Ethics and the Environment

Environmental issues can be a source of heated debate, as we know all too well from past and present local controversies. People sometimes take up entrenched positions on opposing sides of an issue, and in a small community this can become personal and divisive. How can philosophy help? 

I believe we can all benefit from enhancing our critical thinking abilities, learning how to recognise the assumptions behind our own positions and those of others we disagree with, and trying to formulate our arguments in such a way as to find as much common ground as possible with others.

Whether we are concerned about global problems of climate change, pollution, and using up finite natural resources, or about balancing the needs of humans with those of other species here on Waiheke and in our coastal waters, philosophical questions arise. Why does the environment matter? What do we owe to our own and other species, to ecosystems, and to future generations? 

These are among the questions we’ll explore together in a new course that I’m offering next term at Waiheke Adult Learning, ‘Ethics and the Environment’, as part of the Community Education programme.  

The course will be held on Thursday evenings from 31st October till 28th November, 7.00pm-8.30pm, and costs $80 per person.

To enrol online, follow this link:

You may also book in person at the Waiheke Adult Learning Centre, Waiheke High School, Monday to Thursday 9am-2pm or contact them by phone 372-9868 or email

Hoping to see you there,

With best wishes,

Jane Cooper

Waiheke still Kauri disease free

Kauri disease, also known as PTA (Phytophthora Agathis) is killing kauri throughout the Auckland and Northland areas.  It has been identified in the Waitakere Ranges, Great Barrier Island and most of northland’s great kauri forests. The pathogen can exist in soil as spores and it can move in water as a zygote.  Symptoms of the disease include foliage yellowing, canopy thinning, dead branches, trunk collar lesions that bleed gum and finally tree death.

Effective treatment is still in the research stage.

The good news is that both Coromandel Ranges and Waiheke Island are free of the disease.

To keep the island’s kauri free of this deadly disease there is a need to know how the pathogen gets from one place to another.  Already research shows that it can attach to shoes in dirt, or to the feet of animals such as pigs.  It can, also, be accidentally transported in the soil attached to potted seedlings or trees.

Forest and Bird have signs at the entrances of their reserves asking people to clean their shoes before entering the reserves.  However, there is opportunity to increase public awareness of the disease and decrease its accidental introduction to our beautiful island.  Involving the ferry companies more actively in a ‘keep Waiheke free of Kauri disease’ campaign would be wonderful, as the wharves are the main way that people set foot on the island.  Our Local Board could play a big part in supporting public education initiatives and negotiating with the ferry companies in partnership with conservation organisations and Council’s bio-security team to reduce the possibility of the disease ever ‘landing’ here.

Sue Fitchett 

The Population of Waiheke

Early results from the 2013 Census are starting to appear.  Later on we will have a full demographic profile of the island – which will make polling and surveys much more accurate.  But for now we have the headline figure.

The residential population of Waiheke is 8262

Thats an increase from 2006 of 561 or 6.8%.  That may sound quite impressive – but consider that the rest of Auckland increased in population by more than 8.2%.

However take a look at this chart.


Population growth on the island has been slowing since 2001.  The red line shows the estimates used by the council, they are higher as they include people who don’t show up in the census – but what is interesting is that the growth rate has twice now been estimated to be higher than it actually was and has needed to be corrected downwards.

Back in 2000 in the Essentially Waiheke Report the island population was expected to reach 10,000 by 2006.  This was hard to justify given the previous census data and is a lesson in not extrapolating curves (which I will now proceed to do).

Looking at  the per year change in population between each census we get a drop from 167 (2001), 113 (2006) to 80 (2013).  So in the next 5 years we might see some continued slow growth – but the total is unlikely to cross the 9000 mark at any time in the near future.



Voting Returns

Here is the chart of daily voting returns for Waiheke.

Waiheke - Voting document returns

This shows that voting was fairly steady throughout the voting period.  No late surge.

Total votes (as of posting) were 3496 from 6356 (55%).



The challenge for the team

I thought Claude’s comment to Marks posting was worth promoting to an article in its own right. [ed]

Thanks, Mark, for limb climbing and the subsequent good analysis.

My own sense is that the old left and right wing labels don’t apply on Waiheke. After about two years, regardless of ones national politics, Love Waiheke becomes the primary partisan theme. No matter what ones offshore politics, it is the character, beauty, community and essence of the island that captures people, and protection of that is what they look for in candidates.

On all three foreshore issues of the day, the A-Team seemed to be offsides with the mood of the populace. Why? The council officers load the elected local board with issues in massive notebooks that then become the subject matter for the Local Board. The A-Team was undoubtedly good at navigating the officers’ waters, but those are often seen as alien to folks who live on the island. The foreshore issues were not officers’ priorities, thus the last local board did not take the advocacy role the populace was expecting.

During my presentation to the Royal Commission on the Supercity, I got into a fascinating conversation with the Commission’s Chair Peter Salmon about the apparent absence of checks and balances in NZ governance. He agreed, but unfortunately except for some additional powers for the Mayor, local checks and balances did not make it into the enabling legislation.

The problem with the way Local Boards are structured is that they appear to be democratic representatives of the electorate, but in fact their roles are tightly prescribed, in essence to be there to give approval to officer-driven agendas within a very limited sphere of influence. If one plays the game, the officers use their discretion (which is considerable) to help the elected representatives get points on the board. If not, they can cut off the flow of background information and make accomplishing anything very difficult. I know, I’ve seen it in action under the prior City Council. The problem is not the personnel, it’s the structure that shapes how the people behave.

The A-Team, lead by Faye, who has been in the game a long time, played within the rules, played the officers’ game, and this appeared to the electorate as non-responsive.

The challenge for the Essentially Waiheke team will be to press for fundamental structural changes to implement real democratic engagement in governance, or resort to the old Bruce Bisset style of politics, in which he browbeat the officers into tears. I favour the former, and given the strong mandate of the election results, I think they have a chance to actually accomplish it.

It promises to be a very interesting three years, but will require the four new members get up to speed very rapidly. The undercurrents of real council governance and management may be hard to see, but they are strong and can be dangerous to navigate.


A word or two from Els.

There was a particular thread that came up yesterday on WIPP that featured an inspired reply from Els Verbanck. It was so good that I asked her if she could shuffle it all into one article and send it to me so I could post it on here.
This she has kindly done and so here it is.
Over to you Els…….

With the election over, the supporters of the opposition all of a sudden find themselves to be ‘a not insignificant minority of dissenting residents’ and are hoping that ‘their wishes and interests will be taken into account’. Well. Yes, let’s hope that the minority’s wishes and interests are taken into account by the new Local Board. May I point out that during the last 3 years, the LB represented a smaller section of the Waiheke electorate than the new LB does now, and the un-represented majority – because that’s what we were: the majority – did not have their wishes and interests taken into account.

I was told last night that in an interview on Waiheke Radio, Faye was asked where she thought she had gone wrong to lose so many of her voters, and that she responded that she didn’t think she had done anything wrong, that she had done everything right. This shows to me how incredibly out of touch with the community she was – that she did not consider the amount of dissent to her policies, the amount of protest to her decisions to be significant. She dismissed a huge part of the community out of hand because they did not see things as she did. She seems to consider, or did consider, the people disagreeing with her as misguided, deluded, rabble, trouble makers….

Whilst the new board is the choice of over 50% of the electorate, the old one was the choice of a mere 30 odd %. The previous board got in by fluke – through the left vote being spread too thinly over too many candidates.

And they abused, thoroughly abused and misused the power that fell into their laps, was theirs by error. They never were representative of the electorate of Waiheke – they had the support of less than 40% of the community.

I note that this was something their supporters and adherents and sycophants never admitted. They never acknowledged they had a minority backing – indeed, they had the cheek to cast us in the minority role – which, by default, in their eyes, made us not worth listening to. And now they are displaying breath taking hypocrisy by clamouring to be heard? To express a hope that ‘their wishes and interests will be taken into account’? Am I really hearing this correctly? Are they demanding a right which the board they supported denied us – the former ‘dissenting minority’?

I have to admit: I’m angry. How dare you? How dare the lot of you? How dare you take a stance like that, and all of a sudden play the misunderstood, unrepresented underdog/minority card, and try and appeal to what’s ‘right’ and what’s ‘fair’? For 3 years, a small, select group of the island were the ones who were represented, and you laughed in our faces, shrugged your shoulders at our ‘views and wishes’, said ‘too bad’, and ‘suck it up’ and ‘sucks to be you, dunnit’?

Didn’t listen to us, gloated from your exalted position, did whatever the hell you wanted, and now you want us to be the reasonable ones? The inclusive ones? Well, guess what, sunshine, we always were. We always were the reasonable ones, the inclusive ones. We were the ones who wanted the best for the whole of the island, for the whole of the community, we were the ones who protested at decisions made which only served or were advantageous to ‘the select few’.

It galls me that in 2010 the victors were not magnanimous, and now request the 2013 winners to be. It galls me that the 2010 victors pursued policies which were so clearly divisive, and now request the 2013 winners to pursue inclusiveness. It galls me that during this last election, there were orchestrated smear campaigns coming from the A-Team supporters, and now that they’ve lost, they’re appealing to our better nature. And the reason why we will include them and talk to them and listen to them, is in spite of them. Because of who and what we are. In spite of them. So yes, the minority WILL be listened to, WILL have their voice heard – we WILL engage in dialogue and work for the WHOLE of the island.

Because that’s the board WE elected – us, the former rabble, the former dissenting ‘minority’. It fell to us to look for candidates whom displayed a willingness to work together – as a team, and with the community . It fell to us to get behind them, it fell to us to help them campaign and elect them, because that is what we wanted – a board which can represent ALL of us.

My FURY could be dissipated by a showing of humility from the other side, by an acknowledgment of their wrongs, by an admission, ever so slightly, that they did not act in the interest of the whole of the community. But I won’t hold my breath. I will, instead, redirect my anger and use it for other fights that have not been won yet.

I will not forget.

“It’s the MEDIA’S Fault!!!”

Right then Playmates, it’s the day after the elections and the significance of the results are finally sinking in for all of us. Tomorrow will be Monday and a new week will have begun. By then it will be time to leave off flogging this particular subject and get back to real life once more. The campaign was excellent, the result deeply satisfying, but now it is time to wind down the coverage.

So, while it is still the weekend, let me share this parting shot regarding the subject of blaming media bias. I wrote a few weeks ago on this very subject but felt it was worth coming back to look at it again in the light of comment made yesterday by that most EX of Board members Faye Storer regarding the role of the media in her catastrophic fall from office. It was, she opined, the fault of the Gulf News for running a negative campaign against her. She herself had done nothing wrong. She had done the right thing from start to finish, sided with the angels, fought the good fight and ‘Non, je ne regrette rien….’ etc…etc…

If only those bloody hacks at the Gulf News had behaved properly and said nice things about her then she’d have won. Pure and simple.

Well I’m sorry, but that is BOLLOCKS.

Ms Storer and her two chums went down to humiliating and total defeat for the simple reason that not enough people TRUSTED them. To lead off your post result excuses by blaming the media is both pathetic and dishonest. What’s more, it displays a level of self delusion that makes us all feel quite glad that Faye Storer’s political career is over. What’s more, the idea that the local newspaper somehow owes her anything at all is a very disturbing one. The media is not there to simply print whatever silly politicians fancy having in their press releases. And if the political message is rubbish it is the job of the media to point this out.

Alex Stone and I were the subject of what I am assured was a deeply confused complaint to Waiheke Radio from an A Team supporter. This odd fellow took issue with the radio station allowing air time to a pair of obviously BIASED malcontents who then proceeded to criticise the incumbent board! The fact that our spot is called ‘Opinionated Islanders’ and has been running for some time now as an opinion spot seemed to have eluded him. Our light hearted ribbing of the board was in no way a reflection of the bias of the station as a whole. Indeed, Waiheke Radio has emerged from this election process with considerable credit in the impartiality stakes. To make matters worse, the complainant then refused to come down to the studios himself to take part in a discussion. Too much of a ‘Media Talk-Fest’ apparently.

So what are we to make of people that whine about bias on one hand yet refuse to come along and present their views either? Apart from call them something rude? If the Gulf News, Waiheke Radio, WIPP and this website hold up a mirror to our community then it is no good getting all bent out of shape because you don’t happen to like the reflection. Sorry, but as we keep on and on pointing out, this is one seriously LIBERAL community and if such values are not to your taste then that’s your problem not ours.

Finally, let me also mention that I feel for the disappointed A Team supporters. They really thought that the 30% margin their board had entitled them to a big say in how stuff got done and now they are feeling very hard done by. I could develop this theme a little more but everything that needs saying on the subject has been written elsewhere by Els Verbanck in such eloquent detail that it would be foolish to add to it here.

All I can say is that looking back now, I’m damned if I can make out exactly what it was that the A Team supporters actually WANTED. One or two of them always felt the need to reply to posts on here but not once did they ever rise to actually arguing any points made in the articles. It was always a sort of generalised ‘You are totally wrong, and did we mention you are a bastard too’ droning that never actually seemed to go anywhere or make any points.

One vocal A Team supporter is a good friend of mine. We have spent any amount of time sitting up late drinking and discussing politics. He too has never really managed to explain what it is that he wants or what he fears from the new board. What is it that he feels the last board did that was so wonderful? Does he think Paul Walden and his chums are going to reintroduce feudalism or compulsory horse ownership?

All these things are unclear. I could, at this stage, point out that given the election result it really doesn’t MATTER. But, in the new spirit of cooperation and understanding that’s going around at the moment that would be wrong.

So I won’t.

Bye for now, and thanks for tuning in.

Where I went wrong

It’s almost as much fun to pick apart one’s own predictions as it is to make them in the first place.  Here is where mine went wrong:

1.  I greatly overestimated the solidity of the A-Team bloc voters.  Based on previous election results I had estimated the size of the A-Team bloc at 1145, as against 1249 for Essentially Waiheke, and I gave both blocs an 80% solidity (meaning 20% of each flock would break ranks on at least one of their candidates).  Maybe my reading of the Essentially Waiheke group was close, but I was way off for the A-Team.  Their solidity was more like 60%; the other 40% broke ranks.  Sue McCann and Shirin Brown were the main beneficiaries of the A-Team weakness.

2.  Voter turnout was quite a bit higher than I had anticipated.  Essentially Waiheke benefited some from this as their bloc was clearly more motivated, but it was the independents — again, Shirin and Sue — who gained the most, as the non-aligned voters didn’t sit this one out.  Thus both were pushed well ahead of the A-Team.

3.  I underestimated the value of Essentially Waiheke’s indirect endorsement of Shirin.  I guessed it would be worth 75% of the EW bloc vote; in fact it was at least 85%.

4.  I gave Faye Storer good credit for name recognition, and took points away from Jo Holmes for strident use of social media, leaving Faye to look calm and above the fray.  As it turns out both of their performances were poor, with only 62 votes separating them.  Don McKenzie, who I thought would be the weakest of the three A-Team candidates, outpolled both of his partners.

5.  I overestimated Graham Hooper’s appeal to the A-Team bloc for their fourth and fifth votes.  I thought 60% of these would go his way; in reality it was more like 20%, and that landed him deep in last place.

6.  I thought Beatle Treadwell would outperform Paul Walden with the independent voters, due to Paul’s history of sometimes pugnacious advocacy.  In fact Paul’s behaviour on the board has been quite statesmanlike this past year, even in his role as a minority of one; and his appeal with the independents, far from weighing him down, has pushed him into first place.

7.  I saw John Meeuwsen as this year’s recipient of the “Nobilangelo Effect”, the tendency of voters to be attracted to an articulate new voice, and that Becs Ballard would be the weakest of the four official EW candidates.  But Becs ended up outpolling John by a hundred votes, and if there was a Nobilangelo this year, it was Shirin Brown who outshone them both.

The lessons of my errors, and of the Local Board election in general, are that Waiheke voters clearly want a stronger advocacy on the part of their local representatives, and that they want more input into the board’s decision-making.  The outgoing board has been effective in many areas, but those areas have been chosen by themselves rather than by consultation with the community; and the community has now pointed this out.  In a way, the election is a rejection of the supercity in which the A-Team candidates have made themselves such experts.  Faye Storer can take some fair credit for helping the entire city to define the treacherously vague relationships between the local boards and Auckland Council, its ponderous bureaucracy and the ill-named “Council-Controlled Organisations”.  The irony is that history may well remember Faye more kindly on the isthmus than on her own island, where a smoothly-running metropolitan juggernaut is exactly what we don’t want.

The challenge for the new board will be to balance the community’s expectations of activism with the practical imperative to get things done.  The mandarins of the supercity may well look upon our election results with suspicion and recalcitrance, perhaps even malevolence; yet as long as the fate of our fair island is yoked to Rodney Hide’s atrocity across the water, some degree of Faye-ness in our dealings with said atrocity is going to be necessary.  Otherwise all our advocacy will be nothing but empty posturing.

Unless, of course, we were to ditch the whole supercity idea and go our own way.  Hmmmm…

And the result is….

Its 3pm and the provisional count is in.

WALDEN, Paul 1989 1
TREADWELL, Beatle 1945 2
BROWN, Shirin Independent 1647 3
BALLARD, Becs 1557 4
MEEUWSEN, John 1456 5
MCCANN, Sue Independent 1254 6
MCKENZIE, Don Waiheke ‘A’ Team 1201 7
STORER, Faye Waiheke ‘A’ Team 1119 8
HOLMES, Jo Waiheke ‘A’ Team 1065 9
MELVILLE, Richard Independent 858
HOOPER, Graham Independent 340

Congratulations to the Essentially Waiheke team and Shirin – a clean sweep.  don’t let it go to your heads.

Mainly though I think that this is a  clear message from the ‘silent majority’ on the island that Fay and Jo did not spend their time on the board gaining the trust of the islanders.  All the talk of engagement proved to be meaningless.   The fact that both Sue McCann and Don McKenzie beat Fay and Jo is a pretty clear indictment of their behaviour over the last three years.

I’m looking forward now to some more proactive action from our local board.

Here is a chart comparing the votes from this year and 2010.

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 4.50.04 PM

What this shows – apart from Denise’s massive support is that even in a low turnout year  Paul and Beatle got more votes this year than Faye did in 2010, Shirin also beat Jo’s previous vote.