That’s how to get things done


    Would have been around 9.45pm Monday, when out of the darkness at the front of the section there came a muffled yelp and a flickering torchlight.

    I’m not overly proud of the flower bed in the middle of the meadow we pretend is our front lawn, but I do rather like the acer we planted there about four years ago and worried the torch-bearer was somehow intent on tripping over its still fragile branches.

    More stumbling, and the torch headed off towards the ditch on the right of the section. And then came back, wavering once more about the acer.

    I opened a window and inquired of the torch what business it had wandering up our section in the darkness of a Monday night. Interrupting our half-hour of guilty-pleasure My Sky-ed Emmerdale.

    “You’re 109, right?”

    “Nah, 105 … 109’s up the road. Past the vacant section. They’ve got a nicer driveway. Fewer acers.”

    “You sure? Google Maps says you’re 109.”

    “Nah, definitely, 105.”

    “You order takeout?”

    “Nah, that sounds more like it would have been 109. Mind how you go.”

    The torch briefly illuminated a green food-warming bag emblazoned with the name of a popular food delivery company as its carrier turned tail and tried to negotiate a tricky pitch-black trek past the kānuka and back to the road.

    Food deliveries on Waiheke mark a wonderful stride forward for progress (after all, who hasn’t stared blankly at the fridge and then bemoaned the half bottle of wine that prevents a quick trip into the village for a takeout?). But that progress has to be backed up by a goodly mix of adequate technology and common sense.

    In the case of food delivery, employing torch-bearers who know the island would undoubtedly have been common sense. Trusting the numbers on a letterbox over Google Maps would have displayed a similar case of common sense and understanding of technology.

    By far the greatest exhibition of common sense I’ve come across this week – and possibly of the year – is the rather marvellous 24-page Waiheke Island Bus Network – Community Report and Response compiled by the rather marvellous Hana Blackmore.

    A more straightforward take-down of Auckland Transport’s ham-fisted approach to shaking up Waiheke’s public transport network, you couldn’t hope to discover. While there’s certainly emotive language (the opening paragraph of the conclusion describes how “The complete upheaval of what was a stable, working and even comfortable network has left many people bewildered, anxious and seriously distressed”), the report’s power lies within its direct, factual and concisely presented language.

    There’s a timeline that clearly demonstrates AT’s lack of community engagement and understanding about where and how we live, a comprehensive survey  and, most importantly, a series of solutions, notably an argument as to how to change the current system to allow more people to benefit while not costing AT any more of its budget.

    “We offer further straightforward arguments for simple, viable adjustments to the new network that will better balance the needs of residents with the increasing number of visitors,” the report states. “This needs to be considered as part of the review of the whole network that AT will be conducting in the New Year. AT will be adjusting all the routes and timetables anyway when the new service from the car ferry starts, and of course Fullers move to the winter timetable, so this would be the opportune and cost-effective time to implement all changes.”

    There’s more about Ms Blackmore’s report in Erin Johnson’s story on page 6 – but, truth be told, the whole thing deserves to be posted up as an instructive template of “citizen journalism” showing how to go about implementing change. Well researched, clear, dispassionate and reasonable arguments are not the usual stock-in-trade of the average New Zealand petition.

    Just a quick nosy through the 120 petitions currently listed on Parliament’s website reveals one to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 which states “I believe marriage should be abolished completely, but in the meantime it should be outlawed for all people under the age of 18 years because marriage is oppressive to women and girls”, and another that states that daylight saving is a “curse against humanity”.

    What Ms Blackmore has created via her petition and report is a huge service not only to the people of Waiheke but also to AT, who now have at their fingertips a thoroughly sensible answer to the bus network.

    I don’t imagine Ms Blackmore will let her activism stop at Tuesday’s delivery of the report to AT, but if she does have some time on her hands, maybe she might like to sort out a decent food delivery system too. • James Belfield

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