Public vs private

By: Cr Wayne Walker

Summer on the Hibiscus Coast is a busy time as our local beaches, parks and recreation areas, safe swimming beaches, walkways and cycleways are enjoyed by locals and visitors. It looks like it’s going to be a hot summer. I’m noticing that pressure is building up for parking and space at popular places from so many different types of users and their growing numbers: picnickers, boaties and yachtees, campervans, walkers, playground users and so on. So it’s even more important to safeguard the spaces we have, realise that even more open space will be needed for future generations, and that we need to cater for the changes we will need to make to cope with increased demand from multiple uses.

Some of the big space issues coming up on the Hibiscus Coast are:

  • Council taking control of the Hammerhead at Gulf Harbour to ensure we keep and improve parking and public access;
  • Putting the Archers Block land in Stanmore Bay (part of which is being held for Penlink) into reserve – this special area that runs from Whangaparaoa Road/Brightside Road intersection down to the Weiti River;
  • Adding to and better using our open space to make new walking and cycling links (greenways) along the Weiti River, around the coastline, and following local streams – where there are easy gradients.

There is also increasing pressure in Council to sell off assets if they are not seen as ‘strategic’. And developers are always in the wings looking to privatise the public space if the opportunity arises. Recently we’ve seen such moves at the West Harbour Marina in Hobsonville, at the carpark in Takapuna (used for the market on the weekend), the carpark at Browns Bay (also used for their market), and many parts of reserves around the region; the list goes on.

What concerns me is that the sale process is often not well informed, future considerations not adequately factored in, and local communities often not consulted – take West Harbour Marina, for example. So putting on my ‘community hat’ – we must be vigilant, put up community plans for our spaces, develop cases for keeping and improving, and combine forces among community groups and neighbours that value space.
Locally and across Auckland I stand up for saving public space – on land and water - unless the case to sell really stacks up – often it does not. What happens elsewhere in the Albany Ward and Auckland affects the Hibiscus Coast. For example, sale of West Harbour Marina space has implications for Gulf Harbour. For me this means working with local people and equipping them with community-based planning tools to put their ideas and visions. This is not hard, is inexpensive and based on sound thinking from the ‘grass roots’. Too often myself and fellow Councillor John Watson see local communities and often local boards at odds with the view of people in Council. Our first inclination is to listen to the community first, challenge assumptions that may not be well informed, look to future needs, and take the position that works for the long term interest of the community. What works best is our being involved early. An email or phone call can give us a ‘heads up’.

Recently (at no expense to Council and ratepayers) I attended a conference and workshops in Taiwan on ‘ecomobility’: developing initiatives for communities around walking, cycling, public transport, car sharing; with a strong emphasis on liveability, sustainability and economy. These transport options are very cost-effective. A related conference was on climate change and city transformation. What I learnt I’m now passing on to people in Council and across communities.

All the best for Christmas and the New Year.

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