately after the 2010 elections.  In other words, they became “ventriloquees”.

So the question on which the entire election may turn is this:  Has Don, by offering up his voice, also compromised his own electoral appeal?  In my opinion he had the best shot of any of the board members at statesmanship.  I voted for him in 2010 based on that promise, and I suspect that many of his 1377 other supporters did too.  We might have hoped that he would at least try to reach across the ideological divide during his three years in office.  Instead, he took sides.

Regardless of whom you blame for the divide, that’s a pity.  And whatever you may think of Bruce’s style of humour, he nailed this one.

“Up To A Point Lord Copper!”

‘Newspapers reflect their owner’s bias’
Jo Holmes, on her blog, September 2013.

Gather round kiddies, for today we are going to be looking at the vexed question of naughty ‘Media Bias’. I have started this article by quoting Jo Holmes’ sage observation that; ‘Newspapers reflect their owner’s bias’, since she is entirely correct in this. Mind you, as a former newspaper owner she is well placed to know.

Of COURSE they do. They would be quite dull if they didn’t. But they also reflect the bias of the people who BUY them. (Assuming the paper isn’t valueless and therefore given away free.) If you are a liberal you buy papers that reaffirm your world view. If you are a conservative you buy something produced by Rupert Murdoch. If you think corporations are evil and that off road vehicles kill whales then you’ll be after a publication that syndicates the droning blether of George Monbiot. If you think everything would be better if they just sent the bloody immigrants home and everybody just did what they were told then you’ll want a paper that can come up with a Garth George sound-alike. If you are a barking mad sociopath then clearly The Daily Mail is just the ticket.

My dear departed Dad covered the Westminster beat for the Daily Mirror, a paper with strong Labour sympathies. Had you suggested to him that his columns showed ‘bias’, he’d have agreed, and wondered why that was an issue. His job was to tell his readers how beastly Mrs Thatcher was. His readers already believed that of course, but liked to be reassured each morning that this was still the case. Had they wished to believe that she was in fact the nation’s saviour, then all they had to do was switch to the Sun, which also featured young women who had mislaid their undies.


So when does ‘Media Bias’ become a problem? When YOU are getting the mucky end of the stick of course. When the journalist, instead of simply taking your press release and printing it verbatim, insists on actually asking difficult questions and then going away and TELLING PEOPLE how you refused to answer!

BASTARDS!!!! How dare they? What gives them the right to assert that you are a flimsy nobody who does a crap job and looks like their mum dresses them? Don’t they realise how hard you work? How can they bring up all that stuff from years ago, the silly misunderstanding with the constabulary, the Brazilian lady and the stick of broccoli? Can’t they just FORGET that stuff and talk about your passions and convictions? NO! Not THOSE passions and convictions! Oh bloody hell!!! And so on.

The problem is we LOVE media bias as long as it’s the right flavour to suit our jaded palates. If a publication vouchsafed tomorrow that Mr Key was in the habit of dining on roast beneficiary babies each evening then his supporters might well take this as bias. Others would hasten to share it with their friends on Facebook and a robust discussion would ensue with everyone claiming it just goes to show the slippery bastard was up to no good. If another paper asserted that David Cunliffe was actually a corpse, reanimated by Martian Communists with a view to world domination and has a hammer and sickle tattooed upon his bottom then this news too would be greeted with both horror and delight, depending on individual perspectives. So lets not get too fussy.

The accusation of bias most relevant to this discussion however is the one leveled at the Gulf News. That looney left, tree hugging, ban-the-bomb rag, whose proprietor and staff seem determined to pick up where Pravda left off….

Well now look, of COURSE the Gulf News is ‘Left Wing’ and ‘Green’! It wouldn’t have survived the thirty five or so years it has unless it was. Because like it or not, (And it’s critics really DON’T like this) its readership is of much the same opinion. There are some places around the world, like Berkeley and Ann Arbour in the USA, Christiania in Denmark or my own beloved hometown of Brighton in the UK, in which liberal values are so ingrained that they define the place and nothing you can do or say can alter that. Waiheke is the same. A community long famous for its alternative and laid back lifestyle. The Gulf News reflects that and is quite right, no to mention sensible, to do so. If you move here to live and try and pretend otherwise then you are going to be disappointed.

I realise of course that it is dreadfully unfair on the affluent to have to face that irritating reality every election that, no matter how rich they are, their vote has exactly the same value as those cast by people who work in shops! Or on building sites! Or maybe even DON’T WORK AT ALL!! There are just some things money can’t buy you and extra added value on your vote is one of them.
But if only the DECENT people of Waiheke had a PROPER newspaper of their own! One that spoke to their views and values. A publication that supported progress and development and respected the right of the wealthy to remake this island in their own image! A paper that would give short shrift to the weirdoes and the wobblies and that awful man and his beastly horse!

Hold on though…..There WAS such a paper! It was called The Waiheke Week. Founded as a ‘Pro Business’ weekly and backed by sundry wealthy folk, the ‘Weak’ (As it became known) reflected the values of the affluent and right leaning. It staggered on for a couple of years, growing thinner and sillier as it went. Few, if any read it. Eventually it keeled over and expired under the crushing weight of its own irrelevance, and, in a final terrible irony was bought up and resurrected by none other than the Gulf News as the sublimely lightweight Waiheke Weekender.

It’s founder was heard on many an occasion claiming that; ‘There’s only room on this island for two papers and we are going to be one of them!’
Well, he was right about the first bit.

Election Time again!

Right. I said I’d make a start of some election stuff at some point and here I go. There’s a week or two until the ballot papers arrive. Plenty of time for reputations to be polished or indeed to have chai latte spilled all over them. Or maybe some worse substance. The candidates have been announced, the billboards are up and the coverage has begun.

I’ll do what I can to shine a light onto the issues and personalities and I hope many of you will join me.

But first, a recap. Just to refresh our memories.

The 2010 election, the first under the new Super City arrangement, gave us the rather inelegant spectacle of no less than SEVENTEEN candidates all jostling for the five available seats on the new Local Board. During the campaign, all candidates followed the customary Waiheke habit of running as independents and generally avoiding any kind of pigeon-holing along ideological lines.

Only Jim Hannan, Herb Romaniuk and Jo Holmes had any perceptible right wing tone to them and this was not played on to any great degree by their opponents. All the rest ran on the amiable default setting of Waiheke Left/Green vagueness to varying extents.

But then there was the current local councillor Denise Roche and former councillor Faye Storer. Here at least we had a feeling of a grudge match being played out. Storer, after three consecutive terms as Waiheke’s voice on the Auckland Council, found herself defeated by Roche in 2007, leading to the infamous ‘Letter to the Gulf News’ episode in which Storer’s partner, (Who REALLY should have known better) penned a furious missive denouncing the fools, traitors and gullible swine that had DARED to challenge Storer’s right to rule this island in perpetuity.

If there has been a more sphincter clenchingly embarrassing moment in Waiheke politics then I can only assume that either my brain has wiped it from my memory or it has been kept from me by kindly people who know me to be a sensitive and easily upset chap.

Well, the results were something of a surprise. While Denise Roche got a thumping majority with a whopping 2239 votes, (That’s over 50% of the electorate) she looked back to find herself isolated by the already tight bloc of Faye Storer, Jo Holmes, Don McKenzie and Jim Hannan while the rest of the field, containing all her possible allies, lay in a tangled heap, having diluted their vote so disastrously that none of them got elected.

It was, quite frankly, horrible.

But far worse was to come as Storer then proceeded to lock up the new board’s functions a good week to ten days before the actual swearing in and leave her mortal foe to twiddle her thumbs on the side-lines. It is sometimes observed that Storer is a born politician. This move disproved that pretty firmly. A born bureaucrat possibly, but no savvy politician would have pulled such a stupid move at that stage of the game. Had she simply kept quiet until the board were sworn in and the fuss had died down and THEN stiffed Roche in the stupefying confines of the board room she would have saved herself all that fuss and bother. But no. Her impatience got the better of her and the result was not only the alarmingly noisy protests at the swearing in ceremony but also losing any shot she might have had of the traditional honeymoon period with the electorate.

Still, when it comes to Making Her Own Reality, Storer is pretty accomplished. Her speech at the swearing in showed this. It seemed to have been written the day the results were posted and had not been altered in any way to acknowledge the storm of controversy that she’d managed to whip up since. “I’ll just ignore it,” she must have thought, with Thatcherian grandeur, “These are my PEOPLE. How well I know their childish foibles. Three years from now they will have forgotten all this and my policy triumphs will have convinced them that I acted for the best.”

Well the three years have come and gone. And now it is time for the reckoning. Time to see how well the artificial reality of the board will hold up once it gets put to the test.

Speaking with Alex Stone and Chris Walker on the radio the other day I observed that the most notable ‘achievement’ of the board was to have created the most divided atmosphere in the community that I could remember. The other chaps disagreed, recalling stoushes and spats from years ago that had our island in an uproar. They were quite right. But, I can’t recall an election in which the incumbents were so reluctant to get out there and campaign in person. This is the real heart of the matter as far as I can see. The incumbent board members calling themselves ‘The A Team’ may be all around us on their billboards, but have yet to get out and about in any serious way.

Could this be a long overdue sense of reality creeping in? A possible realisation that just because they lucked in on 30% support last time doesn’t mean they can repeat the trick? Has all that stonewalling and arrogant dismissal of community concerns become so ingrained that they have lost the knack of looking us in the eye and asking us what WE think?

It is also interesting to note that while the main thing the A Team have to worry about is an electorate still fuming over three years worth of being ignored and patronised, the biggest albatross around their necks has to be their own support base. That curious cabal of over stimulated and angry folk who do their best to keep up vocal encouragement for their pals without ever getting any good at it.

It is all social media’s fault of course. Back in the days when we all had to wait for newspapers to arrive before we could figure out what to take umbrage at, the pace of outrage and response was slow. Now it is immediate. You say one thing, I say another, he takes it out of context and she shares it with a hundred others who all get the wrong end of the stick and start furiously beating about the mixed metaphor with it. Some call it terrible, some call it progress, I call it bloody hilarious. The internet is indeed a playground and local politics is a hundred times as much fun as it used to be as a result. But maybe not as much fun for the aspiring candidate whose supporters are making them look bad online. Take the example of the board supporter with the brand new and boringly blank Facebook account. They proudly set up a photo of a pebble, a car, an ink blot or a bull’s bottom rather than their own likeness, then, confident that this is in no way making them look like a prize tit, barge into large online forums yelling and screaming. Then, when asked to debate properly, they go away again, curiously convinced that they have made a good impression and furthered the cause of their chosen side.

It is strange behaviour indeed. Yet no stranger than the advice the board must be getting from many of these same people. ‘Stick to your guns! Be bloody, bold and resolute! They are just HIPPIES! They will probably forget to vote! March on a road of bones! The marina thing made you look strong and decisive! Thirty per cent support is easily enough! The Ladies are not for turning! This board will last a thousand years!’ And so on……

Not the soundest advice but whatever works for them I guess.

Spam, Spam, Spam

Folks I have had to turn off self registration. In the last 24 hours 15 spammers have registered on the site and tried to post messages promoting their stuff. This is not unusual – thats 15-20 activities day after day that generate hassle for me. The results of their efforts rarely appear on the website – thanks to some good filters here, but from time to time I have to go through and clear out all the crap and fake users and its annoying. Occasionally real people get cleaned out too.

You will still be able to comment on stories and leave replies but you will probably have to fill in your email address every time. Also you won’t see your comment appear immediately if you are a first time poster as it will be held in a queue for moderation.

I would like to emphasise that I promote and support free speech and will not block any real person who wants to make comments or postings. In the mean time if you have something intelligent to say – feel free to email me http://onewaiheke.org/contacts/ using the admins contact form. I would be happy to add you as a author.

Thanks Andrew (Da Management).

No shit Sherlock

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact – Holmes (Sherlock, not the other one)

Ahah, Ms Holmes is once again using her poisonous pen blog to tell half-truths, peddle misinformation and cast aspersions upon others to justify her position (or lack of transparent position) on the marina. Because she is not prepared to allow responses on her page that are anything but hyperbolic praise from thermos wielding supporters and her election crew, let me share my thoughts here:

1. Is anyone else weary yet of the constant “the Local Board has few powers introduction to all uncomfortable things” line trotted out by Ms Holmes and which begins that particular blog post? It sits ironically beside the A Team’s catchcry “We’ve fought for greater decision-making at the local level – and WON”. The constant chest beating about how the Local Board has “navigate(d) local boards into being the most effective part of the Supercity” is merely hollow sloganeering when any decision from which Ms Holmes wants to distance herself is dismissed as “oh, except that decision-making power”.

2. Granted, the Local Board doesn’t have power to make submissions through the public notification process of resource consent applications (one of the powers the A Team did not WIN back in April 2011). But Ms Holmes’ post entirely misses the point – widespread public concern about the Local Board’s (absent) voice about the marina arose because of the significant delay between the submission of the marina application in early March and the Board actually expressing a view, any view, on 18 July. The Board was ominously silent throughout the entire public notification period (6 June- 3 July) during which time public disquiet about Board inaction had risen to a deafening roar. All of this then in an environment where existing Auckland Council policy permits local boards to INITIATE feedback through their Relationship Manager AT THE START OF THE CONSENT PROCESS (rather than five months into it). That might, however, look a bit too much like ADVOCACY now mightn’t it?

3. While the Board can’t make formal submission through the public notification process, it is not precluded from making representations and public statements about matters of community concern (marina, anyone?) nor does it allow the Board to abrogate its statutory responsibilities to ADVOCATE for its communities, especially when its own 2011-2014 Local Board Plan specifically assigns to itself the role of being both the “lead” and “advocate” in opposing any further development at Matiatia pending a complete review of all relevant plans.

4. Ms Holmes’ pouty lament that local newspapers didn’t print news of the Local Board’s position (the one the Board finally approved on 18 July) about the marina is laughable. Her assertion that the feedback WAS NEVER REPORTED (her emphasis, not mine) is PATENTLY FALSE (my emphasis, not hers). On 18 July, the Gulf News reported (p12) the Board’s proposed feedback would be considered at a meeting scheduled for that very day. Another story (p 18) GN 25 July reported on the feedback.

Now, I can’t comment on the Waiheke Marketplace and what it did or didn’t publish. I no longer read it, having developed an allergic reaction to real estate advertising and a “no politics to see here folks, move along” approach to reporting. But here’s a thought – if the Marketplace didn’t pick up the story, perhaps it just wasn’t newsworthy. Or perhaps it had something to do with the rather derogatory comments Ms Holmes made on Facebook on 11 May about the Marketplace and its employment of someone who she viewed as not having political beliefs in accordance with her own. I’m sure, with a bit of initiative, Ms Holmes can find out for herself by visiting the Marketplace – it’s the building now hidden behind the rather imposing A Team election billboard.

5. Let’s consider then the “newsworthy nature” of the content of the Local Board’s feedback on the marina proposal. A total of two pages (arising from two private workshops) which can effectively be summarized as “we have some concerns about existing congestion, we won’t support any loss of parking, we hope berth holders will be patient when it’s really busy down there during the summer, hopefully someone will do something to ensure pests and vermin aren’t on the boats, waste should be removed from the marina during non-peak times, construction traffic might be a bit heavy, who will maintain public areas once the marina is built and we’d really prefer some other land-based parking options (have the Board actually seen parking at Matiatia currently) before we agree to reclaiming land”.

Not a word about integrated planning, long-term vision, Kaitiakitanga, the notion of stewardship, wahi tapu, sustainable management, cultural, social and economic well-being, amenity values and the intrinsic value of ecosystems. Not a single word about the depth and breadth of public concern nor of the Local Board’s own commitment to advocating for “no further development at Matiatia until all existing plans are reviewed”. Nothing. Some perfunctory mechanical response lacking any vision beyond the next six months which was designed to assuage the chattering class while not upsetting the pro-marina political powerbrokers – there’s an election in the wind, don’t you know?

6. I’m interested in Ms Holmes’ assertion that someone “jumped to conclusions” about the direct referral process. It certainly wasn’t those opposed to the marina who were advised by Waiheke Marinas Ltd paid consultant at a community initiated workshop on 16 June that the applicant would be seeking direct referral (a workshop that both Ms Holmes and Ms Storer partly attended). Not those who listened to the consultant explain that the applicant would be seeking direct referral as he was “keen to get the marina built in his lifetime” and that was the “quickest way” of doing it. Saving objectors time and money was not one of the reasons given by him as to why his client would be seeking direct referral. And it wasn’t those objectors who anticipated the direct referral before the applicant requested it in the first week of July and were therefore better informed and better able to voice a view about it than the Chair of our Local Board who was, even by early August, unable to offer the Board’s view on direct referral because the Board had “not had a discussion about it”(despite at least one private workshop and a Local Board meeting in the interval).

7. Surely though, I am assured by Ms Holmes’ trite observation that the direct referral process is “friendly towards submitters” according to the Ministry of the Environment? No more than I have ever been comforted by assurances from tobacco companies that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer. The reality is that the direct referral process was introduced by the National government specifically to reduce the time taken for the processing of resource consents. It was not done to benefit objectors to developments but to allow developers to utilise the court system to push through applications and avoid the unsightly, scruffy community with its propensity for delaying “progress”. Not surprising then that the first direct referral case involved Progressive Supermarkets which was able to ram through a consent for a supermarket and five shops in Warkworth in just under four months.

Am I surprised that Ms Holmes embraces the lie that direct referral is a great benefit?  Not at all – after all she appears to be a fan of fast-tracking and closing out the community – most evident in her approach to the decision to re-open the Esplanade.

The “direct referral is your friend” line trotted out by Ms Holmes is pure fantasy and political spin –those who lodged objections are entitled to become a s274 party before the Court but it’s a big ask to require a submitter to give up weeks, perhaps months to attend and participate in the multiple hearings (directions, pre-trial, conciliations, negotiations and finally the substantive hearings) compared with an afternoon of presenting one’s case to an Auckland Council Independent Hearings panel. The opportunity to refine issues (“shakedown”) at the local stage is lost and instead, the average concerned objector must now engage in a full-blown court process replete with lawyers, experts, technical legal arguments and the expense of travel to and from the Environment Court (the prospect of all hearings being conducted on Waiheke is extremely remote, even with the Hearing Committee’s recommendation). Those reasons are precisely why developers like direct referral, despite whatever spin Ms Holmes wants to put on it.

So what are we left with? Ms Holmes’ usual vitriolic spray at anyone who dares criticise her – the so-called “scaremongers”, “political activists and their apologists” spreading “misinformation” and “jumping to conclusions” – all very reminiscent of the claims she made against average people, from mums and dads, to tourism operators and business people who expressed concern about the lack of public consultation surrounding the decision to re-open the Esplanade (remember “anti-car brigade”, “the anti-disability lobby” and “the selfish minority” claims?). The same diatribe she trotted out in response to those who were concerned about Rangihoua, Wharetana Bay, community funding for profit-making private film companies, crossing the road at Surfdale in relative safety. Dismissive, snide commentary which implies that objectors get to present their case for a $10 donation (ignoring the tens of thousands of dollars this community will have to raise to have a fighting chance in the court process that the Local Board doesn’t have the spine to back).

It’s mean spirited, divisive politics at its very worst where anyone who isn’t with Ms Holmes is obviously an enemy of the state. Ultimately, what we are left with is a candidate for the forthcoming election who would rather win at all costs while defaming maligning and attempting to silence any and all dissenters than figure out how she can actually represent, advocate for and work with her community – ALL of her community.

If this is the best she has to offer, then frankly she’s not up to the job unless the job is to create “the most divided little island in the world”.