Chair’s report December 2017 – Auckland Council’s Kauri dieback decision

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Kauri Dieback

Tiakina te wao nui a Tiriwa hei oranga mou

(Treasure the great forest of Tiriwa and you in turn shall prosper)

Te Kawerau A Maki’s declaration of a rāhui over the Waitakere Ranges has attracted a great deal of attention. I am glad to say that the overall response to the rāhui that I have experienced is one of respect.

Many people have committed to observe the rāhui, myself included. I agree with the sentiment that until the forest is healed we should not walk anywhere that may risk the spread of kauri dieback. The problem is of course that we are amongst the ones most likely to clean our shoes and observe hygiene protocols. But the reduction in pressure on the tracks will be helpful.

I attended the ceremony placing the rāhui recently held at the Cascades. Aunt Agatha, the towering Kauri near the start of the track was the centre of attention. Sadly she is infected with kauri dieback and is dying.

I understand completely Te Kawerau A Maki’s motivation in laying the rāhui. To be frank Council has reacted too slowly to the crisis, and it is a crisis. No individual should be blamed, it is a system problem, but it is still a problem. An example is that the data and draft report concerning the latest round of testing for Kauri dieback was available in November last year. I was part of urgent meetings held last December. Yet publication of the final report took until August of this year and we are only seeing now the roll out of major changes to how the park is managed.

The Environment and Community committee of Council considered the issue recently. It wanted to formulate a response to correspondence received from Te Kawerau A Maki and to work out what changes should be made to current management of the park.

The local board took the opportunity to attend the meeting en masse and to present what we thought was the optimal approach to take.

Despite time pressures on the Committee I was generously allowed twice the normal speaking time. Following is a synopsis of what I said to the committee.

The disease is a scourge. It is a kauri killer and they are facing extinction because of it. Kauri are a keystone species. If they go the health of the forest will be adversely affected.

Regrettably the Waitakere Ranges is the most heavily affected area in the country.

Peter De Lange, who is a scientist at AUT and a former principal science adviser at the Department of Conservation has said this about the disease.

I can tell you now, because of the rate of decline that’s been mapped and because we have good data, that kauri is now being listed as a threatened species.

And I think that’s just terrible. This is an iconic tree; a sacred tree protected under the … Treaty of Waitangi. Various iwi regard it as their totem tree, and we are potentially going to lose it.”

The recent Kauri Dieback report prepared by Council shows a clear correlation between tracks, watercourses and baitlines and the spread of the disease. The correlation is startling and unmistakeable.

Five different options were presented to the committee. They included doing nothing, status quo, slight improvement, close high and medium risk tracks, and close the ranges.

As far as the Board was concerned:
* Doing nothing is not an option
* Status quo is not an option. Both of these options clearly will fail.
* The recommended option (slight improvement) was deficient because there is a need to quarantine areas where dieback is prevalent and close tracks where there are healthy Kauri.
* Option 4 was closest to what is needed to protect Kauri but still allow some use.
* We did not think that full immediate closure of the Ranges was workable.

Our submission noted that under the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act there is an obligation to “protect, restore, and enhance the area” and when making decisions that threaten serious or irreversible harm Council must endeavour to protect the forest.

I included two maps in the submission. The first shows the presence of Kauri disease which has been spreading like a cancer along the tracks. Red dots are infections in 2011. Black dots are infections in 2016. It is clear that most of the infection is spreading along the tracks.

The next map shows tracks of no, low, medium and high risk. Option four requires the medium (yellow) and high risk (red) tracks to be closed.

The board spent a great deal of time considering Te Kawerau A Maki’s placing of a rāhui over the Ranges. We understood completely their motivation for imposing the rāhui. There have been too many delays, including delays in releasing the Kauri dieback report.

I believe that the rāhui presents an opportunity to urgently address the crisis affecting Kauri and is a perfect tool to educate Auckland of the severity of the situation. The board’s view is that option 4 properly implemented is not inconsistent with the principles of the rāhui in that Te Kawerau A Maki is prepared to allow “rolling openings” of low risk areas. Option 4 speeds this process up. BUT, and I should emphasis this, I would prefer that Te Kawerau A Maki agreed with the categorisation of the tracks. It would help if there was a meeting of Council and Te Kawerau A Maki to look at the track categorisation and see if consensus can be reached.

The local board had a number of other suggestions for the Council including the following:
* Urgent work on tracks to improve drainage and increase number of boardwalks as well as rerouting away from Kauri.
* Install more hygiene stations along tracks, not just at track entrances.
* Install DOC designed high quality stations at key sites.
* Check station coverage. For example there are no cleaning stations at Beveridge Track even though it is considered to be a high risk track.
* Provide maps and brochures (including online)with up-to-date information about kauri PTA and closed tracks.
* Promote non-kauri tracks on and off regional parks.
* Stop all sporting events through the Waitakeres.
* Work with concessionaires to re-site tourism activities.
* Work with ATEED to halt all promotion of the Waitakeres.
* At a minimum double kauri ambassadors in the Waitakeres from 6 to 12 and extend their period of employment.
* Work with local communities to identify low risk areas for exercise and recreation.
* Filming only to occur in non-kauri locations.
* Develop a “good visitor” code of conduct for Waitakere.
* Prohibit dogs anywhere in Waitakere Ranges off-leash.

Our presentation ended with the photo below of Aunt Agatha which is the most prominent Kauri in the Ranges but has succumbed to Kauri Dieback. I said that we do not want to be at another meeting in another 5 years discussing another report that shows a further spread of this disease through the Waitakere Ranges. We need urgent effective action now.

Since the meeting I have written to Councillor Hulse reemphasising our proposals and also suggesting there should be added resources for pig hunting in line with a suggestion Jack Craw has made. I also suggested that ongoing engagement with Te Kawerau A Maki about the rāhui should occur and there should be a high level governance group to oversee action and maintain momentum. Councillor Hulse has responded positively to these suggestions.

The announcement has not gone completely smoothly. An initial 13 tracks were identified in the report for closure and since then a further 17 tracks have been identified for closure before christmas. But there is some local concern that not all medium and high risk tracks will be closed. Can I just say that my clear understanding of the resolutions is they will and will remain closed until they can be made safe.

Mayor’s Ten year budget proposal

The Mayor has released his proposal for Auckland Council’s ten year long term plan.

He is endeavouring to keep the “core” rate rise next year to 2.5% in line with his promise made during the election campaign last year but has acknowledged that if we are going to do something significant about environmental damage that is happening then more resources will be required.

He has proposed that there be a “targeted protection” rate. There are two options presented. The first will raise an additional $123 million and require an environmental levy of around $21 a year, or 40 cents per week, for the average residential ratepayer. Staff analysis is that this will result in a “slowed decline” of Auckland’s natural environment and a 30-50% risk of kauri dieback spreading. Council staff believe that currently planned levels of spend on environmental matters will result in ongoing decline in environmental quality and extinction of some species, with the risk of Kauri dieback spreading being assessed at over 80%.

The other option, titled “enhanced protection and restoration” would raise an additional $356 million of rates funded budget and require an environmental levy of around $60 a year, or $1.15 per week, for the average residential ratepayer. This will allow “protected and enhanced priority areas and species” and the risk of kauri dieback spreading is estimated to be 10-20%. Approximately $84 million over ten years will be spent on the disease including track upgrades.

A second targeted rate is for water quality purposes.

The Mayor is proposing a regional Water Quality targeted rate to fund Healthy Waters’ part of the Water Quality Improvement Programme. The intent is to achieve an 80% reduction in waste water overflows within ten years. Under current plans this is well over 20 years away and the Mayor wants to spend the money now to accelerated this. The proposed rate is less than $1.30 per week or $66 per year for the average residential ratepayer.

A quote from the Mayor’s report deserves repeating:

“I believe Aucklanders want their city to be world class. In the twenty first century, world class cities don’t allow waste water to flow into their streams and beaches. This problem is not new. It goes back more than a century. It is time to take the problem out of the too-hard-basket, and to stop passing it unresolved to future generations. I am asking Aucklanders whether they are ready to make the commitment of a small weekly sum to tackle, and resolve this problem, so we can live up to our reputation as a clean and green city.”

The Waitakere Ranges Local Board area has the dubious characteristic of having more polluted areas than any other board. Five of our Manukau Harbour beaches and three of our west coast lagoons regularly have long term water quality alerts. This is half of the total problem areas in the region. There are various reasons for this but for most of the Manukau Beaches infrastructure is implicated. The Mayor’s suggestion work be performed on contaminant reduction is helpful. It is clear that the primary cause of pollution in the Manukau Harbour is failing sewerage infrastructure and the sooner this is fixed the better.

The draft ten year budget is being prepared for consultation. The local board will have a role in the consultation process. These particular proposals are very important to the west and I will be urging everyone to support them.

Titirangi library opening

The local board were present when the Titirangi Library reading deck was recently opened. We had the pleasure of a performance from the Titirangi Primary Kapa Haka group. As kaumatua Fred Holloway noted they may have been the most blue eyed and blonde kapa haka group he has seen but they performed extremely well and their haka was extraordinary.

It made me reflect on the quality of our local libraries which also includes the Glen Eden library. Both institutions perform outstandingly well and are a tribute to our staff. And libraries are a cornerstone of our civilisation. The accumulation and dissemination of knowledge only took off when Libraries first appeared.

West Auckland Maori engagement

The Henderson Massey and Waitakere Ranges local boards had a very helpful session at Hoani Waititi marae concerning Maori engagement. The sessions were run by Joe Waru and Kim Penetito.

They were well designed and provided very helpful insights into how to properly engage with tangata whenua. The first thing is to front up and to talk. And listen. The second thing is to be respectful. These two basic ideas will ensue that any discussions with Iwi will be fruitful.

Glen Eden Santa parade

This has become a firm fixture of Glen Eden’s social calendar. A number of groups are involved, including the Glen Eden Protection Society, the Glen Eden Business Improvement District, and Glen Eden Community Patrol helped out.

Gayle Marshall, who has been involved ever since the parade started, once again starred as Mrs Claus or whatever the current version of that description is! Congratulations to all involved.

Titirangi Glow Festival

And immediately following the Glen Eden Christmas Parade was the Titirangi Glow festival.

This is a more recent event but it also has a dedicated group of people who want to make Titirangi an enjoyable place at Christmas time. The aim is to light up Titirangi and to have an evening event of celebration. They rely on the Titirangi Fire Brigade a great deal and they also receive significant support from the local business community.

The Local Board has helped with funding in the past couple of years. I am suggesting that we meet in the new year with the group who organise the event to make sure that the event can continue in the future.

Combined ratepayers meeting

We had our last meeting of this group for year recently. The combined ratepayers meeting involves representatives from throughout the Waitakere Ranges and it is probably the most important chance that we have to discuss matters with local communities. It is ably chaired by former Waitakere Community Board chair Kubi Witten-Hannah and assisted by the legendary secretary Mels Barton.

We were pleased to have Deborah Russell, MP for New Lynn and Chris Penk, MP for Helensville present at the meeting. A number of issues of interest were discussed including fireworks in the ranges, kauri dieback and a number of Council associated matters. Hopefully this can continue so that the lines of communication between local communities, the local board and central Government can continue to be strong.

Citizenship ceremonies

And finally I attended the last citizenship ceremony of the year this week. They are always very similar although often subtly different. Every ceremony I have been involved in has included Papa Fred Holloway. He is a kaumatua who gives the ceremony a very gentle but inclusive feel. His presence highlights the importance of Maori culture.

During the ceremonies I am given the opportunity to welcome everyone and to urge that although they are now citizens of a new land their culture is important and should be retained. Then there is the formality of everyone pledging oaths of allegiance, the handing out of citizenship certificates and high fives with the young new citizens. Then after that is the boisterous singing of the national anthem in te reo and english and then an acknowledgment and celebration of all the different nationalities present.

The ceremonies are always touching. It is clear that new citizens publicly pledging allegiance to New Zealand is an emotional matter for them and a very important ceremony. Seeing all these new New Zealanders with smiles on their faces is one of the best parts of my job.

Meri Kirihimete me ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa!
(Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!)

The Waitakere Ranges rāhui

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Today with the rest of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board I attended the meeting of the Environment and Committee committee of Auckland Council to talk about proposals to deal with Kauri dieback.

Following our presentation the Council voted by majority to support option four.  There were a number of other resolutions passed some of which furthered other issues we had raised.  Following is a synopsis of my address to the committee.

The disease is a scourge.  It is a kauri killer and they are facing extinction because of it.  Kauri are a keystone species. If they go the health of the forest will be adversely affected.

Regrettably the Waitakere Ranges is the most heavily affected area in the country.  And following the recent Auckland Council report on the disease it is clear that infection is concentrated along tracks, watercourses and bait lines.

Peter De Lange, who is a scientist at AUT and a former principal science adviser at the Department of Conservation has said this about the disease.

I can tell you now, because of the rate of decline that’s been mapped and because we have good data, that kauri is now being listed as a threatened species.

And I think that’s just terrible. This is an iconic tree; a sacred tree protected under the … Treaty of Waitangi. Various iwi regard it as their totem tree, and we are potentially going to lose it.”

Contained within the Kauri Dieback report is this graph which shows a clear correlation between walking tracks, watercourses and baitlines and the spread of the disease.

Five different options were presented to the committee. They included doing nothing, status quo, slight improvement, close high and medium risk tracks, and close the ranges.

As far as the Board was concerned:

  • Doing nothing is not an option
  • Status quo is not an option.
  • The recommended option (slight improvement) is deficient because there is a need to quarantine areas where dieback is prevalent and close tracks where there are healthy Kauri.
  • Option 4 closest to what is needed to protect Kauri but still allow some use.
  • We did not think that full immediate closure was workable.

Our submission noted that under the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act there is an obligation to “protect, restore, and enhance the area” and when making decisions that threaten serious or irreversible harm Council must endeavour to protect the forest.

I included two maps in the submission.  The first showed the spread of Kauri disease which has been spreading like a cancer along the tracks.  Red dots are infections in 2011.  Black dots are infections in 2016.

The next map shows tracks of no, low, medium and high risk.  Option four requires the medium and high risk tracks to be closed.

We thought long and hard about Te Kawerau A Maki’s placing of a rāhui over the Ranges.  We understood completely their desire to and motivation for imposing the rāhui.  There have been delays, including the release of the Kauri dieback report.  Results from testing were known last November.  An urgent meeting was held in December.  But it took until August for the report to be published.

We consider that the rāhui presents an opportunity to urgently address the crisis affecting Kauri and is a perfect tool to educate Auckland of the severity of the situation.  And we thought that option 4 is not inconsistent with the principles of the rāhui in that Te Kawerau A Maki is prepared to allow “rolling openings” of low risk areas.  Option 4 speeds this process up.

The local board had a number of other suggestions for the Council including the following:

  • Urgent work on tracks to improve drainage and increase number of boardwalks as well as rerouting away from Kauri.
  • Install more hygiene stations along tracks, not just at track entrances.
  • Install DOC high quality stations at key sites.
  • Check station coverage. Eg No cleaning stations at Beveridge Track even though it is considered to be a high risk track
  • Provide maps and brochures (including online)with up-to-date information about kauri PTA and closed tracks
  • Promote non-kauri tracks on and off regional parks
  • Stop all sporting events through Waitakeres
  • Work with concessionaires to re-site tourism activities.
  • Work with ATEED to halt all promotion of the Waitakeres
  • Double at least kauri ambassadors in the Waitakeres from 6 to 12 and extend their period of employment
  • Work with local communities to identify low risk areas for exercise and recreation
  • Filming only in non-kauri locations
  • Develop a “good visitor” code of conduct for Waitakere
  • Prohibit dogs anywhere in Waitakere Ranges off-leash

Our presentation ended with the photo below of Aunt Agatha which is the most prominent Kauri in the Ranges but has succumbed to Kauri Dieback.   We do not want to be at another meeting in another 5 years discussing another report that shows a further spread of this disease through the Waitakere Ranges.  We need urgent effective action now.

Chair’s report – November 2017, Kauri dieback and the suggested Rahui in the Waitakere Ranges

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Kauri dieback

Te Kawerau A Maki has proposed that a Rahui be placed on the Waitakere Ranges in an effort to deal with Kauri dieback.

It is easy to understand the reasons why. The first Kauri dieback monitoring report produced 6 years ago suggested that kauri dieback presented a significant threat to the Waitakere Ranges. The second report, a draft of which was available over a year ago, suggests that things are much worse with infection rates doubling on some measurements in only five years.

Although some work proposed after the second report was prepared involving improved hygiene stations and the employment of Kauri dieback ambassadors has been completed the really big decisions have yet to been made. Urgent upgrades to tracks and the construction of boardwalks need to be started now.

TKAM spokesperson Edward Ashby is right when he says that the map of the presence of Kauri disease when compared to the existing tracks shows that the main spreader of the disease is humans.

And it is clear to me that the current approach is not working. Not only should Council keep existing tracks through pristine areas closed but consideration also needs to be given to closing already diseased tracks to quarantine the disease and to stop its spread.

One idea the local board has discussed is the creation of a map showing walks in the Ranges that do not go through Kauri areas. This would give people an option to go walking without the fear they are spreading the disease around.

And we have to do whatever we can. If we fail to get on top of this crisis then in years to come the Waitakere Ranges forest will be a pale, weakened shadow of its current form.

Waikumete Cemetery Open day

The Local Board hosted the second open day at Waikumete Cemetery recently. Sandra Coney deserves special praise for the event and for all of the work that she put into it.

The cemetery was established in 1886. It is one of the larges open urban spaces in Auckland and occupies 108 hectares. It is the final resting place to more than 70,000 people.

It is nearly full. Unless Council can unlock some land that is covered by a significant ecological area overlay we will run out of room in the next few years.

The day before the open day it was my privilege to speak at the launch of Sandra’s latest book Gone West.

The book is outstanding and is a fascinating read.

It starts with the the ten great war memorials of Waitakere, including the memorial in Waikumete Cemetery, and then digs into the background of the people named in the memorials, their families and the effects the war had on everyone.

The book really highlights the importance of places of remembrance and memorials so that the lives of those who gave theirs in protection of our freedom can be celebrated and those people remembered.

The Waikumete memorial was constructed by members of the Auckland RSA for kiwis who died during the first world war, “our fallen comrades” in the words on the obelisk.

And within this cemetery there are many graves and memorials of those who were killed during the war.

The most distressing may be that constructed by the Browne family. Four of the five sons from that family were killed in the first world war.

Cemeteries are vital, not just for those seeking a last resting place, but for the survivors, so that we can process the loss of a loved one and we have a physical place to go to to celebrate their lives. It is clear to me that Waikumete fulfills that important role very well.

Water quality

The Mayor has has announced a long term programme to improve Auckland’s water quality.

As part of the programme the Safeswim website will have up to date water quality monitoring information available.

The information is especially important for out west. Regrettably five of our Manukau Harbour beaches and three of our west coast lagoons regularly have long term water quality alerts. This is half of the total problem areas in the region. The reasons vary although for most of the Manukau Beaches infrastructure is implicated. As a matter of urgency I intend to continue to raise this with Auckland Council to seek that this is remedied. These beaches and lagoons should be swimmable.

The local board has funded the preparation of a report into local water quality. The report is getting close to the stage where it can be released for public discussion. The intent of the report is to start a conversation with locals and to seek agreements on what we want to achieve and what the priorities should be.

Meeting with District Commander Tusha Penney

Henderson Massey chair Shane Henderson, Whau chair Tracey Mulholland and I recently met with Tusha Penney who is the District Commander of the Waitemata Policing District and Scotty Webb who is the Waitakere area commander.

Tusha is an energetic and passionate Police Officer who is clearly wanting to improve police performance out west. She wants to focus police activity on Waitakere in recognition that because of poverty this area presents the most challenges.

She was supportive of the Waitakere Ranges Safety hub, an office funded by the local board that is used by the local community constable.

She was also very keen to improve community engagement. Out west there has always been a good relationship between community and Government departments driven by the realisation that the community has huge understanding and resources that can help Government departments perform their core roles.

The specific matters that we discussed at this meeting were the problems being caused by parties held at Council hired halls and the support we could provide for a new police initiative seeking to address the effects of domestic violence.

Further regular meetings with Tusha and Scotty are being scheduled.

Waitakere Pest Free meeting

The local board hosted a meeting of a variety of groups interested in creating a Waitakere Pest Free area. A preliminary application to the Government Pest Free 2050 fund has been made on behalf of all of the groups.

The groups represented included Forest and Bird, Arc Bufferzone, Ark in the Park, Gecko Trust, Oratia Native Wildlife Project, Weed Free Waiatarua, and Ecomatters Environment Trust amongst others.

The design of the application will be an interesting process. But so far so good. Special thanks to Robert Woolf and Annalily van den Broeke who have both put a lot of work into the proposal.

Meeting with Japanese delegation from Akita

The local board had the pleasure of meeting elected representatives from the municipal association of Akita, Japan. Akita is a small (by Japanese standards) prefecture in Northern Hokkaido. They were visiting New Zealand on a fact finding tour. It was our pleasure to welcome them to Arataki Visitor’s centre and to talk to them about the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area and environmental protection out west.

Bioblitz

I was invited to speak at the Whatipu bioblitz launch. The Bioblitz was the brainchild of Friends of Whatipu which includes Bruce and Trixie Harvey and Peter Maddison. Bruce and Trixie, who have a long standing link to Whatipu, have worked particularly hard on the proposal. It was hosted at Whatipu Lodge by the Mayor of Whatipu, Wayne McKenzie.

The local board contributed a relatively modest amount of funding to the Bioblitz. For this investment Auckland receives the voluntary contributions of a number of enthusiastic young people collecting bio samples in the local area and the further contributions of a number of scientists analysing the samples. The intent is to measure the quality of the local biodiversity and to see what is changing when the results are compared to those of previous bioblitzes. By comparing the results we can understand what if anything is happening to the local environment.

When the amount contributed is compared to the numbers of hours of voluntary work performed I am confident that the cost would be measured in cents per hour.

Congratulations to Bruce and Trixie. I look forward to reading the findings.

Te Kura Kaupapa kapa haka

Councillor Linda Cooper and I and members of Sports Waitakere including Chief Executive Lynette Adams had the pleasure of attending the Kura at Hoani Waititi Marae and being on the receiving end of a spine chilling powerful performance by the Kapa Haka group. It was outstanding.

I have had the pleasure of visiting the Kura a few times recently and I am really impressed with what is happening. The education is first class and the students are getting a deep and important immersion in their and our culture.

Rimutaka walkway opening

We finally managed to officially open the Rimutaka Place walkway and on a cold and rainy day we persuaded an enthusiastic young local resident to cut the ribbon.

Many thanks to Neil Henderson for the tremendous work he has put into the walkway.

Woodlands Park Primary have requested that we see if we can extend the walkway to the school. It appears that there are major private land issues but I agree that if at all possible we should have a network of walkways so that kids can walk to their local school and not have to be driven.

Open Studios launch

Finally the annual Open Studios event has again been held. This is a yearly event where local artists open up their studios and welcome visitors from afar to look at and hopefully purchase some of their art. It is organised by a dedicated team including Renee Tanner and lets people interact with over 70 westie artists, potters, painters and jewellers. Again for a relatively modest contribution from the Board and a lot of passion and dedication from members of the community really interesting events can be organised and held and the local arts community can be strengthened.

Auckland’s impending environmental crisis

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I am not breaking any secrets by saying that Auckland’s environment is going backwards at an alarming rate, and that we are facing a crisis.

The subject was discussed at a recent Waitakere Ranges Local Board meeting.

From the Wester Leader report on the meeting:

Auckland faces a loss of biodiversity “at a cataclysmic level” unless it increases spending by up to $26 million.

This is the warning of Penny Hulse, chairwoman of the city’s environment committee.

A “clear-eyed” discussion was needed about how the environment would suffer if current funding in the council’s 10-year budget continued – and whether Aucklanders were happy for that to happen, she said.

Hulse said she would prefer the council found the money without raising rates.

“We need to be honest about what kind of species will go extinct because of the Long-Term Plan.”

Hulse brought up the subject at the Waitākere Ranges Local Board meeting on October 26.

She said she wanted the council to present the public in the new year with three priced options: “go backwards fast, kind of hold our own and go backwards slowly, or protect and enhance our environment”.

The money needed to protect and enhance was equivalent to between a 1 and 1.7 per cent increase in the general rates, she said.

A calculation on the council’s 2017/2018 budget showed this would be between $15m and $26m a year.

Staff have performed this outstanding simplification of a complex area to make it eminently comprehensible what will happen under different funding scenarios.

Under business as usual, forecast to cost about $8 million a year for the next three years and $97 million over the next decade, the forecast is for there to be “environmental decline and extinctions”.  In particular the risk of the spread of kauri dieback is more than 80%.

Under a more expensive scenario, forecast to cost about $28 million a year for the next three years and $220 million over the next decade, the forecast is for there to be “slowed decline”.  Under this scenario the risk of the spread of kauri dieback is estimated to be between 30 and 50%.

Under the most expensive scenario, forecast to cost about $50 million a year for the next three years and $453 million over the next decade, the forecast is this will “protect and enhance priority areas and species”.  Under this scenario the risk of the spread of kauri dieback is thought to be between 10 and 20%.

The most expensive option does not mean an overall improvement, only that the decline will be arrested and priority areas and species enhanced.

As pointed out in the article the cost would represent between a 1 and a 1.7% general rates increase.

My personal view is that if this is the cost of preserving our environment then it should be paid.  It is as important as the provision of water or passenger transport or road and rail.  Of course Auckland Council should be funding it.

And if it going to cost a 1.7% rates increase to have a greater chance of saving Kauri and stop extinctions of native flora and fauna then that is the cost we have to pay.

The Mayor’s proposal for Auckland’s long term plan is due to be released at the end of this month.  I hope that it includes proper provision of resources to stop the decline of our environment.

Chair’s report October 2017 – three schools

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Now that the general election madness is behind us I have been able to concentrate more fully on local matters.

School visits

This past month I have had significant interaction with three schools.

The first school that I visited was Woodlands Park Primary where Saffron Toms and I were the guests with the very happy job of presenting them with a large certificate for their outstanding environmental sustainability work to the Principal Liz Manley and to her children.

The school has a proud history of enviroschool activity led by Micah Haughton who is one of the teachers. They are very proud of their certification and do things such as actively persuade the kids’ lunches to be as wrap free as possible, grow trees and plants, and have their own composting area and worm farm.

The event involved about 20 young citizens standing up and giving us a brief précis of what they were doing and how it was helping our environment and our community.

They covered all sorts of areas, the relevance of Te Reo and Maori culture, the importance of worms, the need to improve water quality, how the school had actively minimized the use of plastics in the children’s lunches. The presentations were all heart felt and totally on point and relevant.

At the end of their presentation I thought we should give all the young people involved the right to vote. They were all incredibly mature in their thinking and passionate in their desire to improve their school. And they have more at stake than the rest of us in ensuring that we develop into a sustainable city.

The second was the Kura at Hoani Waititi Marae. I met with the Principal Haare Rua and a few others to talk with them about what assistance we can give to the school. They have the desire to improve the water quality of the stream that runs through the marae.

The approach by Haare and others at the school is impressive. They are trying to create practical real world teaching examples for the children while at the same time impressing on them the importance of sustainability and environmental protection.

Haare is a really inspiring Principal. He realises the importance of community and the educational benefits of teaching outside of the curriculum. If we want to prepare our kids for the future we need to make their education is broad and diverse. Teaching them narrow curriculum so they can pass a test based on limited understanding of the world we live in is retrograde for them.

Haare has this really great idea that the Kura should adopt the local stream, monitor it, and improve its health so that the quality of water improves and the life sustained by the stream is enhanced. The exercise would fulfil a number of goals, improve the local area, teach the students about water quality and natural ecosystems

The Kura could grow plants, plant them on the banks of the stream, measure water quality and observe the life that a stream should produce.

The Kura is also growing crops and teaching pupils about food. There is this realization that education should be for the benefit of the whanau at large rather than just the young people involved.

They are also investigating the possibility of having a chicken run. I was very happy to offer them some of Titirangi’s well fed but wild fowl as there is an urgent need to reduce numbers.

The third school that I visited was Konini Primary in Titirangi. Half of the school is just inside the edge of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area. It has a large bush area and a stream. The school grounds are very large but unfortunately the school is not funded for the upkeep of the bush area.

Despite this Principal Andrew Ducat is doing what he can with limited resources. The School also has enviroschool status and the teaching of sustainability is clearly an important part of its curriculum. And the protection and enhancement of the bush area is a priority for the school.

For each school the Board is able to offer small grants to help with the restoration work. We are also able through Ecomatters Trust to ensure they receive the best advice on how to tackle restoration of the bush.

If contractors were used to perform similar amounts of work the cost would be significantly greater than the size of the grants. But through these grants and the power of community and the passion of the staff and the pupils really good things can be achieved.

I am concerned that the Enviroschools budget is one of the budgets that has been cut through Council cost saving and the local board is being asked to fill in the gap. But the work is far too important not to be funded.

Synthetic Cannabis meeting

The Glen Eden Residents Association and the Glen Eden Community Patrol held a public meeting recently to discuss local issues with Synthetic Cannabis.

The drug is a scourge. I have represented young people in Court for many years and I know how problematic and destructive the drug can be for them.

The issue was highlighted recently when I discovered BID Manager Jennifer Conlon and local coordinator of the Glen Eden Community Patrol Penny Hinchelwood following a young person who had just smoked some synthetic weed in the Glen Eden township. The young man was really the worse for wear and was really struggling. The description “zombie drug” is really apt.

The meeting was very well organised and the presentations were superb. Heather Tanguay, Michelle Clayton, Penny Hinchelwood and the other members of the associations should be praised for their work.

The issue is a difficult one. It can invoke demands for full throttled tough on crime solutions but my experience is that these do not work. Throughout the world there is trend to treat the issue of drug use and drug dependancy as a health one. Users who develop problems should receive help and education rather than prosecution.

Sargent Michael Wickman from New Lynn Police gave a really good presentation about what action the Police are taking. The suppliers and manufacturers of synthetic cannabis are being targeted with some recent success. Over 120 arrests for supplying and manufacturing have recently occurred.< He also emphasized the importance of treatment. Those consuming the drug are being offered help by the police not prosecution. I believe that the police have the approached about right. Scott Mesarich, who runs the Wicked Habits shop in Glen Eden, was an unlikely star of the meeting. The shop previously, and legally, sold permitted synthetic cannabis and from what I saw Scott had a very successful business. Following the change in the law he has adjusted his business model. His current business model relies significantly on the sale of vaping products which are better for us than cigarettes.

He has also regulated the sale of herbs that are currently being used in the production of synthetic cannabis. All strength to him. We need more businessmen like Scott who are looking for a sustainable business model but one that does not cause harm.

Others spoke about what we should do to help those struggling from the effect of the drug. Treatment and rehabilitation are not simple. And too many young people are experimenting with the drug. Education for both young people and for their parents is absolutely essential.

Congratulations to the Glen Eden Residents Association and the Glen Eden Community Patrol for organising the meeting and for taking an active approach to dealing with this very important issue. Communities work better when local groups and the arms of the state, whether they be Police, Health or Local Government, work together.

Public Transport in the Waitakere Ranges

Auckland Transport has released the summary report following its consultation with local communities about possible public transport improvements in the Waitakere Ranges area.

The response from the community was outstanding. 839 replies were received.

The initial conclusions were that there were two potential routes identified, the first from Piha to Glen Eden, via Waiatarua and Oratia and the second from Huia/Parau to New Lynn via Woodlands Park and Titirangi. Both routes would terminate at the respective railway station.

Although other possible routes were identified low demand precluded a set route being established at this stage. A Kowhai Connection type service could be trialled.

The big caveat in the report is that funding would have to be identified and there is currently no funding for the further services. AT wants to talk to the Board about funding but I am not sure why. We do not have separate funding that could be applied to such a service and besides local residents pay rates including their transport levies and have a legitimate expectation to a public transport service. And right now there is no public transport to large parts of our local board area.

Pest Control

There has been a welcome surge in the number of community groups dedicated to pest control in the Ranges. Recently groups have been formed in Huia, Oratia and Henderson Valley. Council staff have been happy to coordinate with these groups and practical help, in the formulation of a system that will allow these groups to benefit from Council’s bulk purchasing power is under way.

There has always been an emphasis on pest eradication with the Ark in the Park being the most prominent example.

Robert Woolf, chair of Forest and Bird Waitakere organised a recent meeting of the various groups to seek a joint approach to the Government to see if funding from the 2050 Pest Free fund could be acquired.

An expression of interest has been lodged. Hopefully this will be successful.

Titirangi Development

I recently met with a representative of the company that has purchased the Rotondo site in Titirangi.

I know the site well. It is up the road from where I live and when I was the chair of the Titirangi Ratepayers and Residents we mounted a legal challenge to previous plans to the develop the site on the basis that the building was out of scale for the site.

The discussion I had with the new owners was positive. They are investigating a building with a reduced size, two stories rather than three. They are very conscious of the fragile nature of the area. Their intent is to build and retain the building and the business ethos is to take a long term cooperative approach to building ownership and management.

How is Super City going?

Finally I was asked recently by the Herald about my thoughts on local democracy and Super City. Is it working?

Following is what I sent in:

“I am afraid that out west local democracy has slipped a little. Before there was a strong and abiding sense of partnership between ecocity Waitakere City and the local community but now that relationship is not as strong.

The Westie network still exists but councillors have too many constituents to deal with properly and local boards do not have enough power to make really meaningful change.

The promised financial efficiencies have not materialised. Council has developed into a top-down organisation concentrated in the centre. And decision-making is still too complex, information too difficult to find and ratepayers’ ability to influence decisions is too weak.”

Clearly work is required. Local representatives are working on this. But I do remember fondly the days of Eco City and wonder if we could not be doing more in line with the Eco City ethos.

Say goodbye to roads of national significance

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One of the most appalling wasteful destructive things that National did when it was in power was to invest in so called roads of national significance.  They were huge boondoggles, kept the base happy, provided high quality ribbon cutting opportunities, gave the impression that the Government was doing something but essentially they were a waste of time and resources.

They actually made things worse.  There is this phenomenon called induced demand.  Build a road to address congestion and although it will provide short term relief it will eventually persuade people to drive more and the net benefit approaches zero.  Meanwhile those double lane and treble lane roads destroy neighbourhoods and divide communities.

And if you want to create a sustainable city then you stop building roads.  If we are going to get on top of climate change then we need to develop alternative transport systems.  Starting yesterday.

China understands this.  That is why in its major cities it has been building hundreds of kilometres of underground rail in the past few decades.

By comparison the last National Party had to be brought screaming and kicking to the conclusion that Auckland’s inner city rail link, a 3.45 kilometre tunnel, had to be progressed no matter what.  Government funding is now due to start in 2018.  Auckland Council had to front up with funds of its own to get the project moving.

The first bunch of RONS were bad enough.  But the latest bunch really give the impression that National was scraping the bottom of a very deep barrel.

For instance the East West Link in Auckland had the unusual feature that per kilometre it was going to be the most expensive motorway ever.  A corruption plagued Russian highway would have been relegated into second place.

Thankfully it will be no more, replaced by cheaper more sensible tweaks to existing roads.  The Crown contribution can be diverted into really helpful projects like light rail.

This is what the Labour Green coalition agreement requires this Government to:

  • Adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050, with a particular focus on policy development and initiatives in transport and urban form, energy and primary industries in accordance with milestones to be set by an independent Climate Commission and with a focus on establishing Just Transitions for exposed regions and industries.
  • Reduce congestion and carbon emissions by substantially increasing investment in safe walking and cycling, frequent and affordable passenger transport, rail, and sea freight.
  • National Land Transport Fund spending will be reprioritised to increase the investment in rail infrastructure in cities and regions, and cycling and walking.
  • Auckland’s East-West motorway link will not proceed as currently proposed.
  • Work will begin on light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland.

Each bullet point is impressive.  Each demands that we build less tarseal and more public transport.  It is no wonder given this world view that the East West link will be no more.

Greater Auckland in its indomitable way summarised the project in this way:

However, on one transport issue it seems the election result will lead to a lasting impact. That is the East West Link project. A re-elected National Government would have pushed on with the project as one of their next generation “roads of national significance” and by the time the 2020 election rolls around this project (unless we see the unlikely situation where its consent is declined) would have probably been under construction. In contrast, Labour have committed to significantly scaling back the project – banking around $1.2 billion of savings. Given the available alternatives to the East West Link are pretty strong and could deliver pretty much the same outcomes for far lower cost and far less environmental damage, it’s difficult to see the East West Link emerging again down the track once these cheaper and less destructive options are pursued.

Furthermore, as so eloquently explained by Infrastructure NZ’s Hamish Glenn the other week in his presentation to the project’s Board of Inquiry hearing, even in the very distant future there is relatively little demand on the East West Link project so it’s highly probable a cheaper option would be effective for a very long time.

And the Labour New Zealand First coalition agreement with its emphasis on rail neatly augments the Labour Green coalition agreement.  The L-NZF agreement requires the Government to:

  • A $1b per annum Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund, including significant investment in regional rail.
  • The government’s vehicle fleet, where practicable, to become emissions-free by 2025/26.
  • Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Commission, based on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

As a priority the Minister and Associate Minister of Transport will have to look at the make up and structure of the New Zealand Transport Agency.  From the looks of the coalition agreements it is going to have to move dramatically away from its more roads emphasis that has been placed on it by the former government.

I can’t believe how happy I am in typing this post.  Good times!

Reprinted from the Standard.

The synthetic cannabis issue

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The Glen Eden Residents Association and the Glen Eden Community Patrol held a public meeting recently to discuss local issues with Synthetic Cannabis.

The drug is a scourge.  I have represented young people in Court for many years and I know how problematic and destructive the drug can be for them.

The issue was highlighted recently when I discovered BID Manager Jennifer Conlon and local coordinator of the Glen Eden Community Patrol Penny Hinchelwood following a young person who had just smoked some synthetic weed in the Glen Eden township.  The young man was really the worse for wear and was really struggling.  The description “zombie drug” is really apt.

The meeting was very well organised and the presentations were superb.  Heather Tanguay, Michelle Clayton, Penny Hinchelwood and the other members of the associations should be praised for their work in organising the meeting.

The issue is a difficult one.  It can invoke demands for full throttled tough on crime solutions but my experience is that these do not work.  Throughout the world there is trend to treat the issue of drug use and drug dependancy as a health one.  Users who develop problems should receive help and education rather than prosecution.

Sargent Michael Wickman from New Lynn Police gave a really good presentation about what action the Police are taking.  The suppliers and manufacturers of synthetic cannabis are being targeted with some recent success.  Over 120 arrests for supplying and manufacturing have recently occurred.< He also emphasized the importance of treatment.  Those consuming the drug are being offered help by the police not prosecution.  I believe that the police have the approached about right. Scott Mesarich, who runs the Wicked Habits shop in Glen Eden, was an unlikely star of the meeting.  The shop previously, and legally, sold permitted synthetic cannabis and from what I saw Scott had a very successful business.  Following the change in the law he has adjusted his business model.  His current business model relies significantly on the sale of vaping products which are better for us than cigarettes.

He has also regulated the sale of herbs that are currently being used in the production of synthetic cannabis.  All strength to him.  We need more businessmen like Scott who are looking for a sustainable business model but one that does not cause harm.

Others spoke about what we should do to help those struggling from the effect of the drug.  Treatment and rehabilitation are not simple.  And too many young people are experimenting with the drug.  Education for both young people and for their parents is absolutely essential.

So congratulations to the Glen Eden Residents Association and the Glen Eden Community Patrol for organising the meeting and for taking an active approach to dealing with this very important issue.  Communities work better when local groups and the arms of the state, whether they be Police, Health or Local Government, work together.

Chair’s report September 2017 – Rimutaka Walkway, Kauri dieback and China

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Rimutaka Walkway

Neil Henderson has been heavily involved in the design and construction of the Rimutaka Walkway and deserves praise for his work. The walkway is now essentially complete and a formal opening is to be held soon. The walkway will help in linking the Woodlands Park community to the Landing Road walkway and improve pedestrian access in the area. The surrounding area is remarkably beautiful and if you need either exercise or soul cleansing immersion in nature or both this is one walk you will want to take.

The Board’s draft Greenways Plan is being readied for release for consultation. The intent is that this will drive the creation of further walkways like the Rimutaka walkway. The benefits are immense for both congestion and health, more people walking makes for a healthier and more sustainable community.

Kauri Dieback report

Following the release of the Auckland Council report on Kauri Dieback in the Waitakere Ranges thought is now being given to what to do.

As I noted previously the news is dire. The Waitakere Ranges has by far the greatest concentration of the disease. Over half of the areas in the Regional Park have trees showing signs of the condition and the rate of infection appears to have doubled since the previous survey was completed five years ago.

And it is clear that infection is concentrated around tracks and bait lines. The latter may be the result of infections caused before the use of trigene and hygienic boot cleaning methods. Everyone that I know who are involved in bait lines are really keen to preserve the Ranges the way they are. And it may be that bait line infections are due to lower hygiene standards from years ago rather than recent infections. But the statistics for use of the trigene stations on the tracks are deeply concerning with most people not using the brushes and trigene disinfectant to clean their boots.

The following table shows how clear the relationship between infection and the tracks is.

Council is to urgently upgrade all cleaning stations with better equipment so that the cleaning process is easier and better. But everyone has to do their part. If you are walking in the Ranges on one of the tracks please make sure you clean your shoes properly.

Drastic measures are being contemplated. I believe that we have to consider the possibility of track closures. A Rahui over the Waitakere Ranges has been proposed by Te Kawerau A Maki and may be necessary so that we can at least stabilize things until we understand more fully what is happening and work out a long term containment plan.

But clearly this will not be popular. I have received an expression of concern from the organiser of the Lactic Turkey event who is worried about what may happen. And I have seen a report suggesting that the hygiene methods used by the organisers of the race are pristine. So this is not going to be a straight forward process.

In the medium term an upgrade of the tracks with boardwalks or with proper drainage will be required to preserve existing Kauri. There will be a significant cost. Central Government funding may be needed. But if we want to make sure that the King of the Forest remains we will need to do whatever is required to stop the spread of this most destructive of diseases.

The Board considered the report at its last meeting. We passed resolutions noting that the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is now the most heavily kauri dieback infected area currently recorded in New Zealand and that the recorded distribution of kauri dieback in a kauri area has essentially doubled in the past five years. The highest risk vector for Kauri dieback movement into new areas is soil disturbance associated with human activity. We also noted that compliance with hygiene requirements is very low and must increase if we are to prevent kauri dieback spread.

Our resolution urged Council to urgently upgrade Phytosanitary stations to the most effective models available so that the spray bottle and brush station are superseded, to seek more funding from Central Government because of the national significance of kauri, and because both local and central government are obligated to uphold the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008. We requested adequate funding to increase maintenance and improve drainage on tracks, and upgrade selected tracks to reduce possibility of infection.

On the issue of track closures the Board wants Council to give this consideration although in consultation with the Board and external stakeholders. The Board also wants public education to be increased. Current use of the hygiene stations is far too hit and miss and we need to do better.

Unitary Plan appeals

I became involved in local government primarily to support meaningful protection for the Waitakere Ranges and one of the areas I was most proud to be involved in was the development and passage of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008. Ever since its passage I have had a keen interest to monitor its performance and to see if it is achieving what it was intended to achieve.

The Board has taken very keen interest in the development of the Unitary Plan and made submissions to the Panel when hearings were conducted.

Our preference was that the intent of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act be followed and existing District Plan provisions retained.

One area where this is important is the ability to subdivide. Through much of the ranges subdivision down to a certain size was permitted but any subdivision below those sizes was prohibited. The intent was that a certain amount of intensification would happen but after that the level of development would be capped.

So it was of concern when the Hearings Panel recommended that subdivision below permitted levels be classed as non complying rather than prohibited. The difference is that land owners could still apply and try and persuade the decision maker that a particular subdivision should be allowed to proceed. The almost inevitable result would be that over time the heritage area could be fundamentally changed. An individual decision to subdivide may not have had much effect and the temptation would be to let it through but the cumulative effect of a number of these decisions could have been profound. As the former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Morgan Williams said the Ranges would suffer death by a thousand cuts. The protection offered by the Act would have been weakened considerably.

Council confirmed the decision even though it was urged not to.

The Waitakere Ranges Protection Society then appealed the decision claiming that the original recommendation was flawed in that it did not give sufficient weight to the provisions of the Act.

I am pleased to say that Auckland Council supported the appeal and that the appeal was granted.

Justice Whata said this in granting the appeal:

“In the present case, I agree with the appellant that the WRHAA articulates a number of values which are expressions of social, environmental and cultural outcomes or expectations which might properly justify prohibited activity status as an outcome. The most effective way of achieving these objectives may have been to impose prohibited activity status on subdivision. To the extent the Panel did not approach the imposition of prohibited activity status in this way, it applied the incorrect legal test, in terms of (the Court of Appeal decision in) Coromandel Watchdog.”

The appeal has been granted in a way which will allow submitters to the original provision to appeal to the Environment Court against the change.

The roadside Kauris on Paturoa Road

There has been a lot of local concern that two rather magnificent roadside Kauri on Paturoa Road may be threatened by works being conducted on the site. The litigation relating to the work has resulted in the landowner deciding to surrender the consents so for now the roadside Kauri are safe. There are live issues however about what if any development around these trees should be allowed as the original analysis about the trees drip lines relied on by the consent may not have been optimal.

Through the Unitary Plan process the significant ecological area zone for this property was removed. This included the part of the zone that was on the road reserve.

Various people have raised concerns with me that this means the roadside Kauri are no longer protected.

I have raised this with Council staff and I have been advised that although they do not see an urgent need to reinstate the significant ecological zone for the area as a matter of urgency this could occur as part of a review over the next five years. In the meantime the trees are protected in that their removal would require a resource consent as well as Council consent. I have advised the staff that the Local Board regard this as a significant issue and any application that may affect the trees should be brought to the local board’s attention.

Watercare

The liaison group is meeting regularly and I have been able to attend two of the meetings. Agreement has been reached concerning an ecological survey and who and how it will be completed by. Clearly we are getting close to design decisions being made.

One aspect which I believe will be contentious is Watercare’s desire to place two large reservoirs on the Exhibition Drive side of Woodlands Park Road. If the design is not sensitive there is the prospect of a prominent group of Kauri being affected. Along with any incursion into the Clark’s Bush Walk area this particular aspect possibly represents the most significant threat to the local environment.

China

Finally a few comments on my recent trip to China. I spent time in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. These are big cities, Hong Kong has 7.4 million people, Beijing has 22 million, and Shanghai has 24 million.

I had expected to go to cities that were hopelessly gridlocked with air pollution that was out of control, similar to the photo below which was taken in 2014.

But the cities’ skies were remarkably clear.

It may be because I was in China at a good time. It could be that China’s aggressive phasing out of coal fired power plants is having an effect.

But the rate of growth of its underground rail in its major cities in the past 30 years has been phenomenal. Shanghai has more than doubled its underground rail from 260 kilometers to 640 kilometers since 2008. Beijing has nearly tripled its underground rail going from 200 kilometers to 570 kilometers.

By comparison the city rail link is 3.5 kilometers and it will take a similar time to complete.

The frequency is every three minutes. There literally is no waiting. And the price is phenomenal. For the equivalent of 60c I was able to travel half way across each city at a speed that the local taxi drivers could often not match.

And the cities, particularly Beijing really look after their walkers and cyclists with dedicated cycle lanes being very prominent and hire bikes being easy to locate and use.

And the effect on congestion? Shanghai for instance is geographically six times the size of Auckland but has nearly 20 times the population. And the congestion is no worse than Auckland’s.

It is clear to me that we are not going to be able to road build our way out of our current congestion problem. Fast reliable public transport is the only way to address congestion. Light rail on the North Western motorway, on the Isthmus and to the airport should be a priority. And if we want to do something about climate change then it needs to be electricity powered.

August Chair’s report – Kauri Dieback is getting worse

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Through the vagaries of timing and the loss of a meeting I did not present a Chair’s report during July.

This was not a reflection that nothing was happening.  A number of important issues continue to attract the attention of the Board.

Draft local board plan

The consultation round about the Draft Local Board plan for this term has now been completed.  And as can be expected a diversity of views have been offered on a variety of topics.

There was a great deal of support for the emphasis in our draft report of the environment and protection of Waitakere Ranges.  The concept of stewardship is something that many local residents relate to.

Many submitters also supported our plans for Glen Eden and how it needs a good old fashioned spruce up.  Others talked about the importance of public transport particularly for those parts of our board area that have little or no access to public transport.  The rail system is great and will get even better when the City Rail Link is completed but it is important that we make sure that the links to the local railway stations are of good quality.

A number of submissions expressed opposition to the use by Council of glyphosate.  The Strategic Weed Plan prepared for the Local Board in 2015 emphasises best practice guidelines that the Method Of Least Disturbance should be used in all natural areas and roadsides under Auckland Council control, to protect desirable vegetation, minimise or prevent weed invasion, and ensure succession to a weed free natural habitat as quickly as possible.  There is sympathy for preventing the use of chemical sprays particularly where human exposure is high.  The issue is not a simple one however.

Some submissions thought that we were paying too much attention to the environment and that people should be higher on the list of priorities.  I respectfully disagree with them as I believe a healthy environment is the best thing we can achieve for local people.

There was criticism that the plan does not place sufficient emphasis on sport and recreation.  I can assure submitters that the area of Sport and Recreation is one of the most important areas the Board is involved in and will continue to be one of our priorities.

A number of submissions mentioned walking and cycling.  With the limited resources that we have, the Board is doing what we can to accelerate the completion of walkways throughout the area.  The Rimutaka walkway is due to be opened shortly.  The Board soon will be consulting on the draft Greenways Plan to see what are local priorities for improving the walking and cycling network.

Other submissions talked about the housing crisis.  This is an issue that is of vital importance to the Board.  With our limited budget the most effective thing we can do is to advocate for Council and Central Government to step up to the mark.  We  have already engaged with major apartment developers in Glen Eden and intend to continue to do this.

Other submissions discussed the proposed new Watercare Filter station on Woodlands Park Road.  Already this issue has engaged a lot of board time and we intend to continue to be involved and to advocate for local views so that the best results for locals and for the environment can be achieved.

One of the most interesting proposals was to physically identify all scheduled trees with a sign.  This should be an easy thing to do.  In Melbourne not only are they identified but you can also send emails to individual trees.  Maybe Auckland Council should think of some sort of register and identifying symbol so that smart phones can pick up and interact with the tree.

The submissions are now being considered and the the plan should be finalised in the next couple of months.

Watercare

The public consultation committee is now up and running.  The chairperson is Paul Walbran.  He was a previous ARC Councillor and has a great deal of experience and expertise and helped oversee the completion of the Manukau sewerage.  He was also an ardent supporter of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act and played a major role in its passing.

He has a cooperative style of management and I am sure that he will maximise the effectiveness of the group.

At the time of writing this report three meetings have occurred.  Watercare has agreed to an independent environmental assessment of the site.  I am confident the committee will do its best to ensure that if the new Watercare development happens at Woodland’s Park then the disruption to the environment and to locals are minimised.  In particular I hope they can come up with a solution so that Clarks Bush can be preserved and a prominent stand of Kauri on Exhibition Drive can also be preserved.

Kauri Dieback

After a frustrating delay Auckland Council has finally released the results of the latest five yearly survey of the presence of Kauri Dieback in the Waitakere Ranges.

The news is dire. The Waitakere Ranges has by far the greatest concentration of the disease in the country. Over half of the areas in the Regional Park have trees showing signs of the condition and the rate of infection appears to have doubled since the previous survey was completed five years ago.

And it is clear that infection is concentrated around tracks and bait lines. The latter may be the result of infections caused before the use of trigene and hygienic boot cleaning methods became widespread. Everyone that I know who are involved in bait lines are really keen to preserve the Ranges the way they are. But the statistics for use of the trigene stations on the tracks are dire with most people not using the brushes and trigene disinfectant to clean their boots.

Council is to urgently upgrade all cleaning stations with better equipment so that the cleaning process is easier and better. But everyone has to do their part. If you are walking in the Ranges on one of the tracks please make sure you clean your shoes properly.

Drastic measures are being contemplated. I believe that we have to consider the possibility of track closures. A Rahui over the Waitakere Ranges has been proposed by local Iwi and may be needed over at least some of the parkland so that we can at least stabilize things until we understand more fully what is happening and work out a long term containment plan.

This is a really difficult conversation to have with local people.  We all love the Ranges.  We relish use of them.  But they are being loved to death.  We need to find a sustainable way to interact with them.  Starting with how we deal with Kauri dieback.

In the medium term an upgrade of the tracks with boardwalks will be required to preserve existing Kauri. There will be a significant cost. But if we want to make sure that the King of the Forest remains we will need to do whatever is required to stop the spread of this most destructive of conditions.

I noted earlier the public trial of the use of phosphite which is injected into the trunks of affected trees.  Laboratory tests suggest that providing an appropriate dose of phosphite keeps Kauri standing and wards off the effects of the infection, at least in the short term.  If any local has an infected Kauri and want to find out more about the trial they can access further information at http://www.kaurirescue.org.nz/.

www.kaurirescue.org.nz
Kauri Rescue: Community Control of Kauri Dieback: Tiaki Kauri …is a two year project funded by the National Science Biological Heritage Challenge which seeks to …

Just a reminder, this is a species threatening condition.  No Kauri has yet been discovered to be immune.  If nothing is done then we face the prospect of Kauri in the Waitakere Ranges becoming extinct.

Water quality

The board has commissioned a report on coastal and marine water quality.  We have two significant problems.  The West Auckland lagoons are often polluted.  The primary cause is poorly functioning septic tank systems.

And on the Manukau Harbour side the beaches are in poor condition with Laingholm and Wood Bay in particularly bad shape.

The cause in the Manukau is a combination of ovarian and dog faeces and leaking infrastructure.  Dogs and birds have had some effect but human faeces and the local infrastructure has been implicated.

We are going to urge Watercare to get on top of this problem.

The report will be released soon and we intend to talk to local communities about the results and about what we do next.

Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area report

Under the Act Auckland Council is supposed to prepare a report on the current health of the Heritage Area every five years.  The report is there to highlight trends and to sound warnings.  If there are changes happening then the report should drive Council activity.

The first report was prepared in 2013 and indicated overall that the Act was working the way it was intended.

The second report is due for completion next year.

Hopefully the result will be the same.  But the report is an important one and something that the Board takes seriously.

Glen Eden

The Local Board has launched the Glen Eden Business Prospectus. The intent is to persuade prospective business owners that Glen Eden is a great place to do business in.

Clearly Glen Eden is facing dramatic change.  Currently the Ted Manson apartment blocks are being constructed, a Housing Corporation building will follow and there is a private apartment block currently in the design stage.

Intensification is occurring.  It is important that it is done correctly.

The City Rail Link is also being constructed and is due for completion in 2023.

It will be transformational.  Being able to get to the middle of town within 30 minutes will persuade many people that Glen Eden is a cool place to live in and work in.

The Local Board though the efforts of Steve Tollestrup has prepared a business prospectus to be made available to real estate agents and anyone showing an interest in setting up business here.  The prospectus highlights some of the thriving and interesting business that we have in our area.  Businesses like Fiesta Cafe run by Nikki Price and Korean Sushi are setting the standard for quality cuisine.  Right here in Glen Eden.

To handle the growth there needs to be urban transformation.  Currently our primary commercial area resembles a large car park  To make it a more attractive place for people the local board is investigating designing and funding of a town square in the centre of the commercial area.  The hope is that by improving this part of Glen Eden it will have a transformative effect and persuade current building owners of some rather tired buildings to refurbish or rebuild.

Glen Eden will have a great future.  The Local Board is doing its best to make sure that this happens.

Laurie Ross’s peace event

I was pleased to be invited to speak at Laurie Ross’s peace event at Titirangi Library.  The topic of the meeting was our nuclear free status 30 years on from the passing of the Nuclear Free legislation.  Preparing the speech made me reflect on how brave the Government was back then in saying no to the Americans and refusing to allow American Nuclear ships to visit New Zealand.  The feeling at the time was that nuclear war was almost inevitable.  Thankfully this did not happen and in our own small but significant way New Zealand made the world a safer place to be in by saying that reliance on nuclear weapons for safety was wrong.

Who can forget the Oxford Union debate when David Lange said that he could smell uranium on the breath of an over eager young man who tried to suggest that New Zealand was still snuggling up to the bomb?  Or his description of the insanity of the nuclear arms race in that all that was happening was that both sides were refining an existing capacity to make the rubble bounce and bounce.

Waitakere City has had a proud history of being a Peace area.  The Local Board intends to continue this proud heritage.

Titirangi Plastic Free Event

This was organised by the Love Titirangi group.  The goal is to persuade as many people as possible to forgo the use of plastic bags.  The reason?  Our environment is slowly suffocating from the use of plastics and every source should be avoided.  They are found in the digestive tracts of birds and large fish including whales, and plastics are forming a larger and larger area of our ocean.  There is no planet B.  We trash this planet at our peril.

The event itself was a great occasion involving the Mayor, a cast of thousands, music, bag making and the handing out of free reusable bags to the crowd.  Young people played a prominent part and the local schools are clearly onside.  Congratulations to Love Titirangi and to Ecomatters Trust for starting this program and for raising this very important issue.

ACT wants to subdivide the Waitakere Ranges (or at least the foothills)

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There was a great deal of attention on the policy announcements of the major parties this weekend.  One announcement was forward looking and a firm statement that business as usual was not working.  The other was somewhat ho hum and involved an extension to Auckland’s electrified rail network that Labour started as well as the third rail line in South Auckland.  This was the project that only a few years ago the Government wanted to bury the report for.  This should have been approved and started this year.  Hiding the report and then supporting the project shows some weird set of priorities.

The electrification of rail to Pukekohe is a good idea.  But Auckland Council recently decided to purchase hybrid trains that could service the area.  I hope there is another use for these trains.  Perhaps they could be added to the western line so that Huapai and Kumeu can be serviced properly.

And over on the edge of New Zealand politics a small nondescript party tried to attract attention by promising a gazillion new houses for Auckland.  Well maybe not a gazillion but the extraordinary figure of 600,000.

This would involve more than doubling the current number of houses in Auckland.  In 2013 there were 473,451 occupied dwellings.  So this figure would more than double the number of houses currently existing in Auckland.

There is a problem.  Under the term of this government which ACT and David Seymour are members of housing construction in Auckland is tanking, despite burgeoning need.  But this does not stop Seymour from trying to put the blame elsewhere.

From Stuff:

… Seymour promised to scrap the Rural Urban Boundary, paving the way for at least 600,000 homes to be built in Waitakere, Karaka and Clevedon.

He said he would also push the Government to abolish the Resource Management Act and replace it with laws that required councils to free up land as populations increased.

“These areas are not treasured natural landscapes. They are grassy fields with the occasional barn or horse.

“Allowing housing in these areas should be a bare minimum for any Government.”

The party would fund the infrastructure to service the new homes by sharing the GST on construction with councils, he said.

ACT’s plan does not have the support of the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society.

“He’s dreaming,” said president John Edgar of the policy.

Edgar said the foothills are a buffer zone between suburban sprawl and the Waitakere Ranges.”Sub-divisions would impact the ecology of the ranges.”

Edgar said there would have to be a very good reason to change the boundary. “Our fear would be if the boundary changed for one property it would open the flood gate and the boundary would get smaller and smaller,” he said.

Here is the ACT’s map.  The blue is the current urban form and the yellow is where it wants to allow subdivision to occur.

And here is the unitary plan map for the area.  Essentially Seymour is proposing that the land zoned Waitakere Foothills zone is subdivided.  All of it.

And here is the googlemap of the area. Note that significant parts of it are covered in bush and native forest, not the grassy field with the occasional barn that Seymour talked about.

To be frank the proposal is bonkers. There are major impediments to any proposal to change current zoning for the foothills. Roads are narrow and unsuited for large numbers. There is no reticulated sewerage through vast parts of the foothills. Much of the area is steep and prone to slips.

And good old mother nature and the Ranges perform some pretty important jobs for us humans.

  • They provide us with rural beauty, with artistic inspiration, and with a sense of serenity.
  • They control and manage rainfall and without the forest urban flooding would be much more problematic.
  • They provide us with fresh drinking water.
  • They provide a buffer to help preserve the health of the ranges.

The method that Seymour is using, the removal of the rural urban boundary will also have unintended consequences.  If there is no boundary for Auckland’s growh then why shouldn’t there be increased subdivision at Piha and Karekare and Bethells Te Henga …

I have not seen the details.  You have to spend good money on doing this and I have an aversion to funding anti environmental proposals.

Most advanced nations realise that urban sprawl has a very bad downside, with increased reliance on cars, a plethora of motorways and environmental destruction being inevitable consequences.  ACT’s proposal will only lock Auckland into the type of growth it has been spending many years trying to avoid.