Media Watch Week 2: The Gulf News

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idth=”240″ height=”299″ />What is it they say about teaching old dogs new tricks? Well they are right. It’s a devilishly tricky business.

I refer of course to my bemusement at suddenly, in comfortable middle age, finding myself as a Lefty. It’s all rather new and strange. I’ve never been one before you see. I’ve been a student, an actor, a writer, a brewer, a folk singer, a son, a brother, a husband, an annoying menace, a beer sodden fool, and once, during the Sussex magic mushroom harvest of 1979, an emperor penguin called Betty.

But a proper Leftist/Marxist/Trotskyite/Wobbly/Red-under-The-Bed? Never. But there you go. Seems my involvement with the rest of you tiny minority agitator types over the last week or so has forced this amazing metamorphosis upon me and now I have to get used to it. Our new leaders have spoken from their Olympian heights upon the subject and they seem to know about this stuff. They are real politicians you see, and their word is law.

One glimpse at the editorial page of the Gulf News will make the change irreversible apparently. The far left propaganda of ‘Red Liz’ and her Bolshevik cohorts at April Arcade will turn you from a decent citizen into a bomb heaving anarchist before you even get to the letters page. What fascinating times we live in eh?

So bear with me ‘Comrades’ as I try and assimilate all this. I’ve been trying to remember how the lefties of my student days went about their daily business. There’s the open toed sandals and duffel coat to be worn of course. Always start with the simple stuff. Crap dress sense I can manage. But what about actually BUYING the paper? I can’t go to Woolworths obviously. That’s a huge faceless multinational that grinds the faces of the workers or some such. So it will have to be the corner store. Maybe I could even walk there and reduce my carbon footprint? Maybe not, one thing at a time. What if they bid me a good morning? Normally I’d agree but as a Lefty I might have to add that the nice weather is due to climate change and that fifteen and a half polar bears have asphyxiated in the time it took me to buy the paper. This is proving harder than I thought.

So, back home and time to read. Get a coffee on the go and…Oh hell, is it Fair Trade coffee? It doesn’t say on the packet. Back to the shop, remembering to get roll your own tobacco for that authentic ‘Solidarity with the workers’ look. No tailor mades for this lefty thank you very much. Light one of those up and you might as well vote ACT and be done with it.

With the refreshments dealt with we turn to the Gulf News. What biased reportage can we expect? Very little as it turns out. There’s a small headline at the bottom of the front page that mentions ‘dismay’ in certain quarters and a story on the new Mayor promised for page 16.the editorial is gentle and surprisingly upbeat. Not actually ‘BALANCED’ of course. They still mention that there are some people still not happy with the state of things. To be ‘BALANCED’ means ignoring that stuff apparently. But twenty three letters take us all the way to page 12 with only one NOT relating to politics and one not actually relating to Faye-Gate. Several are ones we’ve already read in the ‘Fairfax’ so no surprises there, I do wish these people would add their thoughts on One Waiheke as well.

Once again we’ll set aside the letters from board members and see how the public divides. This time it’s eleven to Denise and four to Faye. Obviously the huge majority of pro Faye letters were omitted thus proving the intolerable bias of the Gulf News. Right?

The pro-Faye letters rehash the whole Chair debate and focus entirely on the assumption that this is all her detractors care about. Hey ho, here we go again.

And so we reach page 19 and once again are urged not to get disorderly on Saturday. The article has no quotes from the G of F so once again we are in Biasville, but does manage to give some good information concerning how Saturday’s activities will develop. The story ends with a quote from the Council’s press release saying that the meeting will include ‘local entertainment’.
I rather think it will.

As for me I just want to be a Libertarian again! Is there any way I can go back to that and still think Faye Storer is well out of order?

Media Watch Week 2: The Marketplace

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Once more to the news stands dear friends and let’s see what the print media have to offer us.
Last week’s ‘Fairfax’ seemed oddly out of step with the times, with no coverage in their news pages on the whole messy business and only the letters page to show that anything was amiss. Sultry editrix George Gardner was heard to observe that it being a long weekend, news ‘stopped happening’. An interesting take on solipsism if ever I heard one and we really need a philosophy expert to sort that one out for us. Answers on a postcard please.

But this week the story gets a full page of coverage with two stories, one laying out the basic stuff and another focusing on Mike Lee’s call for everyone to behave on Saturday. The tone is brisk and we shouldn’t be too surprised to find it somewhat dismissive of the concerns of many locals regarding the Gang of Four.

Onward we go to the extensive letters page where, after four letters on assorted other matters we come to the Faye-Gate correspondence. Here at last we get to hear from those who support the new board as it stands. Leaving aside letters from actual board members we have a grand total of seven letters voicing support, four of outrage and one that doesn’t really go either way.

Well, seven people is a fair start I suppose. Several of them refer to being in a ‘majority’ which seems a trifle over optimistic given how long it took them to appear. Like Jim Hannan’s ‘Core Support’ I expect they are too busy to get involved in all this and prefer to stay silent.

What does come across however is how the seven letters of support fail to understand more than the basic idea of what so many of us are worried about. There seems to be an idea that all we are protesting is the fact that Denise Roche was not elected Board Chairperson. Well I’m sorry, but this is nonsense. Certainly a lot of people would have liked to see her get the Big Chair, given her considerable popular support, but that’s NOT the main issue. Had the board met for the first time and voted against her in public we’d have accepted that. Nobody ever suggested that the highest polling candidate was automatically entitled to the chair, just that it should be an option.

The problem is the WAY IT WAS DONE. And to compound the matter, the way in which Faye and her supporters have behaved in the last ten days is not something that sits well either. Too much arrogance and not enough of the ‘Listening’ that all of them swore they were so good at during the campaign. They have been too ready to dismiss those of us who questioned them as;
Bad losers.
Extremists.
Greenies.
Conspiracy Theorists.
Gulf News Readers.
Looney Lefties.
Rabble.
And, worst of all A MINORITY.

Well fine. You folks go right ahead and build your ramparts of self belief. Reassure yourselves that you are right and anyone who dares say otherwise is simply wrong and therefore not worth listening to. Enjoy your three years of self importance.

Then, in three years time when you have to unlock the castle gates and mix with the common herd once more….Then we’ll talk.

Denise Roche – Olive Branch

I’ve been heartened by the huge response from people concerned about the first decision – for the chair and deputy chair – being made by our new local board and once again our community has demonstrated that it has a strong sense of fair play. Despite all our best efforts however I’ve had no response to suggest that any of the board members have changed their minds.

All those emails, letters, phone calls, facebook and web page comments are not wasted though.  The mass action by so many people in our community has sent a very clear signal to every member of the local board that the community will not be left out of local decision making and it’s a fine start for ensuring that the board ‘engages’ with the community.  For the new members particularly the level of concern that people have expressed to them is a wake up call reminding them that elected representatives do need to be accountable to the whole community.

The inauguration is on Saturday and I’m determined to work with this new board for the best interests of Waiheke. I don’t want to squander the opportunity that so many people fought so hard for us to have when we made submission after submission after submission during the creation of the super city that resulted in us getting our own local board. So I’ll offer another olive branch to the new board members so that we can work together. If it’s refused it doesn’t really matter – I’ve got a whole damn olive grove at my disposal.

I want the swearing in meeting this weekend to be well attended and I also want it to be orderly.   Hope to see you there.

Denise Roche

One way forward

In an earlier comment, I referred to Faye Storer’s assumption of the chair of the Waiheke Local Board as a “coup”, and I’m not the only one to use that term.  On reflection, however, the word is not accurate, because it implies that someone else — Denise Roche, for example — had prior claim to the position.  This is not only untrue, but I think it distracts us from the real problem of the so-called coup and its aftermath.  As Denise herself has said many times (and repeated during Saturday’s interview with Shirin Brown on Waiheke Radio), the urgent issue is not the decisions taken at that infamous Thursday meeting, but the way in which those decisions were made.

Even though any objective analysis of last month’s vote would show greater popular support for Denise than for Faye, the board chair is not elected directly.  Faye has the numbers on the board; it was clear from the first results that Denise would never be chair.  If we need to assign blame for this disconnect between direct and indirect democracy, it is, as is so often the case, because one side’s votes were fragmented and the other side’s weren’t.  Consider this:  The reason we have Len Brown as supermayor instead of John Banks is that Mike Lee refrained from running and splitting the progressive vote.  If Denise’s supporters had shown similar restraint, the makeup of the Local Board would have been very different.  Let us keep this in mind for 2013.

So Denise is not going to chair this board, and no amount of irate comment, petitions, threats to disrupt meetings, not-so-veiled references to scorching, or facile appeals to Len Brown or the Local Government Act is going to change that.  What the people of Waiheke should be upset about, as Denise is upset, is the manner in which Denise has been excluded from participation in board decisions.  Denise does indeed have a mandate from the voters, a stronger one than any other individual on the board.  Due to the same disconnect between direct and indirect democracy that brought Faye to the chair, Denise finds herself representing, alone, the views and interests of a much larger segment of the population than any of the other four board members can lay claim to.  Jim Hannan, in particular, should bear this in mind, as he watches his hair-thin margin over Andy Spence subjected to a recount.  Even if he survives, he will owe his position far more to the chance mathematics of vote fragmentation than to any voter mandate.  Thus Jim’s talk of “core support” is vaporous indeed.

As I’ve said before, there have been two serious errors committed in the past couple of weeks.  The first was to use the Thursday meeting to humiliate Denise, with unnecessarily hurtful declarations of lack of confidence, and false ones of lack of mandate.  The second error was John Stansfield’s call to arms.  Each error has served only to inflame the other side, harden positions, and guarantee that any compromise will be very difficult to achieve.  The best suggestion I’ve heard so far is to have a facilitator sit down with these scrapping children and teach them how to work together.  Unfortunately the suggestion was made by Denise herself, and will therefore be seen as a political ploy and ignored by the other four board members.  I wish the suggestion had been made by someone respected by both sides, such as Mike Lee or Len Brown — or, even better, another board member like Don McKenzie.

Barring that, the only way forward I can see is to revisit the allocation of board portfolios, and to do this in a very public manner, preferably before the Saturday swearing-in ceremony.  Denise has expressed interest (that I’ve heard of) in civil defence, the Recreation Centre, and social services.  Offer her two or three of those, and do so in front of the cameras, so to speak.  If Denise refuses the peace offering, let her do so in public.  If Faye’s well-circulated typed sheet becomes law as is, and Denise’s only participation is to have her nose rubbed in it, then the protesters will have their day, and they will be right.  The Local Board will be discredited as a vehicle of personal vendetta; its voice will carry no weight; and every right-wing opponent of the delegation of supercity powers to the local rabble will point to Waiheke as proof of their oh-so-wise counsel.

Straw Poll 2 – Public Protests

On November 6th the new Waiheke Local Board will be inaugurated. The swearing in of Waiheke’s new board members will be at 3pm at the Ostend War Memorial Hall.

The event will be attend by Mayor Len Brown, Auckland Transition Agency chief executive Doug McKay and Waitemata and Gulf ward councillor Mike Lee.

[SURVEYS 2]

Here are the results up to Thursday night.

Jo Holmes responds

An individual who supported Jo Holmes requested her side of events in response to Denise’s email. That person also asked for permission to forward that response to those that asked in the email thread which Jo gave the go ahead.

Dear [name removed]

I have been subject to 4 days of nasty, inaccurate and insulting emails, texts, and phone calls since Denise’s husband, John Stansfield, sent the following email on Saturday to Denise’s supporters and the wider community.

“just to let you know that Denise has been totally done over by the right on the local board. The other memberds were invited by her to lunch the day after the election but did not come, choosing instead to meet several times without inviting Denise so that they could allocate all the plum jobs without her. Yesterday they presented her with a typed page which makes Fay chair, Jo deputy, Jim the spokesperson on youth waste tourism, the recreation centre (which Denise has done for 3 yrs) She was also shut out of the council of social services area and civil defence which she had requested.
Denise is very fragile after a vicous and humiliating meeting at which the 4 other board members explained they did not have confidence in her and disputed that she had any mandate. She needs the support of her fiends right now as he faces 3 long years with people who are starting their political term by a nasty act of political bastardry”

You have at least done what few others have bothered to do and ask me
what happened.

At a briefing with Council officials a week ago they asked us to have a meeting to elect the Chair and Deputy and allocate portfolios so we could hit the ground running on 1 Nov, official start of the new Auckland City. At the same meeting both Denise and Faye raised their hands saying they wanted the Chair. It was decided to hold the meeting to elect the Chair and Deputy at 2pm on Thursday. Denise lobbied Jim and Don while we were still at Council. She never spoke to me on the matter as it was well know I campaigned with Faye and she assumed, rightly, there would be no point. Faye’s experience alone makes her the obvious Chair. The procedure for electing the Chair and Deputy is on a one man one vote basis with the majority deciding the outcome.

By the Thursday meeting Faye had obviously also lobbied Jim and Don and got their support. With a four to one majority for both Chair and Deputy Faye was elected Chair and myself deputy. As requested Faye was anxious to get on with the business in hand and brought with her a list of ‘possible’ portfolios. These were discussed for over an hour. Denise withdrew her name from several portfolios because of conflict of interest. The ‘possible’ portfolios are not set in concrete but do reflect the skill sets of each Board member.

And there you have it. Due process has been followed. There were no secret meetings.

Since then Denise has spit the dummy big time, thrown the toys out of the cot, and the four of us have been subjected to a mountain of inaccurate and sometimes abusive communications.

Much of this will be in today’s Marketplace and the whole of Gulf (Green) News will be full of it tomorrow. If it’s true we have no confidence in Denise you can see why that might be.

I trust this gives you sufficient background to have faith in your new Board. We are responsible, mature group of independently minded people anxious to move ahead and get on with the job.

Jo Holmes

‘GULLIBLE’ VOTERS

Transcript of a Letter to the Editor  (Gulf News, 18 Oct 2007)

As the partner of Faye Storer, I would like to thank the sensible intelligent people who have supported her for the last 15 years, on the community board and as the Hauraki Gulf councillor.

During that time she has been involved with every major council project on the island, working up to 80 hours, seven days a week for the last nine years to ensure Waiheke got everything it deserved.

For those who voted for candidates other than Faye, all I can say is you must be very gullible people to be taken in by the glib talk and false promises made by them.
Denise Roche in particular has never attended a council or community board meeting, so hardly has the qualifications to be our representative on council. She will be like a lamb to the slaughter at a Citizens and Ratepayers dominated council table. Her inability to get Waiheke anything will show through in a very short time and the ‘Looney Left’ vocal minority who have fought to get rid of Faye and supported Denise will get what they deserve, which is absolutely nothing. Expect to see major cutbacks in Waiheke’s cut of the cake, and the likely sale of the Matiatia land back to private owners.

My next barrage is for the editor of the Gulf News whose editorial of 11 October showed his true colours. It implied that Faye’s salary of $90,000 was extravagantly high. In reality, working an average of 70 hours a week for 48 weeks of year amounts to just over $26 an hour and, after tax, not quite $17.

Do you expect someone working those sorts of hours to it for nothing?

Faye is actually relieved that she no longer has to deal with those people who don’t have the gumption to stand for the community board or council themselves, but snipe at those who do, and is saddened that Waiheke will now suffer because of the selfishness of a few.

The community board, with three particularly hard working members, will now bear the burden of having an ineffectual councillor. Faye will not provide any advice to anyone but them; and Denise Roche is now wholly responsible for all off island decisions and their outcomes.
John Newton, Oneroa

Jim Hannan responds

This letter was passed to OneWaiheke using the Contacts form. I judge from Jim’s invitation to circulate that its ok to print here. [ed]

Dear Jim,
I am deeply upset and shocked at the way the new board seems to be handling things. I have heard about decisions being made between yourself, Don McKenzie, Faye Storer and Jo Holmes, leaving Denise Roche out. I am asking myself how does that support and represent our community? What happened to transparency? Regardless of who I voted for in the elections I would like to see a board that supports each other and communicates and argues if need be but not just bypasses conflict. I hope that the four of you will come clean in this and
include Denise in your decision making. Even if you personally don’t agree with her views she is representing our community as well as the four of you as enough voters have proven.
I am interested to hear what you have to say about that decision making process.
Regards Tina

Dear Tina.

Yours is the only e.mail I have replied to, for it is entirely reasonable in its content.
ON THE QUESTION OFF LOCAL BOARD CHAIR AND DEPUTY CHAIR

From my point of view the election of Chair was clear cut. Faye Storer has the experience and ability to deal with the great detail of Board Meetings.
The real difficulty was the selection of Deputy Chair.
Given the animosity that exists between Denise Roche and Faye Storer, and with being strong minded women I simply could not see them working together in any harmony.
This then left Don McKenzie and myself in a very invidious position.
Both of us as Vision Waiheke electees simply want to do our very best for the Island with no ambition beyond that.

From my point of view the issues were:
1/ To somehow keep the women apart and have a Board that works for the Island as a whole and not just for sectional interests.
2/Denise Roche in her role as Councillor was elected as an Independent, then proceeded to be anything but that.
3/ In the just completed election Denise was careful NOT to put the word Independent after her name.
This indicates the Board has a Green Party Member. Nothing wrong with that , except that it is my view that Denise will be running for the Green Party in next years’ General Election with a quite reasonable chance of success.
Rightly or wrongly, on this basis, I could not vote for Denise as Deputy Chair. The resulting choice was Jo Holmes, who I believe will do an excellent job without fear or favour.
4/For the record I am a member of National Party. This was declared right at the start of the campaign.
5/As for Denise I for one wish to work productively for the Island with with her . My belief is that the other Members feel the same. The ball is now in Denise’s court.
Assuming I survive the current recount process, my absolute commitment to you and all sections of this diverse and vibrant community is this: I will be even handed in any decision making process I am involved in.

Footnote: Both our local papers also have a part to play. Marketplace has shown itself to be even handed in it’s reporting. Sadly with Gulf News one could be forgiven for believing it to be nothing more than an organ for Green Party. Hopefully it can become more balanced going forward.
Feel free to circulate this e.mail as you see fit. Regards

RIGHT, BUT NOT ENOUGH MIGHT.

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might is right book coverThere is a particular group of people on Waiheke that I’d like to address today. Many of them are probably not reading One Waiheke just yet but hopefully can be coaxed gently into the debate that’s raging across the island. As that odious chap once said, a week is a long time in politics. And it’s a week to wait before you get to see any more newspaper coverage so you might as well tune in here if you want to keep up with local opinion.

As Mark James pointed out yesterday it’s foolish to try and classify our community in terms of old fashioned Left and Right. It may still work at national level but here on the Rock it only serves to muddy the waters. But don’t despair. Let’s try it another way. The people I want to reach are the ones who voted for Alex Swney and John Banks rather than Mike Lee and Len Brown. You know who you are. So do I for that matter.

I’m pretty certain that you Swneys are the ones sitting at your computers trying to come up with a letter to the papers in support of the Local Board. You probably feel that here at last is a line up that can get stuff done and maybe move the island in the direction you’d like to see it go. You liked all that stuff about jobs, economic growth and so on. And why not? I myself was thrilled when Jo Holmes threw her hat in the ring and I was happy to support her. Yet now, all this possible progress has been derailed by the spat over the sidelining of Denise Roche. I can see why you are not happy.

It’s a tricky life for Swneys. You certainly wield considerable economic power on the island. You run businesses and create employment. Your custom keeps cafes and restaurants ticking over during the slow months. Yet time and time again you find yourself hopelessly outnumbered by the legions of Lees who block your moves and keep you pinned down, unable to shape the island in your own image.

The only advantage Swneys have is their cohesiveness. They move in the same circles and think in broadly the same ways. Lees may be more numerous but are hampered by their variety of internal factions and obsessions. We only have to look at their excessive line up of candidates to see this.

Let’s just remind ourselves of those numbers once more. I’m sure I got taught statistics at school but I was almost certainly gazing out the window humming an Emerson Lake & Palmer tune to myself at the time so I can’t break these numbers down into percentages with any kind of accuracy, but then with figures like these I don’t really need to. [ed: added pie charts to illustrate]

Read ‘em and weep as the saying has it;

Councilor vote from Waiheke;

Mike Lee 2726

Alex Swney 301

Mayoral Vote from Waiheke;

Len Brown 2290

John Banks 866

See what I mean? All those pep talks from Michelle Boag and back patting sessions at Rotary on Monday nights are never going to make up for the fact that you don’t have the numbers and never will.

Also, just to digress here for a moment, the irony is that the more economic growth you DO manage to create the worse it gets. After all, when Jim Hannan talks about creating jobs he’s not talking about well paid careers, he’s talking about minimum wage jobs. Service industry, tourism, vineyards etc, none of which will pay any better than working for Woolworths and create yet another layer of poorly paid folks living in rented accommodation. And who will THEY vote for come the next election? Mike Lee of course.

So stop and think for a moment before writing that letter in support of Faye Storer and her Swney cabal because it really isn’t going to help either you or them.
We’ve all heard lots in the last week about how Faye is a ‘Career Politician’. If that is the case then she’d know that politics is a bit like sky diving. There’s precious little room for error, and any mistake made above a certain magnitude means it’s ALL OVER. She made her play and its all gone pear shaped. No matter how tough she tries to play it she must realise she’s finished on Waiheke. The only question is whether she goes this week, or in three years time.

So what can be salvaged? If the board gets sworn in next weekend as planned then they face a miserable three years of criticism and mistrust. Nothing they do will make anyone happy least of all themselves. Then, come 2013 they will be massacred at the polls and replaced by five solid Lees. The Swney dream will be well and truly over and it will be 2016 before they get to try again.

It’s not a happy prospect. The Local Board should be balanced, with a bit of give and take from both sides. There is no way that a 4/1 voting bloc of either Lees or Swneys will ever manage to run the island effectively.

Both factions have eight days to get this mess smoothed out. The best way to start is for the Swneys to look to their three board members elect and try to persuade them to make the only sensible move. They have to cut Faye Storer loose and leave her to her fate. I know it sounds harsh, but that’s politics. Right now the focus of public disgust is on her, with Hannan, Holmes and McKenzie perceived as misled beginners. If they jump ship now they can maybe salvage some credibility and hang in there. If they insist on standing by their actions of the last week then all three will go the same way as their leader.

Waiheke really doesn’t need that to happen. If the swearing in on the 6th goes ahead with things the way they are now then Len Brown is going to see Waiheke at its most fractious. No amount of calming talk from anyone is going to stop the inevitable mess of placards and public abuse outside the Ostend Hall. It will not look good.

So come on Swneys. Think this one through and see what you can come up with. Forget building barricades around your ambitions, it simply won’t work. If even one of you reads this then pass it on to others. Join the dialog on here because by the time the Gulf News come out next Thursday it will be too late.

The Smart Way To Go

These are not my words, but I would like to pass on received wisdom:

Even if the Local Board has the right to make this decision to give Faye Storer the Chairmanship, it doesn’t make it the right decision.
The Local Government Act (s14-16) is very explicit on the obligations of councils and boards to take on board the community’s views.
Due to the recent general local body election (with a 65% participation rate – one of the highest in the country)  the community’s view couldn’t be more clear.
Denise to lead – with a more conservative group of board members as a check and balance.