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”.

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