This time three years ago, we were on our hind legs about the island’s ferry monopolies, the Kennedy Point development was hardly being welcomed with open arms and we had the stupid notion that we could solve the problems at Mātiatia to suit its purpose as the island’s visitor gateway and commuter terminal. Getting and keeping staff was already an issue for businesses, due to rising house prices and lack of new builds for anything that wasn’t destined to be used for AirB&B.
This local government election cycle, with mayoral, ward and local board candidates putting themselves forward between now and the 8 October polling deadline, has less of the torpid vacuity of that last time.
Unfortunately, all these issues are coming round again, now garnished with a dreadful urgency that owes less to Covid than to the stasis of Auckland’s council in the face of a sequence of existential crises including ram raids by youngsters who seem to barely count as human in the city of their birth.
On Waiheke, the Mātiatia traffic midden hasn’t made an inch of progress despite annual ‘trials’ of totty-headed tinkering and theft of parking justified by the odd notion that it will save us from global warming.
Plans to give Waiheke – and then the rest of the city’s unsung local boards – more ability to find and make sensible, let alone transformative community decisions, drifted away. Our visitors in Oneroa may get a usable toilet for the summer – in a shed. And we still live at the mercy of ferry monopolies whose snatch-and-grab fare regimes are single-handedly making life on the island impossible for either its community or city visitors.
Over the next five weeks, Gulf News will put a sequence of questions to the 12 candidates for the five-member Waiheke Local Board and to the four candidates for the city council ward seat representing Waitematā and the Hauraki Gulf in the Auckland Council chamber.
We will ask all candidates for their opinions, from how they see the building consents system could be improved to how far they would back youngsters (who don’t have a vote) protesting against the lack of climate action from people in office.
We will ask them all for their position on Waiheke’s current marine reserve application led by former city councillor and again candidate Mike Lee which is now with the Department of Conservation; their position on the Kennedy Point marina, their views on how the island can stimulate a year-round economy and whether tree protection and greenspace compliance rules can be administered less haphazardly.
All of which are important to the point of desperation for Waihekeans – and to all of the smaller and poorer areas of the Auckland supercity. We are an engaged lot with a high level of voter turnout at any time and we can play a leadership role.
More importantly, climate change legislation and council engagement was on this month’s agenda for the Waiheke Local Board (along with tree planting) and we need to know how the candidates we select will be about advocating for islanders.
“How would you contribute to a board that represents all of the island’s demographics?” becomes vitally important. “How do you think you deal with conflict in a group?” would be useful.
We will also be asking candidates whether they will vote, as the board did last term, for behind-closed-doors workshops with officials, a practice the country’s ombudsman is currently challenging.
Given the complexity of the issues faced by the wider city, including the probably-disastrous rail link financial blowout that Mayor Goff has dodged, we’d also better choose wisely for a mayor prepared to advocate for Aucklanders in Wellington and ensure the city in 2025 works for everyone.
The wealthy have enough for now and we need some serious levelling-up to capture all the solutions, not just shiny stuff and pet projects put forward by officials.
Mayoral candidate and current councillor Efeso Collins at least knows what the inside of the council chamber looks like, and it shows in the hustings. He fields a lot of policy and common-sense oversight that makes him a standout candidate to lead a down-to-earth turnaround.
‘Dream of an Auckland that’s different’ the Spinoff headlined his mayoralty campaign launch and he promises a fairer, more affordable city. Former Auckland City mayor Dick Hubbard described him as “a natural leader for the current times”.
Leaving the world a better place than you found it is an old fashioned notion buried deep in most of us, and an Auckland (and its Gulf) that was bullied into the ‘economic powerhouse’ role that John Key so firmly espoused is due some tender, loving and intelligent care.
• Liz Waters