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.

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.

“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.

Easy.

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.

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE.

DSCF5481Something is ROTTEN in the state of Ostend. Beneath the delightful aroma of coffee wafting from Brendan Mooney’s mobile coffee stall there’s an nastier stink. The stink of cronyism and unfair repression of trade.

Why is Mr Mooney trading from the car park outside the Ostend bakery today instead of his usual spot on the causeway? He has, after all, paid the council for a permit for a seven day week. So why is he suddenly being restricted to only weekdays? If it were not for the kind offer from the bakery owners he’d be sitting at home twiddling his thumbs right now.

Why is he being threatened with legal action? All he’s doing is selling a few cups of coffee. But apparently that’s not acceptable in some quarters. It represents competition to those who would prefer not to have any.

Now ok, I know a lot of you don’t want to believe in a free market but personally I do. I run a business myself but if some other keen brewer wanted to start up on the island and add yet another brewery to the mix I wouldn’t complain. Why would I? I certainly wouldn’t try to get them stopped. That would make me a…..well, ‘Bit Of A Bastard’ frankly, and I’d deserve to be criticised for it.

The answers to all these questions I’ve raised are out there and we ought to know what they are. It’s hard enough to make a living what with all the red tape and so forth without being leaned on by other local businesses. The food and drink trade on Waiheke is difficult enough without adding this kind of pressure to operators.

So go forth and ASK. And keep on asking until you get the answers. Why has Brendan Mooney had to relocate and become dependent on the kindness of others to make his living? Who is putting the pressure on him to do this? What makes them so bloody special that they can behave in this foul way? And above all, whose INFLUENCE are they depending on to make it happen?

Oh, and stop by and get a coffee. It’s damn good.

Turf Wars

A month or two ago I wrote an article on the early morning s

henanigans at Wharetana Bay. Not the most objective piece of journalism I freely admit since I myself was sitting, arms linked, with the protestors rather than observing impartially from the sidelines and taking notes.

The protest, and the public debate that followed are matters of record now and the issue was duly flogged to death in the papers in true island style. Yet the string of comment that followed my article grew to such horrendous length and became so thoroughly disagreeable that I stopped even looking at it. I suppose I could have worked out how to purge most of the torrent of nasty crap that was written but then I felt that it might be better to leave it be as it was;

A. Freedom of speech in action.

And,

B. Demonstrative of a certain mindset that deserves further attention.

By all means go back and read through it but don’t expect to be in any way edified by the experience. In essence, there are those who felt affronted that a wealthy property developer, having managed to cleverly worm his way round the legalities of building a non compliant dwelling and massively pissed off the neighboring property owners into the bargain, should have found himself publicly challenged by some insanitary, rag tag rent-a-crowd of drug addled tree huggers who had somehow managed to drag themselves from their enseamed beds at an ungodly hour of the morning to voice their disapproval. How dare they be so beastly? Why were they even allowed near the place to foul the air with their Marxist bleatings?

This bracing view was then developed upon by the casting of aspersions on the excellent facebook page ‘The Waiheke Island People’s Parliament’. ‘Unrepresentative’, ‘The usual suspects’, ‘Hippies and troublemakers imagining themselves to be the true voice of the island’ etc.
The fact that WIPP has been a huge success and has proved way more entertaining and vibrant than the letters page of the papers is neither here nor there. Nor is the fact that it’s membership numbers in the hundreds, (All of whom, it should be noted, are deeply interested and involved in local politics) apparently relevant. The four or five opponents that dived into the discussion seemed to think none of that mattered.
This is given added vexation by the unwillingness of these folks to actually identify themselves. They seem happy to carp and moan and insult, yet seem to believe that they may freely do so from behind a cover of anonymity. Wow…how courageous. We might do well to heed the excellent advice of the British writer and humourist David Mitchell who recently suggested that anything at all published on the internet without being signed by a real person to be automatically dismissed as mere vulgar graffiti.

But never mind all that. If ‘Grumpy National Voter of Surfdale’ and ‘Rip-Shit-And-Bust,-Wreck-The Joint-For–Profit’ of Ostend don’t feel like being as open as old ‘Sod the neighbours, I’ll do what I like in my garden as it’s my right’ of Rocky Bay did then it is not for us to disparage them for it. I’m not here to fan the flames of such silliness, merely to put some perspective on the matter.

What I’d like to suggest is this; If you don’t find Green Party voting, Herbal remedy imbibing, left leaning, anti corporate, development resisting types to be your cup of tea then maybe Waiheke Island isn’t the right place for you. Because, and I really can’t stress this enough,

THEY WERE HERE BEFORE YOU.

Let me repeat that with an exclamation mark in case the full import didn’t get through.

THEY WERE HERE BEFORE YOU!

Back in the 70’s and 80’s Waiheke was considered a wasteland of alternative types. Bleeding hearts and artists. Hippies and Wobblies. Beneficiaries and Solo Mums. If you were a smart and go ahead sort of person who drove a nice expensive car and wanted to drink in flash city bars then you shunned the place and fair enough. But, while you were living it up in urban splendour, all those hippies made this island in their own image and a bloody good job they made of it too. So don’t (and I mean really DON’T), imagine that the attitude of “Nice island hippies, now piss off, WE want it now.” is going to go down well. You got here too late.

Let me give you an interesting and contrasting idea to ponder. When I first came to New Zealand it was to take a job in Westport on the South Island’s west coast. A strange place I’d have to say. But, despite it’s remoteness and it’s foul climate it was settled by hardy types who made it in their image. ‘Coasters’ are a funny lot. On the one hand cheerful and hard working, on the other parochial, standoffish and downright stupid. They operate on the basis of using whatever resources can be exploited to keep themselves fed and housed and when that resource is gone they sit in the mud moaning for handouts until the next boom happens. It’s nasty, but it’s THEIR TURF and if that’s how they want to live then let them be. Suddenly turning up there in your hippy van with the anti mining stickers holding the windscreen together, setting up home and shaking your dreadlocks in horror at the way the place is run is just downright RUDE. If you don’t like it then piss off. Stake your own claim to somewhere and run it according to your own values but don’t imagine for a moment that trying to change your new home to your own liking is anything but ignorant and stupid.

After all, if you decided to settle in Epsom or Remuera and then started carping about all the horrible lawyers, CEO’s, television presenters and grotesque black ‘Insecurity Mobiles’ about the place then you’d be laughed at. Too late mate! They got here first and they like it that way.

But back to Waiheke. I myself got here in 1997. I loved it. I’m not a left leaning greeny either. And yes, I find some of the attitudes expressed here to be rather dim and foolish. There are those on WIPP whose unthinking opposition to business and development I find childish in the extreme. Yet I don’t abuse people for them. In fact many of the people whose ideas I oppose are fine folk and good friends of mine. I support them publicly for my own greedy self interest. I own property here. It is now worth TWICE what we paid for it. Why? Because it’s value is driven by how amazingly nice the island is. If we all stand by and let badly thought out development take place then my property value will decrease. My plans to spend the rest of my life here will have to be rethought and I’m damned if I am going to let that happen. If I’d wanted a fast, urban lifestyle then I’d have settled in the city. But I didn’t. I came here instead for the charming, rural feel of the place and I want that preserved. As the excellent chap John Hawkesby once asked; “Why does everything have to be like the Gold Coast?”

He made a good point. If a development like the idiotic Matiatia project is mooted then it must be resisted. Likewise the foolish marina idea. These have no long term benefit to the genuine residents. But have you heard a peep out of any of us regarding the Isola Estate development or the Eco-Zip? Of course not. These are fine projects. They bring actual benefit to the island instead of a fat, short term profit for some crowd of talentless developers who have no long term stake in the island we call home.

So, in conclusion, if you agitated pro development types crave the roar of bulldozers, the cosy intimacy of infill housing, huge strip malls full of shops selling stuff you don’t need, wide roads buzzing with Red Bull addled teenagers in low slung cars and the vibrant buzz of unbridled, balls out, free market excess, then Howick is right there for the taking. Go on. All it takes is a ferry ride. You’ll be so much happier.

And so will we.

NOTE: This article was written by ALAN KNIGHT. The one who makes beer. He’d even add a clear picture [see below: ed] to this if he knew how. If you wish to add comment then you are welcome to do so. However, if these comments are not signed with a genuine name then they will be ignored. It’s only fair.

Fun and Frolics By The Seaside.

“But things happened and there was stuff and shenanigans. Beautiful word. Shenanigans.”
From Dr Who.

Now we’ve had a day to ponder the stirring events at Wharetana Bay there are all kinds of interesting points that we shoul

d consider. The local Facebook pages lit up with posts. The TV news coverage was surprisingly detailed. My story on here got over four hundred views in twenty four hours which I believe is a record. (My humble thanks.) And this morning the Kennedy Point roundabout had sprouted an endearingly tatty sign saying “!SACK! Paul Walden” (This has since been amusingly altered.)

And there I was thinking we were in the political doldrums. My usual level of devotion to this island community always goes through the roof when we all start shouting and blithering about issues, and real issues have been a bit thin on the ground of late. So when yesterday’s splendid shenanigans erupted it felt wonderful. Everywhere I go I’m hearing people talking about it. Most are supportive but a few are grumbling about how ‘disgraceful’ it all is.

Now the day is getting on and I am supposed to be making beer. But the urge to give this particular brew a stir instead is powerful. So let’s take a look at a few angles that have emerged. In no particular order….

Firstly, it’s a bit of a shame that the island’s boaties couldn’t have made a better showing. There was some talk on Facebook of organizing a flotilla to block access to the bay. Then it all went very quiet and anyone watching might be forgiven for thinking “Hello…They are planning something here. They just don’t want to give the game away.”
Sadly, there was no game, which was a pity considering how easily just a few sail boats could have blocked off the bay until the high tide passed. Though I admit I know nothing of such activities so I won’t push that line any further.

Then there is the telling business of the arrested protesters and the unwillingness of the police to actually lay any charges. Several of the doughty folk taking part were entirely willing to be arrested. Their point was that if the charges went to court they couldn’t be made to stick, what with the dubious legality of closing a public reserve. The authorities clearly recognised this problem as well.

Now it was clear that we had quite a few real veterans of public protest down there showing us amateurs how it’s done. But then Waiheke has long been a home to many such motivated people so we shouldn’t be surprised. While most of us left on our own feet, unwilling to be carried off by long suffering members of the constabulary, others followed their own instincts, made themselves heavy and were rewarded by being bodily removed like many times before. “Go Limp!” they advised us.

But, let’s be clear on one thing. Bandying words like ‘brutality’ and ‘thuggishness’ about as the pictures emerged on Facebook is really not helping. The police behaved with the calm restraint typical of this civilized and polite country. They did their job and nothing more. Nor did any of the protesters offer them any violence. We all knew that by going there we would find ourselves being asked, officially, to leave. Those who were hauled out by their arms and legs CHOSE to leave that way. So if you are one of those Perennially Indignant types trying to make a point by bleating about brutality, please stop it. You just sound silly and petulant and are NOT HELPING. This isn’t the bloody Springboks tour, it’s just a local spat over a bad resource decision.

Amid all the delighted reaction to all of this let us spare a thought for the opposition. Halfway through the proceedings yesterday a man pulled up by the old villa and walked towards the protesters. He began shouting. I was too far away to hear what he was saying but was keen to go and talk to him about his views. Sadly he retreated almost immediately so his opinions, whatever they were, will have to go unrecorded. The various facebook pages filled with comment, yet it took until this morning for anyone to even attempt to raise an argument in favour of either the development or the local board and council planners. The supporters of the local board are difficult to hear. Almost impossible in fact. And yet, one of their favourite mantras, whenever they write in to the papers, is that THEY are the majority and those of us who disagree are a foolish and tiny minority, horrible malcontents and trouble makers who can be safely ignored.

Right….That’s a tiny minority who somehow manage to pretend that we are numerous by each having a dozen or so facebook accounts which we use on the People’s Parliament to make it look as if there are hundreds of us pointing out the dismal failure of the board like the dead bodies propped on the ramparts in Beau Geste. In fact, we have got so good at it that we even disguise ourselves as our fictional alter egos when we go out. Check out the Waiheke People’s Parliament to see how duplicitous we are! Sure it SAYS there are two hundred and fifty of us, but really there are less than half a dozen. See all those names listed? All fake. Except me, Hans Versluys and Susi Newborn. There, you got us. We invented all those other names to fool you. We made it all up. All those other people you see posting are us wearing a bewildering variety of wigs and silly hats.

NOT!

Come on you pro-board types. Get real. YOU are the minority. Off hand I can list a dozen or so of you and I pay attention to this stuff. I’m sure I’d meet a few more if I played golf but I can’t raise that level of boredom. For all your bluster the fact remains that you don’t have the numbers to raise a rival Facebook page to state your point of view. I wish you would! It would make dialogue so much easier. Maybe one or two of you, (Or indeed all THREE) might like to write something and post it on here? Your thoughts would be welcomed. And we PROMISE to post it unaltered. We want to hear from you. We’d love to read WHY you think Faye Storer is a figure of towering statesmanship. We are agog to learn why you see the Wharetana Bay business as an excellent step in the right direction or why we need to stop questioning the Auckland Council when they force their wishes upon us without adequate consultation. We’d be fascinated to know why you think the island should be run like Queensland’s Gold Coast.
Otherwise we will never understand you. “Hedgehogs,” we’ll keep thinking, “They can hide, but they can’t run!”

WATCH, LEARN, AND ABOVE ALL REMEMBER.

Wharetana bay, 7.AM Monday 1st of October 2012.

So the Spring tide came and went, leaving two more bits of unwanted debris washed up on our shores. The builders and house movers looked bemused, the police and Rent-a Cops looked embarrassed and the protesters looked furious. It was cold and very wet, especially for those hardy souls who braved the sea up to their waists and kept this unpopular development delayed, (Though sadly not enough).

Now I haven’t been on a protest in many years. My original approach as I got down the slippery path to the beach in the dark was to observe and report. Do my best to look as if I was sporting one of those classic hats with a PRESS tag in the band. “A protester? Not me Officer! I’m just here to get the story!”

It didn’t work. There were simply too many people I like and respect already there blocking the barge’s access for me to sit on the sidelines. In seconds I was sitting on the damp sand, arms linked with those around me and showing willing in the matter of slowing down one of the most contentious developments this island of ours has seen in years. Banners were held up, chants chanted and views made very plain.

It had fallen to the hapless Gary Wilton to be the Council’s man on the spot and he did his best to read out the notice detailing the closure of the reserve for the day. I heard the first few words before the cat calling drowned him out. You have to hand it to Gary. In a community that views Council staff with contempt and loathing, he manages to be the one staff member we can’t bring ourselves to dislike. They ought to put him in charge of teaching the rest how to appear human in public. Had any other council employee attempted to do what he did the abuse would have been vicious and uncompromising and quite right too.

Still, there was the local version of The Riot Act read out and it fell to the rather embarrassed looking constabulary to enforce it. No surprises to see Martini Gotje targeted and hauled away past the barriers first. That lad has Veteran Protester written all over him and the police know to eject them first.

One by one we were all escorted or dragged (According to personal preference) from the beach. That left four or five hardy types right in the sea in front of the barge. They did magnificently. One by one they were removed by cops who had to wade into the water to get them. One of the last to go was local board member Paul Walden, making his point very firmly and establishing himself as the one Board member who actually bloody LISTENS to the disquiet of the community on this issue. Long may he do so.

Well, the barge was going to get in. We all knew that. But the point was very firmly made by both sides. They can do as they please, we won’t go along with it. Because what we saw this morning was PRIVILIGE. That’s ‘Private Law’ in its original form. Yes, there are rules and regulations by the pound. Vast books full of niggling laws and requirements that we must all comply with if we so much as want to build a garden shed. Did I say ALL? Silly me. If you can afford it, then the law will look the other way while you do whatever the hell you like. Spend enough and they’ll even provide policemen to keep the little people away while you break it. Then, elected officials who should know better slide away from the whole mess describing it as ‘A sad and sorry saga’.

Right. But can we add the word ‘Corrupt’ to that description I wonder? Because there was more than a whiff of it around this morning. The council of course absolutely HATE that word. They go mad with vexation if anyone mentions it. But, can I offer them a suggestion? If you folks don’t want us thinking that you are all as crooked as corkscrews with your grubby fingers in every brown envelope full of hard cash then stop BEHAVING as if you are!

Likewise, if you were, just as an example, the Chair of a local community board representing a small community that sees you increasingly as a half witted, soulless robot who doesn’t give a damn about what their community wants or needs then stop behaving like one. Especially if you harbour any ambitions of still being in office this time next year.

Because for me at least, that is the main thing that keeps me involved in watching all of this. Wharetana Bay isn’t the first place on Waiheke where some spoiled rich idiot wanted to do something ugly and it won’t be the last. But if we have all learned one important lesson today it is this; The Auckland Council treat us with contempt. They couldn’t give a damn about us as long as we keep paying their extortionate rates demands and do as we are told. And if that wasn’t bad enough we have a local board who don’t care what we think either.

Still, only a year to go until Faye Storer and her cronies have to get out and about in an effort to keep themselves in office. Last time round they all said that they would LISTEN.

They LIED.

I won’t forget that and neither should you.Wharetana bay, 7.AM Monday 1st of October 2012.

So the Spring tide came and went, leaving two more bits of unwanted debris washed up on our shores. The builders and house movers looked bemused, the police and Rent-a Cops looked embarrassed and the protesters looked furious. It was cold and very wet, especially for those hardy souls who braved the sea up to their waists and kept this unpopular development delayed, (Though sadly not enough).
Now I haven’t been on a protest in many years. My original approach as I got down the slippery path to the beach in the dark was to observe and report. Do my best to look as if I was sporting one of those classic hats with a PRESS tag in the band. “A protester? Not me Officer! I’m just here to get the story!”
It didn’t work. There were simply too many people I like and respect already there blocking the barge’s access for me to sit on the sidelines. In seconds I was sitting on the damp sand, arms linked with those around me and showing willing in the matter of slowing down one of the most contentious developments this island of ours has seen in years. Banners were held up, chants chanted and views made very plain.
It had fallen to the hapless Gary Wilton to be the Council’s man on the spot and he did his best to read out the notice detailing the closure of the reserve for the day. I heard the first few words before the cat calling drowned him out. You have to hand it to Gary. In a community that views Council staff with contempt and loathing, he manages to be the one staff member we can’t bring ourselves to dislike. They ought to put him in charge of teaching the rest how to appear human in public. Had any other council employee attempted to do what he did the abuse would have been vicious and uncompromising and quite right too.
Still, there was the local version of The Riot Act read out and it fell to the rather embarrassed looking constabulary to enforce it. No surprises to see Martini Gotje targeted and hauled away past the barriers first. That lad has Veteran Protester written all over him and the police know to eject them first.
One by one we were all escorted or dragged (According to personal preference) from the beach. That left four or five hardy types right in the sea in front of the barge. They did magnificently. One by one they were removed by cops who had to wade into the water to get them. One of the last to go was local board member Paul Walden, making his point very firmly and establishing himself as the one Board member who actually bloody LISTENS to the disquiet of the community on this issue. Long may he do so.
Well, the barge was going to get in. We all knew that. But the point was very firmly made by both sides. They can do as they please, we won’t go along with it. Because what we saw this morning was PRIVILIGE. That’s ‘Private Law’ in its original form. Yes, there are rules and regulations by the pound. Vast books full of niggling laws and requirements that we must all comply with if we so much as want to build a garden shed. Did I say ALL? Silly me. If you can afford it, then the law will look the other way while you do whatever the hell you like. Spend enough and they’ll even provide policemen to keep the little people away while you break it. Then, elected officials who should know better slide away from the whole mess describing it as ‘A sad and sorry saga’.
Right. But can we add the word ‘Corrupt’ to that description I wonder? Because there was more than a whiff of it around this morning. The council of course absolutely HATE that word. They go mad with vexation if anyone mentions it. But, can I offer them a suggestion? If you folks don’t want us thinking that you are all as crooked as corkscrews with your grubby fingers in every brown envelope full of hard cash then stop BEHAVING as if you are!
Likewise, if you were, just as an example, the Chair of a local community board representing a small community that sees you increasingly as a half witted, soulless robot who doesn’t give a damn about what their community wants or needs then stop behaving like one. Especially if you harbour any ambitions of still being in office this time next year.
Because for me at least, that is the main thing that keeps me involved in watching all of this. Wharetana Bay isn’t the first place on Waiheke where some spoiled rich idiot wanted to do something ugly and it won’t be the last. But if we have all learned one important lesson today it is this; The Auckland Council treat us with contempt. They couldn’t give a damn about us as long as we keep paying their extortionate rates demands and do as we are told. And if that wasn’t bad enough we have a local board who don’t care what we think either.
Still, only a year to go until Faye Storer and her cronies have to get out and about in an effort to keep themselves in office. Last time round they all said that they would LISTEN.
They LIED.
I won’t forget that and neither should you.
Path:

A Late Night Bouquet.

OK, politics fans. It’s late and I have radio and theatre to do tomorrow so I’ll make this one brief.

But it needs saying.

I know it looks as if I rag on our two newspapers rather hard. That’s probably because I do. It’s not like it’s DIFFI

CULT. By and large, both are wretched on a week to week basis. The days of towering figures such as Simon Johnson and Greg Treadwell are far behind us it seems and we are the worse for it. But if I seem to go on a bit it is because I bloody CARE! I grew up with both politics and newspapers as the background to my life. I love both in equal measure.
Actually, that’s not quite true. I love newspapers and love watching politicians get tormented by them would be closer to the mark. So if I set about our local media with cudgels various it’s done with a caring touch.

There. Aren’t I being nice?

So, never let it be said that I don’t give credit where it is very much DUE. And those of you who are still up might like to check into the Gulf News website and see the excellent story posted as a News UPDATE no less, (When did Granny Gulf News ever do THAT before eh?) on the Open-Gate mystery.

A tip of the hat to Martin Moore for managing to do some proper digging and lay out some fresh facts on the matter. And well done The Gulf News for doing the whole online news update thing. Keep it up. It suits you.

Can I also add, while we are here and chatting, that my considerable interest in this story lies not with the golf club or the riding club. I know many of you and you know I have no axe to grind there. But what I do want to focus on is the unusual degree of local political involvement in this seemingly innocuous case and the decidedly iffy media coverage that flowed from it.

So while I’m grateful to all of you who have dropped me fascinating facts about the horse, the putting greens and, one supposes, the odd horse jobby, I’m rather more interested in the growth of the exotic political house plant that has sprung, unexpected, from such humble manure and the horticulturalists that are watering it.