Council gets mixed report card

By: Cr John Watson

This year has been a bit of a mixed bag for Auckland Council – not quite ‘two steps forward, one step back’, but something along those lines.

On the one hand there’s been the ongoing delivery of a number of significant projects for the Hibiscus Coast. At Metro Park we’ve seen the installation of extensive floodlighting, three superb cricket ovals and a manicured turf for athletics. It’s the equal of any sportsground in Auckland, with a hockey turf and extended coastal walkway to come. In Silverdale the multi-million dollar park and ride facility is about to open – the Hibiscus Coast is the first new bus network to be rolled out across Auckland.

At Stanmore Bay Leisure Centre millions have been poured into an upgrade and a large extension splashpad for young children. There are many other projects, big and small, some like the new $30m wastewater outfall at Army Bay out of public sight, similarly with council efforts to transfer Penlink to NZTA in order to actually get the project started. These improvements are significant and add tangible benefits to our area.

On the other hand it can still be a real battle to get simple things done, things that most people would regard as common sense.

A few weeks ago, for example, myself and fellow councillor Esfeso Collins put up a Notice of Motion to ban all business class travel for staff and politicians. This came after figures revealed that in a 20-month period, more than $1.1 million was spent on international travel – $509,212 on business class flights alone. Small fortunes are being paid for flights to every corner of the globe – $18,000 to the UK, $10,000–$15,000 for travel that would normally cost $2000–$3,000 economy class.

We want this extravagance to stop. It’s costly and embarrassing, a terrible look when the public’s being told how tight things are. The hierarchy, however, wouldn’t allow it to be debated. A week of scathing media condemnation ensued before council announced that all air travel would be slashed by 30 percent (though still coy about business class travel).

In another instance a group of residents in Browns Bay endured 10 years of anti-social behaviour at all hours of the night and day including assaults, rocks through windows, threats, vandalism, drunken loutish conflicts, vomiting and urinating in the street, while unsympathetic bureaucrats refused to introduce a 24 hour liquor ban for their street. It took a monumental effort to get this perverse decision overturned, which was thanks to people like David Cooper on the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board.

There are plenty of other examples I could quote – Wayne Walker referred to controversial asset sales in the last edition of Hibiscus Matters – but all in all the council report card might mirror the old teachers’ cliché: “Shows promise but could do better.”

It’s also useful to retain a sense of balance I think, especially at this time of year when the full beauty and wonder of this part of the world we are so fortunate to live in becomes more apparent than ever. In the wider scheme of things we have much to be grateful for. I wish everyone all the very best for Christmas and the New Year.

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