Mayor slaps down motion to save reserves

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    A notice of motion to save a reserve in the Pakuranga electorate of Sunnyhills has been lost despite strong opposition from local residents and councillors to the sale.

    By revoking reserve status, Auckland Council will now be able to sell the property.

    The hotly contested debate at the Auckland Council’s Finance and Performance Committee meeting last week was covered by Auckland Council reporter Laura Kvigstad of the independent news initiative funded by New Zealand on Air.

    It highlighted a strong divide between councillors, with the mayor accusing some councillors of voting against every cost-cutting measure and in favour of every expenditure, Kvigstad said in her report:

    The decision comes as a result of council’s emergency budget in 2020 which looked to raise $244 million through council property sales.

    Cr Sharon Stewart put forward the notice of motion and said there would be a tsunami of apartments in Howick and holding on to green spaces was important.

    “Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Stewart said. “When things come right for council, and it one day will, we will need to buy more green spaces.”

    Cr Wayne Walker said councillors all knew intensification was going to happen with incoming government policies which made green spaces more important than ever.

    “There is almost no land on an individual property for a child to play,” Walker said.

    Walker said when a community overwhelmingly supports holding on to a property it was important for council to listen. By voting the motion down, “it is an ongoing failure and another reflection of the crisis in confidence that exists in Auckland around this council and parts of its leadership.”

    Cr Tracy Mulholland said the sale of Fortyfoot reserve accounted for $1.74 million in the budget and was a small sum for the value. “The public has made it abundantly clear they are using the park for their enjoyment. Reserves are for community enjoyment and not cash reserves for council,” Mulholland said.

    Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore said the sale of 9R Fortyfoot Lane allowed for reinvestment in the community like a new recreation centre proposed in Howick.  “I would think every councillor has tossed and turned over the sale of reserve land,” he said.

    “Your heart wants to go, ‘let’s give this one back’. I want some back in Franklin. I am sure Cr Watson and Walker will want some back in Upper Harbour and Albany… Where does it end?” Cashmore said without the sale of assets council would need to implement a 10 percent additional rate increase.

    Cr Pippa Coom said the Fortyfoot reserve benefited a very small neighbourhood.

    “If we start unravelling every single sale then there is going to be a domino effect,” Coom said.

    She criticised Stewart’s vote against this year’s rate increases in the annual budget that would raise revenue for open space acquisition.

    “You did not listen to your community in terms of that vote. I am sorry to the community members that are now discovering that their councillor did not support the budget for open space acquisition.”

    Mayor Phil Goff said several councillors supporting the motion had voted against the budget.“I am sorry you cannot vote against every revenue-raising measure and for every spending measure,” he said.

    “If you do not want to sell the properties tell me how you are going to raise that $244 million?”

    Goff said if councillors made an exception for the Sunnyhills reserve it would invite other communities around Auckland to ask for the same consideration.

    “Here is where the rub comes; you have got to apply your rules fairly.”

    While the motion to not remove the reserve designation was lost, Cr Christine Fletcher, Tracy Mulholland, Daniel Newman, Greg Sayers, Sharon Stewart, Wayne Walker, John Watson and Paul Young voted in favour, said Kvigstad’s report.

    What really left a bad taste in my mouth was the again-glaring demonstration that the council’s fiscal hole is driving Roger-gnome austerity dogma that we should be over by now, not popping up to remind the younger generations that we, collectively, don’t give a toss about them or their homes, their families or their future life.

    And while Tamaki riverside districts aren’t the most deprived area of the Supercity’s dominion, we need to get clear what the council’s management agenda is.

    Will the sale price be set behind closed doors and confidentiality clauses and be spent elsewhere? Is the $244 million going for the mayor’s Covid woes, systemic overspending or ‘acquisitions’ ?  Do we trust this administration that sold its Grey’s Avenue high-rise block for less than the value of the flooring in its foyer?  That, in the middle of Covid lockdowns, piled in six-figure Panuku staff to manage the process of selling off local parks and parking?

    Informed, rather than tribal, voting would be a start.• Liz Waters

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