The Thunder of Hooves

Some political scandals have the most prosaic beginnings. A hotel gets burgled, a dress fails to make it to the dry cleaners or a TV cameraman ‘forgets’ his tape recorder in a café. And when such events develop a life of their own and begin to gi

ve off a scandalous aroma then the first eager scribe who gets to dissect the story in public is duty bound to name the affair by choosing some key word and tacking the suffix ‘Gate’ onto it.

Well, what do we call this nasty business on the golf course? ‘Horse-Gate’? ‘Golf-Gate’?

No. If we are being realistic then the only gate in this case was ‘OPEN-GATE’.

Someone didn’t secure their horse, the horse went walkies and took a short cut over the golf course without replacing its divots as it went. Regrettable certainly, but hardly the stuff of which political upheavals are made. The event stirred a brief flurry of comment on Facebook last Sunday but as just a basic animal control issue it hardly seemed worth getting that excited about.
That was until the limp organ formerly known as the Waiheke Marketplace decided to cover the story, and in doing so surrendered the last tattered shreds of its credibility as an independent voice in local media. The page two story was the usual mess of disjointed squawking that we’d expect, full of baseless assertions about willful damage and deliberate vandalism. But the photo that went with it seemed a bit odd. What was so dreadful about this incident that local board leader Faye Storer was called away from her Sunday breakfast to be pictured with golf club staff and police, crouching on the dented greensward and looking concerned?
There could be a perfectly innocent explanation of course. Perhaps the Leaderene was breakfasting at the golf club that morning by chance? I’ve heard the café there is very good. It is possible that, seeing some fuss being made outside, she set aside her coffee and croissant and ventured out to see what was amiss, arriving at the same time as the photographer and being ‘smudged’ by simple chance.

That alone was hardly earth shaking stuff. But to get to the meat of the matter one has to turn to what passes for a letters page. Now most weeks the Marketplace letters page is a sad affair, rarely covering half a page and filled with tiresome bleating content from the semi-literate.
Not this week! Let’s turn to that page and see what we can make of it. Firstly there is a slab of bombastic nonsense from golf club president Graeme Orr. In it he makes it plain that in his view the incident was deliberate. Someone saddled up their huge and possibly rabid horse and intentionally rode it back and forth across the greens to cause maximum damage. Nothing resembling proof is offered of course, but hey! Who needs PROOF when you’re on a roll?

Then there is a similar letter from S Williams of Blackpool, also taking the view that the damage was entirely deliberate and couched in the kind of terminology usually only used for deploring major acts of terrorism. I mean really!
Riding Club president Claudia Lapp is allowed to ’Call for calm’ as the paper hysterically puts it, and suggest the possibility that this was simply an escaped animal.

But it is the letter from Faye Storer’s faithful sidekick Jo Holmes that gives the game away and shows this for the deplorable beat-up it clearly is. Holmes’s letter is so ludicrously over the top, so revoltingly embellished with hyperbole that a chap could develop indigestion simply looking at it. The best is saved for last as she tops off her frenzied epistolary confection with that famous quote concerning good men doing nothing and the consequences thereof.

Well…I see your Edmund Burke quote and raise you one Shakespeare;

“The lady doth protest too much methinks…”

Way, WAY too much. So much in fact that it would alert even the most room temperature intellect to the fact that this is about a lot more than just a temporarily damaged golf course. Because let’s face it, when it comes to willful vandalism this island is not short of egregious examples, many of them council approved and drawing no comment at all from our local board.

So what is really going on here? Could this be the opening salvo of the current board’s election campaign? Didn’t that chap we all elected to fill the vacant spot on the board have something to do with the long running tension between those who like pretending they are in charge of what is really a powerful motorcycle with a nasty, brutish intelligence tucked away somewhere behind the scary lawn mower attachment at the front and those whose lives revolve around the questionable delights of poking a small white bouncy ball around a lawn with a metal stick?

Of course he did. And now it seems that the board, annoyed at finding themselves stuck with a new member voted on by a population still seething with annoyance over their clumsy and arrogant behaviour following the last election, are looking for ways to destabilise him. Well, that’s politics I suppose, and if Paul Walden is feeling beleaguered right now by the crass and vulgar attempts of his fellow board members to smear him with this then it is really part of the game.
Yet he should take heart and look on the bright side. The attack on him has been so crudely handled that it seems very likely to rebound on those who staged it. The obviously coordinated nature of the letters in both the Marketplace and the Gulf News must have seemed like a good idea to the perpetrators at the time but in cold print they look as phony and contrived as an episode of Masterchef.

The efforts of both Storer and Holmes to stir the pot are so cretinously shabby that they reflect shamefully on both. If this is any indication of how they intend to carry on in future then their removal from office next election seems not only desirable but imperative.

The person whose careless attention to detail on the matter of horse confinement caused all this really should own up. It’s only fair. Horses are huge, dangerous things and allowing one to roam is reprehensible. I know these things happen from time to time but in this instance your lack of care has caused a truly toxic outcome.

But above all, to George Gardner, editor of the Marketplace,
SHAME ON YOU.
Was the final loss of your paper’s independence and credibility really worth it? Are you now so lacking in editorial control that you were required to stand aside helplessly as your paper was hijacked for a beat up as cheap and trashy as this? Are you really expecting any of us to respect your paper’s integrity, (such as it was) in future?

A bad business all round folks, and where will the trail of poison lead next? I have a few ideas and I very much doubt that this will be my last word on the matter.

Media Watch Week 2: The Gulf News

<img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-552" title="emperorpenguin" src="http://onewaiheke.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/emperorpenguin.jpg" alt="Emperor Penguin" w

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?

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.

MEDIA WATCH PART2. The Gulf News

Oh this is MUCH better! If I cast any aspersions yesterday on the ability of our independent local newspaper to get its teeth into Faye-Gate with appropriate relish then I take it all back. Full marks to Liz Waters and the team at the Gulf News for their coverage of the big story.

There it is at the top of the front page. Yet I found myself thinking; ‘Full coverage on page 14?’ That seems a long way below the fold…’ Silly me, I’d forgotten that the Editorial and letters pages come first and what a mail bag! Fifteen letters printed out of however many they actually got and thirteen of those full of teeth gnashing over the whole messy business. Read them in full I urge you. The points raised are too numerous to get into here but all are worth consideration.

Then, on page fourteen we get down to the real meat of the story. All five board members get their say and it makes for uneasy reading. Faye Storer is sticking to her ‘I’m back in power. What I say goes’ position which is no surprise. Then we finally get to hear from Don McKenzie who has been silent up to now. ‘People have nothing to worry about’ says he. Oh, well, that’s alright then. He then goes on about ‘Objective Criteria’ which, given the passion and fury raised over all this seems a rather cold and bloodless way of dealing to the matter.

Then Hannan and Holmes let it all hang out. ‘In some ways it WAS a C&R caucus’ they announce. Oh joy. Just what we needed to hear. Jim then goes on to remind us that; “I have to go with my core support. They made it clear that’s what they wanted.”

Well personally I’m keen to hear from Jim’s ‘core support’ too. They seem to be very quiet at present. Maybe they are away on holiday? Or perhaps their computers have all broken down? Apart from Graham Guthrie’s reply on this site a few days ago and a short and rather strange letter on page thirteen from Kara Nelson of all people, those in support of our new board are keeping their heads well down. Maybe next week we may see some letters arguing the Gang of Four’s position. I for one will look forward to that.

Jim Hannan is also quoted as saying; ‘I believe in honesty. I will always be totally open.’ Excellent! I believe much the same. Which is why I can say the following with total conviction; Jim, you are a prating coxcomb. You have dug yourself a hole right in the middle of a septic tank and seem determined to keep digging. I will watch your fatuous antics over the next three years the same way I watched your ludicrous predecessor Nobilangelo.

So there you have it. Week one of Faye-Gate and the papers have had their say. Well done to all at the Gulf News. With the community in turmoil and disquiet our local paper rose to the challenge and delivered the goods. Now it is up to the Marketplace to raise their game accordingly.

MEDIA WATCH. Part 1. The Waiheke Marketplace

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OK folks, now we get down to the details. Since Friday afternoon this plucky website has been bringing you up to the minute news concerning all the delights of what some are already calling ‘Faye-Gate’. We’ve had some passionate calls for a drastic rethink over board positions and even a call for everyone to sit down, shut up and accept what we cannot change.

But Wednesday has rolled around and the first of our two newspapers has hit the streets. So let’s see what ‘The Weekly Fairfax’ has to say on the matter. There’s a small story on page three headed; ‘New local board chooses its two leaders.’ No mention of any controversy, indeed the tone of the article is upbeat and positive. Reading this you’d believe everything was sweetness and light. Andy Spence’s application for a recount is also featured just below.

But when we reach page eight things start to get exciting. As you open the page you can see straight away that the ‘Fairfax’ has just had its largest mail bag ever. There’s even a note that reads; ‘We have been inundated with letters over the issue of the selection of the Waiheke Local Board Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson. We apologise we cannot publish all letters, but the following provides a sample of your views.’

‘Inundated’ eh? There’s a surprise. So let’s see how this cross section of views shapes up. Firstly there are letters from Angela Newton and Nicholas Herren both raising concerns over the nature of the process as reported. In fact Ms Newton goes further and raises the whole tricky matter of ‘Ferry Pass-Gate’, (of which, more later I’m sure).

Then we have letters from Jo Holmes, Jim Hannan and Faye Storer herself. All address the question of whether the decisions were made prior to the first meeting and in the absence of Denise Roche.

All three deny this, though Jim then goes and spoils it by mentioning a ‘Phone Round’ the night before the meeting. Jo Holmes goes after John Stansfield’s original email and claims that it ‘is full of inaccuracies’, though she then fails to explain exactly what the inaccuracies actually were so that’s not a lot of help.

Jan Scott from Waiheke Radio adds a clarification to any impression that might have been given during her interview with Faye Storer on Saturday morning and makes it clear that she believes that the accusation of a prior meeting is unfounded.

Finally, Millie Watkins writes to praise Denise Roche for all her efforts over the past three years and quite right too.

Phew! So far so good. All we seem to be missing are a couple of letters from locals delighted with the way the process has worked and expressing confidence in the new board. We must assume that these letters were among those that had to be set aside for lack of space. Never mind, those of you thrilled with the new board are welcome to add your thoughts here on One Waiheke. No lack of space here I assure you.

So the suggestion that the ‘Gang of Four’ met together to carve up the board’s responsibilities between them prior to presenting Denise Roche with a ‘Faye t’acomplit’ must now be set aside. The charge has been made and three of the four have publicly denied it. Fair enough. But that’s hardly the whole issue is it? There’s still the matter of public feeling over the way Denise Roche has been sidelined despite her considerable majority. The allocations of portfolios has not been mentioned either.

So you can be sure that we have not heard the last of this.
For me, the most annoying note was struck by Jim Hannan. At the end of his letter he makes it clear that what he refers to as ‘Moderate’ voters are happy with the result and that any opposition is being driven by the extreme left.

Well now hold on. If Jim thinks it is that easy then let me spell something out for him. I am unhappy with the way our local board is developing yet I am in no way left of centre politically. If he doubts this let him listen to the back issues of ‘Opinionated Islanders’ for proof.
The first time I got turned loose to vote in a general election I voted for Margaret Thatcher. The last time I voted for Act with my party vote and Nikki Kaye for MP. I’m a free market Libertarian, an opponent of Trade Union activity, a climate change sceptic and an enthusiastic gun owner. Does that make me ‘extreme left’? Not unless they have changed the political goalposts by an awfully long way without me realising. But I tell you this, I’m 100% for Waiheke.

So let’s not have any of this simplistic drivel about Lefties please. You don’t have to be a card carrying Red to recognise when something stinks and our new board members would do well to remember this before they start trying to pigeonhole us in such childish ways.

So now we wait to see what tomorrow brings. Will Granny Gulf News put her dentures in and give this story the gnashing it deserves? Watch this space!

Questions

After listening to Jan Scott’s interview of Faye on Waiheke Radio, I was struck by the claim that due to time pressure, Faye had undertaken to create portfolios and divvy them up, as well as simply write in the obvious- that she and Jo, being the de facto power couple, would share the top seats. All of this rushed business was ostensibly necessary to fulfill council’s mandate for the local board to “hit the ground and running”  (sic). After speaking with Anna Bray, Stewardship Manager at ACC, I discovered that no such mandate exists. The boards were asked to start to “have a think” about role allocations. There is a big difference between starting a conversation about roles and completing the process in less than 3 days. Faye gave the example of one local board that met for long hours into the night because they took the mandate so seriously. That is laudable, unless those hours were spent without the entire board present for such an important discussion and process. And of course we don’t know that the board did more than start the conversation.

How is this board going to work? That is the question on my mind. Before making final decisions, this board needs to spend the time to hash things out, not rubber stamp role allocations hastily devised and allocated.

It would seem advisable for all concerned to simply scrap anything that has gone on so far and start from a clean slate.

The following are just the beginnings of  questions to answer about the process board members engaged in or plan to engage in.
Specifically-
What actions has each board member undertaken to demonstrate willingness to consult among all 5 board members- this is an easily verifiable question- how many informal gatherings which include all 5 to get acquainted, how many formal gatherings?

How many times have  the 2 people who have voiced interest in being chairpersons met and discussed possible mutually accceptable solutions?
How many board members have submitted suggestions for portfolios?
Has there been an opportunity for all board members to gather together to brainstorm possibilities?
What may have been appropriate portfolios for a community board, may or may not be suitable for the expanded responsibilities of this new board, and new portfolios may be required- that truly is a daunting task, not for one person, and not to be sorted in a 5 minute tabling motion. This is not community board 2, this is a whole new game.

Regarding criteria for selecting chair and deputy chair-

Has there been a discussion amongst the group of 5 to brainstorm and select the criteria that all agree are pertinent? Has there then been a fair process of applying that criteria to all interested candidates?

What actions and processes has the local board devised to operate in a fair and transparent manner?

This way we can know how to evaluate whether board members are living up to their stated goals of effective leadership.
Judging by just these first questions, it is obvious that the board members have many meetings in front of them, formal and informal, to address all of these issues and come up with a high quality result.