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.