O tempora! O mores! What times! What customs!

If this applied to the Rome of Cicero’s time, it’s even more apt for the Auckland of today. Strange times we live in. Most readers will know by now, I’ve been asked to stand again for council. I agreed because Auckland is being so badly mismanaged and the people of Waitemata & Gulf at least deserve a fair election.

In the two days before this ‘Ponsonby News’ deadline I attended a number of meetings with my campaign organiser Puneet Dhall, which on the face of it couldn’t be more different but which I found had a common theme. 

The first, the AGM of the RMTU, the union representing train staff. The issue of concern, apart from AT management’s anti-worker attitude, was, quite surprisingly given the amount of public money that has gone into rail in recent years, the emergence of a clear anti-rail agenda within AT.  AT’s decision to permanently end the direct Queen Street-to-Queen Street (Onehunga) rail services, under the pretext of temporary CRL work, is one example. Another, the premature termination of rail services to Pukekohe (though these we are told will be resumed once the line is electrified in two years?). These fit into a pattern of AT decisions, most taken without public consultation, going back several years. They include the cancellation of planned services to rapidly developing Huapai/Kumeu; eviction of the ‘Northern Explorer, the Auckland-Wellington train, from Britomart; the overturning of long agreed plans to extend rail to Auckland Airport and its replacement with a bizarre $14.8bn light rail-in-a-tunnel scheme (which could yet cost $29bn!).  Consistent with this pattern, counter-intuitively, given that rail is the most climate friendly transport mode (‘steel wheels on steel rails are 85-99% more efficient than rubber tyres on asphalt’) there is no mention of rail in the council’s 10-year $574m ‘Climate Action Targeted Rate’ spending which is focussed mainly on extra bus services.

We then went to a meeting at Surrey Crescent where we found small business owners and church people in despair at AT’s plans to construct a roundabout and remove their vital parking. I came away thinking how unfeeling these council/AT people are; and given Auckland Council is virtually broke, how is it that AT has endless amounts of money to keep imposing these expensive, disruptive road works?

Then on to Parnell for the traditional local body election meeting. In the past this was for candidates for the Waitematā Local Board and Waitematā & Gulf ward. Unfortunately since Auckland Council gerrymandered the ward boundary against the wishes of 88% of public submissions in 2018, Parnell is now in the Orakei ward but bizarrely still in the Waitematā Local Board Area. The burning issue for Parnell residents is the Erebus Memorial at Dove Myer Robinson Park and the way the government, Auckland Council and the City Vision dominated local board went about imposing it against the wishes of the community. I have to say that while the polite Parnell folk were clearly struggling to control their anger at the City Vision incumbents, we came away with the clear impression that the board’s over-riding of public concerns will have consequences at the ballot box.

The next evening, back across town, we attended a Freemans Bay Residents Association meeting to discuss the government’s NPS on Urban Development. Especially its impacts on our unique historic and much-beloved wooden suburbs, currently protected as ‘Special Character’. These are being targeted for intensification in an attempt to make up for the government’s failure to deliver on promises to solve the housing crisis. However if anyone thinks first home buyers, let alone the street homeless are going to be moving into a condo in St Mary’s Bay anytime soon they’ll be sadly disillusioned. Instead of wrecking our heritage suburbs the government should emulate what the first Labour government so brilliantly achieved, (incidentally led by two local MPs Michael Joseph Savage PM and John A Lee); a government programme to actually build new homes in any number of available sites, including in central Auckland. Instead this government is trying to make up for its failure to build for the future by unthinkingly robbing us of our past. And not just ours, the heritage of future generations of Aucklanders. However I can report Freemans Bay will fight – as will St Marys Bay, Western Bays (Ponsonby) Grey Lynn, Parnell and the multiple residents’ groups represented in the ‘Character Coalition’. Submissions on the council Plan Change 78 opened on 18 August and close on 29 September. The local board and council should be with the community in this battle but instead of being part of the solution sadly, as the common theme of my various meetings revealed, they are all too often part of the problem.

This article was published in the September 2022 issue of Ponsonby News

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.