Election battle won – but the fight goes on

First of all I wish to sincerely thank the people of Waitemata & Gulf for re-electing me with such a resounding majority.

During the election campaign getting out and about meeting local residents and walking the streets of the electorate – seeing the lovely old homes and gardens reminded me how uniquely lovely this place Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, and the Bays is.  We are all so very fortunate to live here and I think of myself doubly so to have the honour of representing the area which I have done now since February 1992 – both as a member of the former Auckland Regional Council and now the Auckland Council.

I was so glad to see City Vision’s Shale Chambers, Pippa Coom and Chris Dempsey returned to the Waitemata Local Board along with talented new members Vernon Tava and Deborah Yates.  But I was saddened to see my friend Tricia Reade did not make it back.  Tricia was a key member of the last Waitemata Local Board and a wonderful community person.  I guess the seriously large amounts of money spent by my two leading opponents while apparently making no impact in the contest for the single Councillor’s seat, did at least ensured them a place on the Local Board – which meant there was no room for Tricia.  Also unfortunate to miss out was City Vision’s Russell Hoban – who is in my view a seriously good prospect for the future. And I would also acknowledge unsuccessful independents like Gerry Hill, Alan Matson, Kris McPherson and Charlotte Fisher who fought honourable campaigns.

While the council election was in full swing the hearing into a planning consent application by the Australian warehouse chain Bunnings to build a big box retail outlet on Great North Road was held in front of an independent commission.

Though the application was non-complying, disappointingly it was supported by our ‘business-friendly’ but rather less community-friendly council planners.

I was asked to speak as a witness by Arch Hill Residents Inc, a group of local residents led by Sue Lyons, Katie Sutherland, Anita Aggrey and David Batten, which has sprung up to fight the Bunnings application.

The Arch Hill residents hotly oppose the application and its team of experts led by Alan Webb and Brian Putt put up a formidable legal and planning case opposing the application.  One of the key concerns is the enormous amount of heavy truck movements – up to 80 a day – and customer traffic which will have a hugely negative impact of the quality of life of the people who live in this historic part of Auckland.  Arch Hill’s steep, narrow streets are a reminder that they were laid out long before the invention of the motor car.

Frankly it outrages me that the ratepayers of Arch Hill and Grey Lynn are being forced to pay out of their own pockets the serious costs of running a legal case against a wealthy big business – and their own Auckland Council that is meant to represent them.  Putting a Bunnings in Arch Hill is not sustainable management – rather planning madness.

On the other hand, Great North Road is a major transport arterial and a key public transport corridor with over 500 buses per day planned to run along it – the site would be ideal for intensive residential housing – on top of the ridge – lying to the sun with views out over the harbour.

As I told the hearing ‘my message to Bunnings is that quite clearly the people and community of Arch Hill and wider Grey Lynn do not want your big box warehouse imposed on their neighbourhood.  Such a development will have significant adverse effects, on that historic quarter, their chosen homes and lifestyle,… and on them I fear, personally.  Such a development will deeply oppress them.  I ask Bunnings therefore on behalf of the community to revise your plans and consider numerous other locations across Auckland, which are more suitable in terms of the district plan and where a Bunnings warehouse would be welcome.  You are not welcome here.’

as published in the November issue of Ponsonby News.

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