The new term

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The text of my speech for the inaugural meeting of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board.

Can I first thank Mana Whenua for starting our meeting and our term in a most appropriate way.

Can I thank everyone for attending this the inaugural meeting of the fourth Waitakere Ranges Local Board.

I have had the privilege of being a member of each board.

The first was chaotic as we were thrown the keys to the brand new super city vehicle and told to drive her.

We did it without driving lessons, or even from the most cursory investigation by the powers that be to see if we even had a drivers licence.

But we had the wise and dedicated leadership of my comrade Denise Yates to guide us through.

The second under the leadership of Sandra Coney saw us advance in the way that we handled the job.

To continue with the car metaphor we worked out how to control it better.

To the terror of Queen Street we even pulled off the odd burnout and hand break job but we did manage to keep it on the road.

Then it was my privilege to be chair for the past term.  It was a wonderful experience for me.  Each morning I would wake up and think what part of our piece of paradise needed a bit of TLC and which part we could improve.

And onto this term which I hope is the term that we really learn to make super city or at least our part of it hum.

Can I acknowledge Saffron Toms who has been re-elected to her third term.

This term we are going to try something different, perhaps even slightly radical.

We decided to buck the region’s way of doing things not to mention the legislation and to act as co chairs.

This will mean a split term for each of us and a swap half way through.  It will also mean that the board will get two for the price of one.

We will work out specific areas of responsibility in the next few weeks and our intent is to involve every local board member in everything the board does and if they have a special interest in a particular area to involve them as much as possible in that area.

Can I acknowledge former chair Sandra Coney.  She will be serving her 7th term in public office this term.  The good people of West Auckland obviously recognise ability and dedication.  Sandra is the person on the board most determined that we make the right decision each time.

Can I acknowledge Ken Turner.

I am not breaking any confidences by disclosing that Ken and I have different political views.  Our respective campaign material shows this.  But I am impressed by the dedication that Ken brings to the job and the determination he has to improve things.

I am sure that he will bring his A game to board meetings.  To criticise and question when he thinks something is wrong.  We will not always agree but debates are better when all views are considered.

Can I acknowledge new board member Michelle Clayton.

I have worked with Michelle on issues including housing and Glen Eden where her work is discerning and productive.  She will bring a compassionate and capable approach to the board.

Can I also acknowledge new board member Mark Allen.  He is the current head of Community Waitakere and a former senior Council Officer. 

His experience and insight into how super city works will be invaluable to us, if not somewhat terrifying to the staff!

Can I acknowledge our ward Councillors Linda Cooper and especially Shane Henderson who is our new Councillor.  I should warn you both that we have a reputation of being an environmentally focussed and sometimes stroppy board and I am afraid that things are not going to change this term.  

We look forward to working productively with you on issues of common interest. 

A very special thanks to our family and friends who put a huge effort into getting us elected and had to put up with the stress and tension and drama of an election campaign.  On behalf of each of us from both Future West and from Westwards can I acknowledge you and thank you for everything that you did for us.

And can I state on behalf of all politicians here that we all, and I repeat all, go a bit crazy during election campaigns.  May we all return to sanity quickly so that we can all work for the benefit of our community.  

This is the fifth time that I have been elected to public office and each time has made me realise the importance of the democratic process.  Our mandate is to listen and reflect the views of our communities while at the same time provide leadership and make our own minds up about issues and keep everyone happy.  Occasionally these may contradict, especially the last which is almost never possible.  Good luck to whoever can achieve this balance …

This area has been my home for over 30 years. Among all of us locals there is a deep fondness for the area and a deep desire to protect the ranges, the foothills, our west coast beaches and the abundant forest that is around us.  I believe that this board’s environmentally protective beliefs accord with the dominant social values of the West.

This term in making our part of paradise better one decision at a time there are eleven areas I want the board to pay particular attention to.

The first is climate change.  That most intractable of problems urgently needs not only international and national action but also local action.  Every decision we make should have a climate change filter applied to it.

The second is the marine environment and in particular protection of Maui’s dolphin’s habitat.  Our streams and lagoons should be clean and our beaches should always be swimmable.

The third is the housing crisis.  I cannot understand how in a nation as wealthy as New Zealand we have working people and their kids living in cars.  And that our young teachers and police officers and nurses cannot afford to buy their own home in Auckland.  The causes are complex and varied but each branch of Auckland Council needs to stand up and do its part.

The fourth is Glen Eden renewal.  Glen Eden is a wonderful village full of great people.  And it is resilient.  It just keeps on keeping on.  It is also the centre of an area that will experience considerable growth and the railway station will be utilised more and more as the current growth in PT continues.  We made a start last term on renewal with the securing of land for a town square but we need to kick on and affect change.  One hopefully which will result in it being less dependant on cars and where people are happy to walk and cycle and gather.

The fifth is Kauri dieback.  The spread of Kauri dieback is occurring at a terrifying rate and this most magnificent of species is facing increasing threat.  Research of the issue and education of local communities on detection and prevention as well as the upgrading of our tracks so we can walk without fear must continue.

The sixth is tree protection.  It is absurd that we can have rules about what colour a house can be painted but not have general rules protecting trees.  Our advocacy and activism in this area must continue.

The seventh is weeds and pests. Titirangi is unfortunately known as the weed capital of the country.  And we are only just holding on.  We need to do better.

The eighth is Arts and Culture.  Our local board area is blessed with as divine art as can be imagined.  And institutions such as Te Uru provide a focus for its nurturing and development.  Last term the board worked hard to secure Shadbolt House as a writer’s residence.  This term we hope to complete this.

The ninth is Public Transport.  If we are going to become truly sustainable then our PT needs to be outstanding.  And the claw back of public transport from the rural area needs to stop and be reversed.

The tenth is development of the the Te Henga Marae.  This term I want to make sure there are no roadblocks to completion of this very important project for Te Kawerau a Maki.

And finally the local board will continue with our oversight role of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area.  The Act creates an obligation for Auckland Council to preserve and enhance the local area and many problems can be addressed by reference to the principles and objectives of the Act.

To conclude and to complete the car metaphor this term the local board intends driving a fully electric vehicle fueled by sustainably generated electricity.

But I can’t promise that we won’t be doing any burnouts or hand brake jobs.

Will online voting solve the turnout problem

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As at yesterday Auckland Council was reporting that 17% of electors had voted.

This is not an Auckland only problem, throughout the country return rates are reported to be low.

And questions are being asked about the cause, and what the solution may be.

My personal belief is that our severely compromised postal system is a large part of the problem.

And it was predictable. The school trustee election experience earlier this year provided a jarring run up to what is an important exercise of our democratic rights.

From Simon Collins in the Herald from June of this year:

School principals are livid over delays in delivering Board of Trustees ballot papers with one saying she was prepared to the break the law to give parents time to vote.

Voting in the triennial elections for most school boards closed at noon on Friday, June 7.

But Ponsonby Primary School principal Dr Anne Malcolm said most of her parents did not receive their voting papers until about 2pm on Thursday, giving them less than 24 hours to read the candidates’ statements and get their votes in.

She put the blame squarely on “NZ Post inefficiency”.

“They sent the voting papers out on Monday May 27,” she said.

“It took 11 days for NZ Post to get mail into our letterboxes in the centre of Auckland, from Wellington, which is absolutely abhorrent.”

She “panicked” when most of her parents had not received voting papers by last Tuesday, June 4.

“I really panicked. I thought, we are going to end up with a situation where people will go to court over this, that it will be unjust, people will not have enough time to read the papers,” she said.

“NZ Post says, and I know because I live in Ponsonby, that they only deliver in Ponsonby on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, so the next hit will be Thursday.”

My impression is that the votes were delivered more slowly this year. I was delivering pamphlets a week after the date deliveries started to be made and saw a number of election packs in letterboxes.

So is digital voting the solution? At this stage I am afraid not. This is something that I wrote earlier this year:

“Auckland Council wishes to conduct a trial of online voting at next year’s local government elections and the local boards are being asked to comment.

People that know me will be aware that I am a somewhat self confessed technophile. I have owned a computer for 30 years now and my MacBook Pro is rarely not by my side.

But I must admit having misgivings about the proposal to test run electronic voting and wonder if this will be too soon.

The report that the Waitakere Ranges Local Board is to consider this week says this:

The internet has become an integral part of everyday life. Many of the transactions that used to be carried out by post have long been replaced by online options, to the extent that people expect online facilities for their day-to-day activities. Online voting is therefore a natural progression and constitutes an opportunity to modernise the operation of local democracy in New Zealand.

The current postal voting method relies entirely on New Zealand Post providing an effective and reliable service. It is a reality that the postal service is declining. Fewer New Zealanders choose to communicate via post, particularly first time and younger voters, many of whom have never posted a letter. The frequency of delivery is decreasing and the cost of sending mail is surging. The postal cost for the 2019 Auckland local elections will increase by an estimated 77 per cent compared with 2016, because of a postage price increase of almost 60 per cent and an increase in the number of electors of approximately 70,000.

It will become increasingly difficult to deliver postal voting effectively and affordably. Therefore, it is crucial to have a viable alternative to postal voting in place, and online voting is the obvious choice.

While complaints about the mail system are appropriate this should not of itself be a reason to change systems.  And there is a cost in making democracy function properly.  If you want an example of a local election with problems the recent election for the Auckland Consumer Energy Trust is a prime example with turnout less than 13%.  It did not help that the independent electoral officer was banned from promoting the election.

After the recent US elections and the multitude of complaints arising from the conduct of different elections particularly in Texas, Georgia and Florida I believe that some caution is warranted.

The complaints from those elections are numerous, voting machines that preferred Cruz to Beto even though voters had selected the all Democrat option, voting machines locked away, voters purged from voting lists because of slightly mismatched signatures, one candidate for Governor also being the chief electoral officer, and voting resources favouring wealthy over poor areas.

And the Internet does not have a good reputation when it comes to the enforcement of democratic norms, as shown by the various complaints over Facebook, the spread of fake news and possible Russian interference in the US election show. It has even been shown that there is a sustainable business model involving the spread of fake news, and it seems the faker the news the more profitable the spread.

I appreciate that many of these examples are not relevant for the proposed electronic voting model but they can show what happens when things get skewered.

Stanford Computer Professor David Dill has provided these reasons for not trusting computers with online voting:

  • There’s no way with any reasonable amount of resources that you can guarantee that the software and hardware are bug-free and that they haven’t been maliciously attacked.
  • There exists the opportunity for phishing emails being answered for the unwary and for those credentials to then be used to vote in a way contrary to the intent of the voter. Although given the size and scale of local elections the prospects would appear to be remote there is still the possibility that this could occur.
  • The benefit of a paper based voting system is that there is a fully reviewable chain of evidence that can be checked to make sure that the intent of the electorate has been properly ascertained.
  • The perception of election trustworthiness is important. A result needs to be generally accepted as being accurate and credible.  And breach of security around internet voting could irretrievably taint an election result.

And he said this about the use of paper ballots:

Paper has some fundamental properties as a technology that make it the right thing to use for voting. You have more-or-less indelible marks on the thing. You have physical objects you can control. And everyone understands it. If you’re in a polling place and somebody disappears with a ballot box into a locked room and emerges with a smirk, maybe you know that there is a problem. We’ve had a long time to work out the procedures with paper ballots and need to think twice before we try to throw a new technology at the problem. People take paper ballots for granted and don’t understand how carefully thought through they are.

Auckland Council’s proposal is for there to be a variety of voting techniques and I agree this is important.  Having digital to the exclusion of others would discriminate against those for who the internet is a somewhat foreign place, including the elderly and the poor.

The report itself says this about security:

No information technology (IT) or voting system is 100 per cent secure, but the Online Voting Working Party is committed to developing an online voting solution that will guarantee a similar or higher level of security than currently offered by postal voting.

I am not sure this will be enough.  Reputation wise any breach of an electronic system could be disastrous.”

And I admit that I have changed my mind on the issue.

If you live in Auckland and still want to vote the safest thing may be to drop your voting papers to your local library or service centre.

And if you have not received your papers you can still cast a special vote.

But please vote. A properly functioning democracy depends on it being as representative as possible.

Three years of living dangerously

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Tena koutou katoa

The end of a political term is always an opportunity to reflect on what has happened during the term, wonder about what we could have achieved but did not, and celebrate the decisions that we are proud of.

And it is an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the job and our powers and position in the larger Auckland Council family, and to think about what the optimal structure would be.

In my speech to our inaugural meeting I listed what I thought would be the big issues. They were climate change, the housing crisis, Glen Eden renewal, Kauri dieback, the state of our marine environment, weeds and pests and oversight of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area.

And they were the big issues that we dealt with. Although there were a couple of surprise additions.

Time will properly measure the progress that we made. But I believe that we, all of us, have done out bit to make our part of paradise better one decision at a time.

Following are some of the matters that I think were the most important or most noteworthy from this term.

Denise Yates

The most poignant event this term was the death of Kuia Denise Yates who died part way through the term.

Denise had a long career in local government. She knew everyone and loved the human contact involved with the job. She was an unapologetic progressive, a staunch defender of workers’ rights, a lesbian woman who came out when this was a brave thing to do, a steadfast advocate for the environment, a tireless worker wanting to improve the West. She was still working just before Christmas 2017 but had become ill and died shortly after. Thanks to the generosity of Hoani Waititi Marae she spent her last few days on the marae.

The west is a better place because of Denise.

Ken Turner

Ken Turner was elected in the by election after Denise’s death. He has settled into the job quickly. He is very energetic and dedicated and has done some really good work on areas such as the Glen Eden Playhouse and the Waima Water Treatment plant. We disagree about some matters but a diversity of views is healthy for a democracy.

Water quality

Thanks in particular to Saffron Toms the Local Board commissioned a report into water quality in the Manukau Harbour and the West Coast. The report, titled Big Blue Waitakere, was publicly released during this term.

To be frank our local water quality is appalling. This local board area has half of the region’s trouble spots. Wood Bay and Laingholm Beach in particular are shut too often. And the Piha and Te Henga lagoons have unsafe contamination levels occurring far too frequently.

Swimmability is only one aspect of what is a complex problem. Fish stock and in particular protection of Maui’s dolphin along with contamination by plastics are other major issues that need to be addressed although improving water quality will help with these other issues.

The intent is that the report should start a discussion with local communities about the state of our beaches and lagoons and what should we do to improve them. We want to prompt a wide-ranging local conversation about our marine and coastal environment, how we interact with it and how we work together to protect and restore it.

The report itself is complex and identifies a number of threats and areas for concern. From the Executive Summary:

“Some of the greatest threats to the diversity and resilience of marine and coastal habitats are global issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and associated climate change, ocean acidification and sea level rise. Several management actions identified relate to how the local board can advocate for local scale contributions to carbon emissions that contribute to these global issues.

The key pressures affecting the marine and coastal habitats within the WRLB area include; urban development and discharge of contaminants; fishing pressure and methods; habitat destruction; wastewater pollution; rubbish, plastics and marine debris; invasive species; and potential risks associated with petroleum and sand exploration and mining.

While improvements have been made to local and regional management approaches, 90% of our native seabirds and more than a quarter of our native marine mammals are threatened with or are at risk of extinction. The rapid expansion of urbanised Auckland has resulted in coastal marine habitats and ecosystems becoming degraded. Chemical contaminants, high levels of nutrients and discharged sediments from waterways will continue to result in negative impacts. Even with the implementation of best practice management, it is unknown how irreversible these ecosystem-level changes may be.

The report sets out eight management objectives designed to focus the debate in what can and should happen in discrete areas. These include a focus on water quality, habitat diversity and natural character, natural coastal processes, sustainable fisheries, threatened species which includes the critically endangered Māui’s dolphin, the offshore environment, recreational value and safety and the accumulation of knowledge and research by local communities.

The report has been well received and I hope that along with the targeted water quality rate will drive an improvement in local water quality over the next decade.

Watercare Treatment Plant

Perhaps the most significant issue that we faced was the announcement by Watercare that it wanted to construct a treatment plant in the area and the list of potential sites had been reduced to either a new site in Oratia or near the existing site in Waima.

The Oratia site was very problematic. A number of houses and properties would have to be bought or would be affected. The work required would have been substantial. Placing a large scale industrial plant in a quiet rural area would have changed the area irreversibly.

Consenting the site would have been difficult. The protection offered by the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act could have been decisive.

The announcement caused an immediate response from the local Oratia community. With impressive passion and organisational skills they countered the plan with a community based response to the proposal. They called a number of pubic meetings that must have been attended by most people living in the valley. Their campaign was visually adept and clearly caused Watercare to rethink things.

It then settled on the Waima site as its preferred site.

An existing designation has made the obtaining of resource consent is easier than it would have been in Oratia and I suspect that this was the determining factor.

But the Waima site is also problematic. Who wants to cut down nearly 4 hectares of regenerating indigenous forest, some of it pristine, to site an industrial plant in the Waitakere Ranges?

The local board has taken an active role in the community consultation meetings. We suggested to Watercare that opponents of the plant should be included so that there was a proper contest of ideas.

The committee I believe has had an effect. An earlier plan which would have resulted in the felling of a significant grove of Kauri to make way for one of two massive reservoirs has been altered. There is now only the one reservoir in a lower quality ecological area. And construction of the second reservoir on the site of the existing plant will mean that disruption caused by truck movements will lessen as construction time will be increased.

But the project is problematic.

A few months ago I wrote to Watercare inviting them to consider siting the site on the “sludge site”. The proposal is one that came from Ken Turner and the rest of the board were happy to support it.

The benefit would have been that a significant dump site covered in the residue of the treatment process would be remediated. And the vegetation in the area was low quality. Watercare declined to follow the proposal on the basis that any potential spill would have contaminated the water supply. Given the proposed plant’s proximity to homes this is a worrying concession.

The board had provided formal feedback. This is as follows:

  1. We oppose the application in its current form.
  2. We note the proposed development is in the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area and is adjacent to regional parkland and our view is that it is inconsistent with the objectives of the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008 as well as the Muddy Creek Local Area Plan.
  3. We invite Watercare to renew consultation with the Waima community to locate a site and a plant design that will satisfy local expectations.
  4. We invite Watercare to investigate repositioning of the plant to the sludge site close to the Nihotupu lake as identified in the Local Board’s letter to Watercare dated October 9, 2018 a copy of which is attached.
  5. Alternatively we invite Watercare to consider repositioning the site in an urban industrial area such as Spam Farm in Glendene which is more suitable for the location of a large industrial complex of this sort.
  6. We are concerned
    (a) the plant design requires the destruction of 3.5 hectares of regenerating sub tropical rainforest that is home to many indigenous species including a previously unidentified wasp.
    (b) the project will require up to 118 heavy vehicle movements a day on Titirangi’s narrow and fragile roads.
  7. We support the restoration and repurposing of the Nihotupu Filter Station which is a scheduled heritage building at the entrance to Exhibition Drive
  8. We support a significant restoration fund being established should the new plant be constructed in the Waima area.

The matter is heading for a hearing and the new board will no doubt want to include to advocate on behalf of local communities for the best result.

Kauri dieback

This issue burst into prominence early in the term after the draft 5 year report was prepared. It was clear that the rate of spread of the disease was alarming and we were and are facing a crisis.

It was also clear that the current response was inadequate. Cleaning stations were either not being utilised properly or ignored completely. Track conditions were not stopping the spread of the disease.

Urgent action was requested but unfortunately things dragged.

Te Kawerau a Maki became, rightfully in my view, frustrated with the delay and paced a rahui on the great forest of Tiriwa.

This focussed everyone’s attention and drove action.

The local board’s position on the matter changed over time. Initially we wanted to close all high and medium risk tracks. But after Christmas 2017 we realised that all tracks needed to be closed before they could be repaired to an acceptable standard and we urged Council to do so.

This has caused objection among part of our community. People talked about the loss they felt by not being able to walk in the forest. I agree and also felt that loss. But a walk along the Maungaroa Ridge Track I took five years ago has always stayed with me. At the peak of the track there is a large cluster of dead and dying Kauri. If we want to protect Kauri so that our forests do not become graveyards then we have to take strong protective action.

Tracks through kauri areas in local parks have also recently closed. We are working through a process of prioritising their reopening.

Hoani Waititi Marae

I consider the Marae as one of the most important social institutions in the local board area and this term I have gone to the Marae as often as possible. Chair of the Marae Eynon Delamere and I have met regularly. I have also met regularly with the headmaster of the Kura Hare Rua and I am pleased that the Board has been able to assist the Kura with support for its activities.

The best advice I can give for any local board member is that relationships with the Marae and its members are best improved kanohi ki te kanohi.

Glen Eden redevelopment

Glen Eden renewal has been on the Board’s agenda for many years. As part of our annual pilgrimage to Council we have urged further investment in Glen Eden.

We also, at the suggestion of Steve Tollestrup, engaged David Haigh and David Kenkel and Kate Doswell from Unitec to research social trends in Glen Eden. Their report “Change and Development in Glen Eden” was the result.

One recommendation that I am still keen to progress is the proposal that there be a Glen Eden charter, which sets out various principles including quality urban design, and social, cultural, economic and environmental principles for decision makers.

I thought that discussion about what should be in the charter should help us understand the values that are important to Glen Eden and what we want Glen Eden to look like in the future.

The draft charter is a collection of value statements that should inform Auckland Council decision making. Its mission statement is for “[a] sustainable Glen Eden that moves confidently to the future.”

It requires Council to encourage public transport, walking and cycling and improve traffic safety. It mandates good urban design, affordable housing and energy efficiency. It talks about improved access for everyone, and planning for the future.

It talks about cultural. social and economic interests.

It is an aspirational document. By starting a conversation about what we value about Glen Eden I hope that we can come up with a charter that we can all be proud of.

I provided a copy of the full report to Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford who thought the report was outstanding and helped stage a public meeting based on the report.

The report is a very helpful insight into how Glen Eden is changing and should be compulsory reading for any new elected member for the area.

And clearly Glen Eden is changing.

The railway station has always been central to this. Ever since the electrification of the western line and the improvement of rail service times use has soured. The park and ride that the board urged Auckland Transport to build is now full from a fairly early time of the day. And apartment houses, currently being built and planned are a reflection of the importance of Glen Eden as a transport hub.

This term has seen the announcement of projects that promise to rejuvinate Glen Eden. Auckland Transport announced major safety improvements for West Coast Road and Council has purchased a strategically significant building and is getting ready to redevelop the site as an urban renewal project for the area. And the Local Board which has carefully saved up its capital funds so that a town square for the area can be advanced is making plans.

The timing of the eventual development of the site may mean that our plans will need to be delayed. It would be best and economical to do all work at once.

Glen Eden apartments

I spent a lot of time on this issue.

The apartments are the idea of Ted Manson.

He has an interesting background. He grew up in poverty and spent a great deal of his early years living in a state house. He then became exceptionally successful in business.

The Herald highlighted him in an article and he was quoted as saying this:

“I used to think ‘if I can come up from a state house, anyone can’ but as you get older, you start to realise life is not fair. Not everyone can do it …

I woke up one day and I got a social conscience. That happens at some stage of your life for some, but not for all. Up until then, I was a capitalist.

Many people are enduring tough times and are under constant pressure and constraint because of hardship or misfortune. But robust, safe, warm, healthy homes which ensure security of tenure would give them the stability to contribute positively to their community and improve their quality of life.”

We do need every dwelling we can get. The housing crisis is a scourge on Auckland. Having kids whose families have jobs with no choice but to live in cars is not the sort of New Zealand I want us to have. And the effect of the crisis is wide. Families living in crowded sub standard conditions blights the future potential of our young ones. Paying exorbitant amounts in rent means that many basics which should be guaranteed are not happening. And having a society where teachers struggle to pay the rent but can never dream of owning their own property is just wrong.

So Ted’s project is important. We do however have to make sure that these developments have a positive effect on the surrounding area. A compact urban form is a good thing as long as it is a good quality urban form.

And there is a virtue in building around our transport nodes. Developments such as these mean that we can avoid the pressure to build into the foothills of the Waitakeres. And they make our city more carbon neutral in that they lessen the need to drive private cars.

We need to make this project an exemplar. Most of the housing will be social housing and to make the project succeed we will have to make sure that there are social supports in place and that the new residents are welcome into our community.

As part of the welcome process Jade Tang-Taylor has been engaged to produce a welcome home campaign which will involve the provision of information, pamphlets, a website, maps and events to welcome these residents to Glen Eden. Details should appear in the coming months.

Te Henga Quarry

Remediation of the Te Henga quarry is a significant issue for the local board.

Quarrying activity ceased in 2015. There was a request to allow quarrying activity to continue in a neighbouring reserve area but the local board was firmly against the desecration of pristine reserve land and so quarrying activity eventually ended.

Since then remediation of the land has started. The intent is that much of the area will be replanted and for there to be canopy cover over most of the site.

Perrys, the company with the right to quarry the area has an obligation to perform some rehabilitation work on the site.

There was also funds collected by Waitakere City over a number of years tagged for the rehabilitation of the site and I calculated that that a million dollars or so was collected.

The site is an interesting area. There is a great deal of bush. There is a rather steep rock face that would be ideal for climbing if adequate safety provisions could be put in place. And there is a rather large pool that is being used for swimming but which clearly poses some danger in its present form.

The site has a great deal of potential but needs a lot of work and attention before it can be made safe.

Which is why the money accumulated by Waitakere City is so important.

There is no current dedicated fund available to finish the site and make it accessible to and enjoyable for the public. But there is I believe at least a moral obligation for Council to come up with the money so the work can be done.

The matter has been raised with Council staff.

Huia Seawall replacement

One of the big projects the Board was involved in was the Huia Seawall.

The project involved the construction of two groynes and the replacement of the existing wall which was being undermined.

The project struck problems after the method of taking sand from the bay was shown to be less than optimal. Residents contacted the board and asked us to get involved which we did.

After some discussion and negotiation with staff a consensus was reached to continue the sea wall towards the stream at the western side of the beach and to bring in sand from elsewhere.

The project is nearly complete and the last I saw was operating as anticipated.

Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act review

This is a five yearly report and and important discipline as we work out how effective the Act is functioning. The second report was produced last year.

In the forward I said this:

“We find that despite all efforts made so far kauri dieback disease continues to spread. This is a particularly local tragedy for a taonga of the heritage area and a national one in terms of our wider forest ecology. Auckland needs to make some tough decisions on what needs to be done to halt the further loss of kauri. The potential new threat of myrtle rust is also on our horizon.

This report gives us time to recognise the progress and achievements made towards meeting the objectives of the Act. This local board always strives to represent the values of the heritage area, and is very conscious of community action taken to hold the line against, for example, animal pests and weeds, and of council’s role in empowering private landowners to do their bit. People are generally very proud to live in a heritage area, and that strength of feeling is growing.

This report underlines our collective responsibility to manage, monitor, protect and celebrate this special place. In another ten years I would like to find not only that we have added to the successes of today, but have risen to the long-term challenges that we face to ensure the vision for the heritage area is met.”

Climate emergency declaration

The local board decided that we should declare a climate emergency for our local board area and urge Auckland Council to do the same, which I am pleased they have done so.

The question will be what next?

One area that I believe we can be very proactive is implementing our Greenways network.

This meeting we should finalise our Greenways Plan.

The problem is however budget, our scarce resources are not sufficient to do more than one or two projects a year and there are many.

Auckland transport has been criticised for not doing enough about walking and cycling. One solution may be for the current capital grants made to local boards to be increased and tagged specifically for greenways project. That way board by board we could prioritise and construct those walking and cycling projects that make most sense to us.

Emergency management

After the floods in 2018 and the big storm that wrecked the west’s power supply the board took an active role in assessing current management plans and upgrading them. A lot of the work occurred in Piha which had two significant floods that year as well as regular power outages.

The work was productive and I believe will assist in the future.

Titirangi Chickens

They have been a feature of the village for many years. Originally there were only a couple of them but numbers have grown and they are now a significant problem. They pose danger to road users, they are undermining the quality of the bush and scratching around Kauri and they are really messy and unhygenic.

Matters came to a head after the appearance of large rats in the village. Chickens may not have been the only problem but they were a contributor.

And the news put Titirangi in the world news for all the wrong reasons. In one week I had interviews with CNN Hong Kong, three national radio stations and a number of media organisations.

The response to the rat plague was quick. I am pleased that Council’s contractors managed to quickly dampen down numbers and I must acknowledge and thank the South Titirangi Neighbourhood Network for also stepping up and helping.

And a contract for removal of the chickens is now being put in place. As many as possible will be rehomed.

Other Highlights

Taking part in a world record at Glen Eden Intermediate.

The ethkick event, the perfect antidote after the horror of the Christchurch massacre.

The dawn ceremony at Matariki.

Beats and eats in Glen Eden

Conclusion

There is a lot more that I could write about but time and space prevent me from doing so.

Can I acknowledge all staff but especially the following:

Glenn Boyd
Claire Liousse
Brett Lane
Raewyn Curran
Brenda Railey
The one and only Shaz

who are all consummate professionals, all work hard and make us appear to be efficient and resourceful and convert our random mutterings into concrete action.

Can I also acknowledge the local board members, my very capable and dedicated deputy chair Saffron, Sandra, Steve, Neil and Ken for all of your contributions this term.

Each of you are in this because you want to make Waitakere a better place.

Mostly we agree on what is needed. Occasionally we don’t.

But I have found that working with you has been a pleasure.

I wish Steve all the best for his retirement and acknowledge the passion and enthusiasm he has poured into the job over the past six years.

Nor reira tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa

The Waitakere Ranges Local Board’s position on the Watercare Plant

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In the interests of public transparency I thought I should set out what the Local Board submitted on the resource consent application for the Waima water treatment plant. Here it is.

The submission is subject to final approval which will be considered at our board meeting on September 26.

___________________________________________________________________________

The Waitākere  Ranges Local Board is responsible for identifying and communicating the interests and preferences of the people in its local board area.

Following is our input to the consent application by Watercare.  This relates to the environmental, heritage and social impacts of the proposal.

We would like to be heard at the hearing

Summary

  1. We oppose the application in its current form.
  2. We note the proposed development is in the Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area and is adjacent to regional parkland and our view is that it is inconsistent with the objectives of the Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008 as well as the Muddy Creek Local Area Plan.
  3. We invite Watercare to renew consultation with the Waima community to locate a site and a plant design that will satisfy local expectations.
  4. We invite Watercare to investigate repositioning of the plant to the sludge site close to the Nihotupu lake as identified in the Local Board’s letter to Watercare dated October 9, 2018 a copy of which is attached.
  5. Alternatively we invite Watercare to consider repositioning the site in an urban industrial area such as Spam Farm in Glendene which is more suitable for the location of a large industrial complex of this sort.
  6. We are concerned
    1. the plant design requires the destruction of 3.5 hectares of regenerating sub tropical rainforest that is home to many indigenous species including a previously unidentified wasp.
    1. The project will require up to 118 heavy vehicle movements a day on Titirangi’s narrow and fragile roads.
  7. We support the restoration and repurposing of the Nihotupu Filter Station which is a scheduled heritage building at the entrance to Exhibition Drive
  8. We support a significant restoration fund being established should the new plant be constructed in the Waima area.

Comment

Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area Act considerations

We acknowledge that Watercare holds a special designation on the site and the terms of this designation have been considered by the High Court in TPG v Watercare [CIV-2017-404-2762].  We note however that the significant ecological area overlay of the Unitary Plan poses some restrictions on what can occur specifically in relation to vegetation clearance and earthworks and stream diversion and therefore overrides the designation.

The subject site is within the Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area (WRHA), established by the WRHA Act 2008. Section 7 of the Act recognises that:

“(1) The heritage area is of national significance and the heritage features described in subsection (2), individually or collectively, contribute to its significance.

(2)   The heritage features of the heritage area are—

(a)   its terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of prominent indigenous character that—

(i)         include large continuous areas of primary and regenerating lowland and coastal rainforest, wetland, and dune systems with intact ecological sequences:

(ii)        have intrinsic value:

(iii)       provide a diversity of habitats for indigenous flora and fauna:

(iv)       collect, store, and produce high quality water:

(v)        provide opportunities for ecological restoration:

(vi)       are of cultural, scientific, or educational interest:

(vii)      have landscape qualities of regional and national significance:

(viii)     have natural scenic beauty:

(b)   the different classes of natural landforms and landscapes within the area that contrast and connect with each other, and which collectively give the area its distinctive character: …

(e)   the quietness and darkness of the Waitākere  Ranges and the coastal parts of the area: …

(g)   the opportunities that the area provides for wilderness experiences, recreation, and relaxation in close proximity to metropolitan Auckland:

(i)         the subservience of the built environment to the area’s natural and rural landscape, which is reflected in—

(ii)        the distinctive harmony, pleasantness, and coherence of the low-density residential and urban areas that are located in regenerating (and increasingly dominant) forest settings; …

(l)    its distinctive local communities:

(m) the Waitākere  Ranges Regional Park and its importance as an accessible public place with significant natural, historical, cultural, and recreational resources:

(n) the public water catchment and supply system, the operation, maintenance, and development of which serves the people of Auckland.”

Section 8 sets out the objectives of the Legislation.  It says:

“The objectives of establishing and maintaining the heritage area are—

(a)  to protect, restore, and enhance the area and its heritage features:

(b) to ensure that impacts on the area as a whole are considered when decisions are made affecting any part of it:

(c)  to adopt the following approach when considering decisions that threaten serious or irreversible damage to a heritage feature:

(i)   carefully consider the risks and uncertainties associated with any particular course of action; and

(ii)  take into account the best information available; and

(iii) endeavour to protect the heritage feature:

(d) to recognise and avoid adverse potential, or adverse cumulative, effects of activities on the area’s environment (including its amenity) or its heritage features:

(e)  to recognise that, in protecting the heritage features, the area has little capacity to absorb further subdivision:

(f)  to ensure that any subdivision or development in the area, of itself or in respect of its cumulative effect,—

(i)   is of an appropriate character, scale, and intensity; and

(ii)  does not adversely affect the heritage features; and

(iii) does not contribute to urban sprawl:

(g)  to maintain the quality and diversity of landscapes in the area by—

(i)   protecting landscapes of local, regional, or national significance; and

(ii)  restoring and enhancing degraded landscapes; and

(iii) managing change within a landscape in an integrated way, including managing change in a rural landscape to retain a rural character:

(h) to manage aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in the area to protect and enhance indigenous habitat values, landscape values, and amenity values:

(i)   to recognise that people live and work in the area in distinct communities, and to enable those people to provide for their social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being:

(j)   to provide for future uses of rural land in order to retain a rural character in the area:

(k)  to protect those features of the area that relate to its water catchment and supply functions …

As can be seen most of these objectives are protective.  Only objective (k) is supportive of the construction of the treatment plant and it talks about protecting features rather than changing features.

Section 13 of the Act requires a decision making body when considering a resource consent for a discretionary or non complying application to give particular regard to the purpose and objectives of the Act.  If the application involves a controlled or restricted discretionary activity then consent authority must consider the purpose of this Act and the relevant objectives as if they were matters specified in the plan or proposed plan.

Clearly special care needs to be taken in the assessment of this application.

The currently bush covered part of the Watercare site is on a highly prominent location at the intersection of Scenic Drive and Woodlands Park Road.

Exhibition Drive is an entry point to Waitākere  Ranges Regional Park so we believe the protecting  the values of the park should be a major consideration, along with the impacts on the character of Waima and Titirangi. 

The proposed changes to the site will have significant impact on the heritage and ecological values with the removal of vegetation, the earthworks, the construction impacts and the eventual built form.

We acknowledge the importance of the area’s water supply function and the need for a growing Auckland.  A good outcome would be to balance this with the other heritage features, particularly subservience of the built environment to the natural landscape, protection, enhancement and restoration of ecosystems, and the area’s distinctive local communities.

Muddy Creeks Local Area Plan

The Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008 allows for the creation of local area plans.  The purpose of these plans is set out in section 25(2) of the Act as follows:

“The purpose of a LAP is to—

(a)        promote the purpose of this Act and the objectives; and

(b)       provide objectives (particularly long-term objectives) in relation to—

(i)         the future amenity, character, and environment of the local area to which the LAP applies; and

(ii)        the well-being of the local community within that area (including its economic and social wellbeing); and

(c)        inform decision-making processes that relate to the heritage area.”

The effects of a LAP are set out in sections 27 and 28 of the Act.  The provisions are somewhat complex but the board believes that the terms of any existing plan are a relevant consideration in assessing what heritage features to give effect to and how much weight should be given.

The Muddy Creeks Plan, a local area plan for Waima, Woodlands Park, Laingholm and Parau, was adopted in 2014. It contains the following passage:

Statement of existing character and amenity

Woodlands Park and Waima are visually contained on their northern and western sides within the steep forested slopes of the Regional Park and Watercare land that includes Exhibition Drive. Houses are nestled within the regenerating forest. Large trees, many of them kauri, are a prominent feature. Dissected valleys and gullies give each road a sense of intimacy and isolation while offering elevated glimpses of the Manukau Harbour. At the top of Woodlands Park Road, the Huia filter station is a prominent feature which reminds us of the history and current water supply function of the area.

Statement of future character and amenity

In Laingholm, Woodlands Park and Waima the delicate balance between houses and vegetation along the slopes will be maintained. Footpaths designed in sympathy with the area will line the main roads, and a network of walkways will join pockets of settlements, schools, halls and shops, Laingholm Beach and South Titirangi. Ecological corridors within the area will provide safe, healthy and connected ecosystems and terrestrial habitats.

Site selection process and requirement to look at alternatives

The replacement of the Huia Water Treatment Plant has been a contentious subject in the area. There was strong opposition to locating the plant in Oratia, and there is strong local opposition to the current proposal.

The following aspects of the proposal are, in no particular order, the matters of most concern:

  1. Environment destruction including the clearing of over 3 hectares of forest close to significant stands of Kauri.
  2. Amenity destruction, particularly for Manuka Road residents who would especially be affected by the proposal.
  3. Disruption to the local community caused by construction and truck movements.

The local board has always taken a keen interest in issues relating to tree protection.  In a world where forests in Alaska, Siberia, Brazil and Africa are burning and where the planting of sufficient trees may be the world’s best chance to prevent runaway global warming the thought of 3.5 hectares of Waitākere  forest and bush being cleared fills us with dread.

The plant is a large industrial style plant and is totally out of place in Waima, in a sensitive ecological area. 

The board had previously proposed to Watercare that it should construct the plant on another site.  A copy of our letter is attached.  Watercare has rejected this proposal.

We note the proposal would have these benefits:

  • Low quality vegetation would be cleared
  • Watercare would have to remediate a site which is currently a dumping area for treated carbon which is a by product of the treatment process
  • The affect on amenity would be limited as the site is on the far site of a ridge away from houses.

We accept however that the proposal would increase the disruption caused by truck trips to a greater area.

This sort of activity should take place in an industrial area, not in an area of environmental sensitivity.  We would urge Watercare to go back to the drawing board on this application and reconsider placing the treatment plant in a suitably designated industrial area.

Design

The size of the plant is of concern.  The technology being used, settlement tanks, requires this size plant.  We would urge Watercare to consider alternatives such as filtration so that if a treatment plant is located in Waima then much smaller bush clearance is required.

In relation to the current proposal we are pleased to see that the final revised proposal decreased the amount of vegetation to be cleared by having two separate reservoirs.  Also the intensity of the construction was reduced by having the second reservoir constructed after the first one was finished.

With regards to design, we consider that the proposed design is sprawling and that there has been no opportunity taken to reduce footprints of actual infrastructure.  Is there not a more effective process that could require smaller more dispersed responses?  Were other sites explored for partial filtration?  With a distributed filtration system (including smaller plants at different parts of the network) raw water could be piped to different parts of the network and then filtered and cleaned.

Construction

The effects on the local community will be considerable.  Amongst other things there will be a number of daily truck movements and it has been estimated there could be up to 118 per day.

Roads in the area are steep and narrow and windy.  There are realistically only two roads that trucks could take into the area.  One is through Titirangi village using Titirangi Road and the other is on Atkinson Road.  The first will cause considerable disruption to the village.  The second will take trucks past two primary and one intermediate school in a one kilometre stretch of road.

Mitigation proposals

We support the proposed mitigation package however have concerns that the construction will put pressure on the catchment which is wider than the Waima catchment and the mitigation package should address this.

We recommend the catchment be extended to include Parau to the west, and parts of South Titirangi to the east.

Heritage

We note that Sandra Coney and Bob Harvey have submitted on the future of the Nihotupu Filter Station.  We support the restoration and repurposing of the Station that is proposed.

We do question if works affecting the Nihotupu and Huia Filter Stations, which have heritage status, can be achieved by use of the Outline Plan of Works process.  We believe that consideration of the treatment of these buildings should be part of the public hearing process.

Restoration

We consider that the effects are that significant that an increase in the proposed funding to support sustainable on-going ecological change is appropriate.

We also consider there should also be investment in social mitigation similar to that provided to the Waterview community following the NZTA tunnel project that occurred there.

We recommend that the Waima Biodiversity Trust include a representative of the Waitākere  Ranges Local Board along with an Auckland Council staff representative in its make up. We ask that the Trust Deed be changed accordingly.  While the trust will be operating independently there is a need for it to be aware of what council is doing and for council to be aware of what the trust is doing. Having a technical representative from Auckland Council along with an elected representative would help with this. The local board oversees council’s local environmental activities, including the support of volunteer groups doing ecological restoration.

We also consider there should be an emphasis on supporting the efforts of locally based environmental groups.

Waima Biodiversity Management Plan

We recommend that the Management Plan include support of the full range of community led actions in the Muddy Creeks Local Area Plan to deliver on the objectives for “Ecology and Ecosytems” as outlined in Appendix 1 of the plan. The biodiversity plan should support environmental education programmes to foster environmental stewardship in the area beyond the proposed 10 year life of the trust and its funding.

My submissions on the Zero Carbon bill

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I presented today on the Government’s Zero Carbon bill to the Parliamentary Select Committee. This is what I said …

I am the chair of Waitakere Ranges Local Board and I am proud to represent the most beautiful part of Auckland. I was previously a Waitakere City Councillor. For 4 years I was a director of Land Transport NZ

I have taken a keen interest in climate change for all of that time from a local government and central government perspective.

The overwhelming feeling I have from that period is that the world and New Zealand has drifted at a time when concerted action to address climate change was required.

It took focussed action by Pacific Island nations a couple of years ago to steel resolve for us and for others.

We are now in a crisis. Unless there is dramatic action taken then our fragile world is going to be damaged perhaps irreparably.

The local board has taken an active interest in the issue.

Climate change and sustainability are central considerations in our local board plan.

We recently declared by a majority a climate emergency for the local board area and urged Auckland Council to do the same.

I am pleased they did so unanimously.

I do not sense the need to address how important it is that we keep total global temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees or how if we breach 2 degrees how we are in unchartered territories.

All I can say is that the Arctic is on fire and Greenland’s ice sheets are melting. This is what has been predicted will be some of the effects of climate change. And it is happening now.

By majority the board was generally fully support the aims and intention of the bill.

In relation to the proposal for a Climate Change Commission I supported Auckland Council’s requirement that commission members have extensive understanding of climate mitigation and adaption.

In relation to the proposed targets we support the non methane target. I am pleased the figure is so stark. It will focus all of our minds on what is required.

In relation to the methane I target support Auckland Council’s enhanced interim target. Methane because it is relatively short lived means that short term reductions in methane levels can give us headroom in addressing CO2 levels should that extra headroom be required.

We also support local carbon offsets. Extensive reforestation could make a significant difference. The Government’s billion tree project and the Mayor’s million tree project are examples of what can be achieved when politicians put their mind to it.

Our preference is for indigenous trees to be planted.

There are some suggestions that the targets should be legally enforceable. My 35 years as a lawyer suggests that this would pose all sorts of issues in terms of enforcement.

We support the creation of emission budgets. Society is exquisitely able to measure the fiscal performance of the country. We should be able to similarly measure the state of our environment and remind ourselves regularly what state it is in.

In relation to adaption we support amendment of the Resource Management Act and Building Act to include consideration of climate change. We agree that It is essential that climate change mitigation and adaptation are reflected and embedded throughout all acts consistently and not overlooked.