Chair’s report February 2020 – Waitangi day, Watercare and our Greenways Plan

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This is my first report for the new year. Already the year is off to a flying start and probably the same as for the rest of you the holidays are a distant memory …

Water

We are in the middle of a gloriously warm summer. Also dry, too dry for a number of westies.

At the time of writing we have had a record 40 days without rain. It has been glorious but some locals are starting to feel the pinch.

Although the west coast dams are reasonably full, about 70% full on average, the water distribution system has been thrown out of kilter by the need to regulate water flows inn filling stations used by private water suppliers to fill up their tankers. This coupled with unprecedented demand means that delivery times have stretched out to months. And a number of people who rely on rain water are under considerable stress, as the warm weather and lack of supplies has caused their water reserves to dwindle.

Titirangi itself is fine thanks to the reticulated water supply system. But parts of Cornwallis, Huia, Karekare, Piha, Te Henga, Waitakere and Waiatarua are struggling.

To help out Auckland Council is investigating a number of options. Tanks are proposed for Piha, Cornwallis and Waitakere where people can come and fill up 20 liter containers for free.

West Wave is offering free showers to locals. The local board has suggested that we need to investigate other facilities closer to affected areas and this is being looked into.

Council is also investigating the use of milk tankers filled with water placed at strategic sites to speed up the private tanker filling process. The quicker they can be refilled and put back into circulation the better.

So what can locals do? Please go easy on the water consumption. Current consumption levels are very high and there is no end to the current dry weather in sight. The reticulated urban area is not struggling yet but a continuation of this weather and it will.

And dare I say it but more extreme heat and fractured weather patterns are exactly as foretold by climate scientists. Our climate is changing. We need to look after it and protect it.

So go easy on your water consumption and check on your neighbours, particularly those out west in the unreticulated areas. And go easy on the planet. She is the only one we have.

Greenways plan

The water issue leads neatly into our Greenways Plan implementation.

Recently Australia has been burning. Five million hectares burned. Sydney has had dense clogging smoke for weeks. New South Wales has already lost an estimated 30% of its koala population.

The fires were only extinguished by unseasonal flooding.

It is not even peak bushfire time which normally starts in April.

Australia is not the only country to experience severe adverse weather patterns and consequences. The cause is clear, increased temperatures and changing rain patterns caused by climate change, just as predicted by numerous scientific studies.

Phil Goff recently released the Mayoral Budget Proposal and including measures to address climate change.  These include further tree planting, investment in a decarbonised Council fleet, and more funding for schools and adaption.

I believe that the proposal needs to go much further.  It should encourage low emission vehicles, rapidly increase high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure, and help develop decentralised energy networks.

The last Council introduced special rates for water quality and environmental issues. These rates will raise $452 million and $311 million respectively over ten years. Most locals were very supportive.

Maybe it is time for Auckland Council to propose an urgent Climate Change special rate.
The local board has completed the local Greenways Plan. It sets out a blueprint of how our walkways and cycleways could look.

But we don’t have the funding to do any more than a small proportion of the plan.

If we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050 then by 2030 the introduction of petrol cars into New Zealand’s fleet will be rare. Which is why alternatives to driving, including public transport and walking and cycling will need to be nurtured as much as possible.

Council needs to be brave and urgently start investing in infrastructure to get ready for our future.

The argument for a dedicated fund so that we can get our city ready for a post petroleum future is I believe especially strong and especially urgent.

Resource consent for Waima treatment plant

This is for hearing soon. The Local Board intends to present submissions to the hearing by way of local board feedback. Our mandate is to advocate for and express the interests of local people.

To repeat our position:

  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 have invited Watercare to renew consultation with the Waima community to locate a site and a plant design that will satisfy local expectations.
  4. We have also invited Watercare to investigate repositioning of the plant to the sludge site close to the Nihotupu lake as previously identified by the Local Board.
  5. As an alternative option we have suggested Watercare should 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 that 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 and that 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.

Hoani Waititi Marae strategic hui

The three local boards were invited to a very important meeting at Hoani Waititi Marae to hear and learn more about Māori aspirations and visions for West Auckland. Eynon Delamere on behalf of the Marae set out the Marae’s vision, particularly for the establishment of a Wananga at the Marae precinct.

My personal view is that the argument for a Wananga is strong. The Marae has a well established involvement in education. It started off with the Kohanga Reo, then developed its Kura, and there is a timely logic for a Wananga to now be developed.

The site is ideal. It is near the Sunnyvale Railway Station. The vision of the trustees is that graduates from the Te Kooti Rangatahi (Marae Youth Court) can leave the wharenui and walk straight across to the Wananga.

The land is local reserve land. This local board has a major desire to preserve our greenspace so we will need to carefully consider the future use of the land and the optimal design for the area. We will also need to seek certainty of funding for the project. But the Wananga represents for the Marae a significant and we should consider it carefully.

Waitangi day

Waipareira Trust and Hoani Waititi marae have for a few years now held an annual Waitangi day event. The day has gone from strength to strength. Like Waitangi days nationally the local event has become more and more of a celebration. As the breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi that have occurred are acknowledged and the resolution process advanced the sense of grievance has subsided and the desire to celebrate the day has grown.

The local event starts with a powhiri. This year we had Cabinet Minister Carmel Sepuloni, local MP Deborah Russell, local Councillors, Shane Henderson, Linda Cooper and Tracy Mulholland, the three local local board chairs, Chris Carter, Kay Thomas and myself and local board members Mark Allen and Michelle Clayton attend and be present on the Manuhiri side.

The event felt very symbolic. Just as on the first Waitangi Day we were representatives of the Crown and Eynon Delamere and others including Hare Rua, chair of the Kura, and other significant members of the Marae were representatives of Tangata Whenua.

Following the powhiri the festival itself kicked off. The quality of the artists that have been recruited was outstanding. They included acts of the calibre of Kora, Ardija and Katchafire.

The vibe of the day was outstanding and erstwhile combatants made up and just got on.

Needless to say I am astounded by the quality of the day. It is a real celebration event.

It is funded through some local board grants, money from the licensing trusts and significant contributions from Waipareira and Hoani Waititi marae. There were perhaps 40,000 people present. I think it is time for Council to think about significant Regional funding as it is a major event.

One further suggestion I have is that Auckland Transport makes public transport free on Waitangi day. There is a train station within 10 minutes walk of where the festival was held. To help overcome parking issues and as a gesture of good will and support free public transport to the event could be provided.

The 2020-2023 local board plan

We are now in the process of drafting this term’s local board plan. The plan is a strategic three year plan that is intended to drive the local board’s activity on the next three years.

We welcome all feedback. So far we have sought feedback from a number of people at the Waitangi celebration at Hoani Waititi Marae, from a special session with the trustees at the Masjid-E-Bilal mosque at Glen Eden, and from a session held at the Te Henga community day.

At the end of this meeting we intend to allow a further opportunity for locals to have their say on the future of our local board area. But feedback is welcome through any means.

The formal consultation will be during June and July this year and it is anticipated that the plan will be finalised this October.

Friends of Arataki

Recently Sandra Coney, Michelle Clayton and myself attended the Friends of Arataki annual general meetinng.

The organisation celebrated its 25th anniversary of its creation. It engages with the staff at Arataki and really enhances the facility. Its current major project is a canopy walk to open up enjoyment of the local forest while at the same time protecting Kauri from Kauri dieback.

Congratulations to Yvonne Pivac and the executive for the work that they do. I look forward to the day that the canopy walk is opened.

Local track reopening

Most should be completed this year. Three local tracks are either reopened or the work is nearing completion. A further six is anticipated to be completed by mid year and five others by the end of the year. One track, Tinopai Reserve, is to be reopened early next year.

Three tracks are to be closed permanently.

The end of petrol driven cars

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The Government has set us a strong challenge, for our country to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The rationale is simple. Increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses are cooking the planet. And we are beyond the theory stage. We are now seeing in real time the effects as predicted by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists. Whether it is the South Pole melting, Pacific Islands disappearing under rising seas or out of control forest fires in Australia the events are happening just as predicted.

Australia provides a particular insight into the future of our world.

Over the past few months Australia has been burning. Five million hectares has burned. Sydney has had dense clogging smoke for weeks. New South Wales has already lost an estimated 30% of its koala population.

It is not even peak bushfire time which normally starts in April. The need to avert even hotter temperatures that will cause fires to be even more catastrophic has to be abundantly clear.

If we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050 then by 2030 the introduction of petrol cars into New Zealand’s fleet will be rare. Which is why alternatives to driving, including public transport and walking and cycling will need to be nurtured and supported as much as possible.

The Government and all Councils need to be brave and urgently start investing in infrastructure to get ready for our future.

Because we have to stabilise the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and if possible decrease it. With billions of trees and clean transport systems we can do it. But if we don’t it is clear we will wreck our one and only planet.

If you want an overseas example of what needs to be done then check out a recent announcement by Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. Yes you read that right. He announced that by 2035 only electric vehicles will be allowed into the United Kingdom fleet. And car manufacturers are screaming. From Gwyn Topham and Gillian Ambrose at the Guardian:

The government’s move to bring forward a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2035 has been attacked by manufacturers as a “date without a plan”.

The policy, which will now come into effect five years earlier and include hybrid vehicles, was announced as Boris Johnson launched the forthcoming UN COP 26 climate summit.

While green groups welcomed the news and urged the government to set an even earlier date, motoring organisations said the UK was unprepared for electric alternatives by 2035.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the move risked undermining sales of cleaner, hybrid cars now, and the government needed to come up with a sustainable plan.

The SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “It’s extremely concerning that government has seemingly moved the goalposts for consumers and industry on such a critical issue. Manufacturers are fully invested in a zero emissions future, with some 60 plug-in models now on the market and 34 more coming in 2020.

“However, with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment. A date without a plan will merely destroy value today.

“We need to hear how government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today’s low emission technologies, including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now.”

Believe me I am no fan of Boris Johnson. But he is right. If there is a date when your country is meant to become carbon neutral then at an earlier date diesel and petrol vehicles will have to stop entering the fleet. And at that time people need to understand this will be their last petrol or diesel vehicle.

My wife and I own two cars, a Toyota Hybrid which is very fuel efficient and a small Mazda that also uses little fuel although more than the Hybrid. Our next car will be fully electric. It is the least we can do.

But it is impractical to think that as a country we can replace every existing vehicle with a new electric vehicle. For a start the carbon sunk into the manufacturing of a new electric vehicle is too much for the world to sustain. Carbon neutrality has to mean carbon neutrality from all sources, manufacturing as well as transport.

And this is why it is vital that we rebuild our cities so that car dependance is reduced. The big Asian cities have done it. They have high densities and prodigious public transport systems, particularly in Tokyo and the larger Chinese cities.

Auckland needs to do the same. The City Rail Link should have been started years ago. Light rail to the airport is a no brainer, as is light rail on the North Western motorway and conversion of the North Shore Busway into a light rail line cannot be far away.

And we need to get on and build walkways and cycleways. If we have to cancel a couple of big motorway projects to do so then we should do it. As an example Penlink will cost in the vicinity of $315 million. A lot of walkways and cycleways could be built for that amount.

Even the Herald’s Heather Du Plessis Allan is urging the Government to be braver. She appears to have had a change of heart. Last September she was saying that belief in Climate Change had become a religion and wondered what the problem was if some people don’t want to stop driving the gas guzzlers or want to keep eating red meat. Then a couple of weeks later she thought that the climate change “frenzy” was terrifying children and she expressed cynicism about “how organic” this youth-led movement is.

But she has recently chided the Government and asked it to be as brave as Boris Johnson in the UK. It is good to see that Heather now realises we are in the middle of a crisis.

She claims that the Government is a “more crappy” version of National. That is really unfair. National did its best to undermine the Emissions Trading Scheme that was introduced by the last Labour Government, dithered and held back on the City Rail Link as long as it could, and dithered for a decade on making the brave decisions relating to electricity production.

She also does not mention NZ First once. The last time I checked they were a part of the Government, and unfortunately, something on a hand brake on Labour’s and the Green’s more progressive ambitions.

But she is right. If we are going to be carbon neutral then we need to have a discussion on the end of petrol and diesel vehicles entering the fleet and what we will do instead.

The climate crisis discussion has now concluded with an overwhelming consensus that we have a problem. We now need to discuss the solutions. And most importantly we need to start implementing them. Now.

What Auckland Council needs to do about climate change

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Australia is currently burning. In the state of Victoria it is estimated that 200,000 hectares of forest has burned. Nationally the figure is 5 million hectares. Sydney has had dense smoke clogging the city for weeks. The Blue mountains have been severely affected. The State of New South Wales has already lost an estimated 30% of its koala population.

It is not even peak bushfire time which normally starts in April.

And it is getting worse.

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has said that it is “absolutely” the state’s worst bushfire season on record. He also said this:

We’ve seen extraordinary fire behaviour. What we really need is meaningful rain, and we haven’t got anything in the forecast at the moment that says we’re going to get drought-breaking or fire-quenching rainfall.”

Australia is not the only country to experience unusual weather patterns and severe adverse consequences. In the United States fires in California are becoming a regular event. It is comical that Donald Trump and Barnaby Joyce are both trying to blame green policies relating to undergrowth for the fires. The cause is clear, increased temperatures and changing rain patterns caused by climate change, just as predicted by numerous scientific studies over the past few decades.

We have got to the stage where kids still at school are lecturing grown up politicians on the subject, and demanding action.

We are facing a crisis. Even the United Kingdom Conservative Government realise this. Their goal, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, matches this country’s proposal. Jacinda Ardern has rightfully called the issue her generation’s nuclear-free moment.

Phil Goff campaigned on the issue at the last local government election. He has recently released the Mayoral Budget Proposal and the accompanying press release said this:

In last year’s 10-year Budget, $130 million was invested in a climate response fund and coastal asset management.

“However, we can’t afford to wait to take action. For that reason, in this annual budget, I am proposing urgent initiatives to demonstrate the council’s leadership in taking measures to cut its own emissions,” Phil Goff says.

“Under my proposal, we will cut our emissions by nearly 20 per cent by moving swiftly to decarbonize our vehicle fleet and shifting to sustainable energy across our community facilities.”

Other measures in the mayoral proposal include:

• $2.7 million to expand tree planting activities across the region by 50 per cent, with at least 1.5 million mainly native trees set to be planted over the next three years to absorb carbon emissions
• Investment in research to understand how the council can effectively achieve its climate goals
• Appointing an independent expert to review the provisions in the Unitary Plan and determine how it can better support climate change adaption and mitigation
• Continuing to fund climate education in our schools and communities, to empower people play a role in reducing emissions and caring for the environment

Phil Goff says, “Transport is a major contributor to carbon emissions, and my proposals to make public transport cheaper for kids, alongside continued investment in the public transport network, will increase patronage as well as reducing traffic congestion and emissions.

“Our work on climate change will complement the more than $700 million we are investing in water and environmental projects, as well as the $57 million we will spend on land for parks and open spaces over the 2020/2021 year.

Former Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas, who has strong associations with the National Party, thinks the measures are not enough. And I agree with him.

In a guest post in Newsroom he said this:

Auckland Mayor, and former Environment Minister, Phil Goff, had a chance to start a new city direction on climate change, one of his big re-election campaign priorities, when he outlined his budget plans for next year.

In doing so he repeated what he often said during the mayoral campaign: the council needs to act urgently to address climate change.

Yet the four modest climate change announcements he made won’t be fully underway until July next year and the bigger ones will take five years to implement. At a cost of $18.9m over the next five years, they represent a rounding error against total Auckland expenditure of $24 billion over the same period. The 6,000 tonnes of carbon that will be reduced by his key initiatives will cut the regions’ annual CO2 production by less than 0.2 percent.

And I also find myself agreeing with Thomas about what can and should be done. He said this:

Although Auckland’s new climate action plan may be adopted by the council in the early months of 2020, Goff said any substantive decisions and significant budget changes would have to wait for the next 10 year budget – which won’t start until July 1, 2021.

This is a strange emergency.

A more ‘urgent’ response would be to introduce an extraordinary amendment to the 10 year budget. Christchurch council did this in the years following its earthquakes. Other councils do this when either unexpected or unplanned-for events arise.

In the long-prepared draft Auckland climate action plan there are 70 actions, a number of which could be pulled into an “extraordinary” budget change.

Potential quick climate wins for Auckland, include:

– encourage large scale uptake of zero and low emission vehicles.

– make freight systems more efficient.

– rapidly increase safe, high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure

– implement the proposed climate innovation system.

– develop and deliver local and regional decentralised energy solutions

– use council property to drive innovation in renewable energy development

The last Council introduced special rates to deal with water quality issues and environmental issues, particularly Kauri dieback. These rates are calculated to raise $452 million and $311 million respectively over ten years. Most people were very supportive of these rates. Regionally 60% supported a targeted water quality rate. In the Waitakere Ranges the figure was 62%. And 70% of locals supported a Natural Environment Targeted Rate compared to the regional total of 65%.

Maybe it is time for Auckland Council to think about a Climate Change special rate, or more specifically a Greenways special rate. And rather than wait for a couple of years get it underway now using the emergency procedure.

In the Waitakere Ranges area the local board has completed our Greenways Plan. This is something that I am very proud of. It sets out a blueprint of how our walkways and cycleways could look.

But we don’t have the funding to do any more than a small proportion of the plan. The most expensive and most strategically important is the cycleway between Sunnyvale and Glen Eden running adjacent to the railway line. But this had a construction cost in the vicinity of $8 million back in 2008. You could double or triple the cost now. And our dedicated transport capital fund, which is cherished, is not nearly enough for this size project. It is currently $670,000 per year. It would take approximately 30 years to accumulate enough capital to complete it. And this is just one project of many in our Greenways list.

Other local boards have also developed Greenways Plans. The ones that I am aware of include Puketapapa, Whau and Waitemata.

If we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050 this means that by about 2030 the introduction of petrol powered cars into New Zealand’s fleet will have to be rarity. But we will not be able to afford to replace 2.4 million vehicles overnight. Which is why alternatives to driving, whether it be public transport, or walking or cycling or scootering will need to be nurtured and supported as much as possible.

So what I would like the Council is to create a dedicated Greenways rate so that our walkways and our cycleways can be built.

AT’s current plans are to spend $635 million on creating 150 km of cycleways in the city in the next ten years. No new cycleways are planned for the Waitakere Ranges area.

It is predicted that there will be a 4% modal shift because of the new cycleways. The figures are however business as usual and will not create the significant change that is needed.

When you extrapolate it the figure suggests AT will build 15 kilometers of cyclelanes a year. This year the goal was 10 kilometers and AT was not able to even do that.

There will be a multiplier effect. A contribution by NZTA should be available. And I believe it important that local boards are fully involved in decisions of which cycleways to construct.

The Mayor’s brave proposal to increase rates so that the city can improve water quality and protect Kauri was the correct one. But the argument to get a dedicated fund so that we can get our city ready for a post petroleum future is I believe especially strong and especially urgent.

In the immortal words of our Prime Minister, let’s do this.

Then they came for public art

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Two recent stories caught my attention.  Apparently the barbarians in power in the United States and in Australia want to undermine and destroy public art.

First in the USA the Trump Administration wishes to destroy the ability of the Federal Government to provide any public art.  From Eve L Ewing at the New York Times:

Last month, the Trump administration proposed a national budget that includes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA operates with a budget of about $150 million a year. As critics have observed, this amount is about 0.004 percent of the federal budget, making the move a fairly inefficient approach to trimming government spending. Many Americans have been protesting the cuts by pointing out the many ways that art enriches our lives — as they should. The arts bring us joy and entertainment; they can offer a reprieve from the trials of life or a way to understand them.

But as Hitler understood, artists play a distinctive role in challenging authoritarianism. Art creates pathways for subversion, for political understanding and solidarity among coalition builders. Art teaches us that lives other than our own have value. Like the proverbial court jester who can openly mock the king in his own court, artists who occupy marginalized social positions can use their art to challenge structures of power in ways that would otherwise be dangerous or impossible.

And in Australia the same sort of stuff is happening.  From SBS News:

Australia will no longer have a federal department with a major focus on the arts.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a public service overhaul, cutting the number of departments from 18 to 14 from next February.

Under the changes, the current Department of Communications and the Arts will be rolled into a new entity that will be called the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

It remains to be seen how the arts will fit into this new department and how arts funding and resources will be affected.

I wonder how a public art project will fare against a roading project under Scomo’s Government? Or for that And how about this as a passage on why art is important and why these proposals are appalling?

We need the arts because they make us full human beings. But we also need the arts as a protective factor against authoritarianism. In saving the arts, we save ourselves from a society where creative production is permissible only insofar as it serves the instruments of power. When the canary in the coal mine goes silent, we should be very afraid — not only because its song was so beautiful, but also because it was the only sign that we still had a chance to see daylight again.

And there is this other contribution to the debate:

I want to see a country where the creativity and joy that comes from the arts is available to the many, not reserved for a privileged few. I want to see a country where the arts flourish and breathe life into, well, everyday life.  I want to see a country where the arts are available to us all and help us express ourselves as unique individuals, brought together in diverse communities.

I believe the arts and creativity are integral and inseparable parts of what it is to be human.

It concerns me that a mind-set still persists in which only those things that can be counted matter, and things not easily quantified are too quickly discarded. Using that mind-set, some argue the arts are simply a nice to have. I whole-heartedly disagree.

And who said that? Well our PM.  

Public art is a reflection of the quality of a civilisation. It is an outlet for dissent and new thinking and change. No wonder the far right attack it.

December Chair’s report – what the Board wants to achieve this term.

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At the inaugural meeting I set out eleven matters that I wanted the board to focus on this term. I thought I should repeat the list and then report on what is happening.

These included:

  • Climate change.  Every decision we make should have a climate change filter applied to it.
  • The marine environment.  Our streams and lagoons should be clean and our beaches should always be swimmable.
  • The housing crisis.  We should not have working people and their kids living in cars.  And our young teachers and police officers and nurses should be able to afford to buy their own homes in Auckland.
  • Glen Eden renewal.  We need to kick on with the Civic square project and get Glen Eden ready for instensification and for the City Rail Link.
  • Kauri dieback.  Work needs to continue on this scourge of the Waitakere Ranges.  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.
  • Tree protection.  Our advocacy and activism in this area must continue.
  • Weeds and pests. Titirangi is unfortunately known as the weed capital of the country.  And the rest of the Ranges is also struggling to deal with this problem.
  • Arts and Culture.  Our local board area is blessed with as divine art as can be imagined.  This term we wish to secure Shadbolt House as a writer’s residence.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Oversight role of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area.  This is one of our most important jobs.

As I look through this report I see that there have been significant events that relate to water quality, community, homelessness, the environment, and arts and culture.

Water quality and Laingholm Beach

I was really pleased when Auckland Council announced that Laingholm Beach was to be taken off the list of closed beaches.

Clearly the targeted water quality rate is having an effect and this is welcome.

But there has been a very strong local community effort and a citizen science programme run by locals and the Laingholm Wai Ora group. They have been collecting water samples for some time and the data as well as the moral imperative created by the locals work meant that it was important that the problems be identified and rectified.

Congratulations to all concerned. And we need to get to the situation where all of our west coast beaches remain open, even when there is heavy rainfall.

The Glen Eden Christmas Festival

This was held on the weekend. It was a slightly different design to previous years. This year there was no parade. Instead there was a stage set up with various performances, everything from Prospect School’s Kapa Haka to Yosakoi Sadan, a Japanese Cultural Group to Peter Pan, various fairies and elves and a number of others. Even Superman appeared.

The stage MS was Johnny Angel, also known as the Pacific Elvis. He was hilarious. I hope he gets invited back.

Elsewhere there were stalls with things for kids to do, bouncy castles, a woman on stilts and various cartoon characters who had come to life.
And a whole lot of kids who clearly had a great time.

Not having a parade meant that costs were reduced. The safety costs associated with closing the main road are rather large.

I think the more concentrated festival also worked better.

Can I thank Gayle Marshall and the Glen Eden Protection Society and Leanne Appleby and Kyle Turner and the Glen Eden Community House, Family Action, and everyone else who helped organise and run this event.

I appreciate that the festival takes a huge amount of time and work but I hope that they are able to repeat the festival next year.

Homeless

Local security has been in the news lately. Action by the authorities taken in Henderson has dispersed homeless people from there and we have seen a few more in Glen Eden.

And one of our local businesses, the Kebab Shop owned by Zuhaib Abbas Bangash has received national media attention for his outstanding display of generosity in offering free food to the local homeless.

There has been some controversy about the role of the local Business Improvement District and I appreciate that there are differing views about what has happened. Can I say that there has been no pressure from the local board on anyone to try and stop Mr Bangash from his charity. We have not formulated a formal position. And my personal view is that he should be congratulated for his generosity.

The Business Improvement District, the Police and local board members have met to discuss matters and there are a number of actions that are being taken.

One quick action that has been implemented is extended opening hours for the public toilet. There were complaints of pretty appalling behaviour and I hope the extended hours will mean this ceases. The plan includes installation of a further security camera and it is hoped this will improve night time safety in this area.

Another action is to install gates at the Glen Eden railway station. Currently the promise of a free ride is too attractive for some. The installation of gates in Henderson saw a significant reduction of anti social activity and the same benefit should come to Glen Eden. AT has advised me that this is not in the current work plan but I will be advocating for them to accelerate this particular project.

There will be greater police presence. Titirangi Community Constable Will Flapper will spend more time here and I hope the new Glen Eden Community Constable will be appointed soon. Locals will also have seen the mobile Police station parked in the area recently. We hope to see it here regularly.

There is an inter agency group based in the Whau area which includes representatives from different agencies that meets regularly. The idea is to deal with issues in a timely manner with adequate resources.

The idea is a good one but the organisation needs to cover the entire West area. The trouble with “solving” the issue on a board by board area is that often the problem is dispersed, not resolved.

There are no quick fixes. The background problems for homeless people are often longstanding and complex. And sometimes they are caused by disastrous events which there but for the grace of god the rest of us will never experience.

Chickens

The Titirangi Chicken project is pretty well complete and I am pleased to note that I have not seen a chicken in the area for at least a week although I have received a report about a couple of stragglers who have not yet been caught.

Nearly 220 chickens have been captured. 
 
They were checked by vet staff.  They are remarkably healthy and have been rehomed, most of them to a farm in Ardmore.  The capture techniques used were humane and no birds so far have been injured by the capture process nor has there been a need to euthanise any of them.
 
The initial capture technique involved getting the chickens into a regular feeding pattern and then dropping a net on them when they gathered to feed.
  
New techniques, including capturing at night to capture the harder to trap ones.
  
I appreciate that some people thought the chickens were quaint and added to the character of the village.  But the basic problem was there were too many of them.
 
And they were causing significant damage to the bush, were implicated in the spread of Kauri dieback and the presence of large numbers of rats, were messing up the area and were posing a traffic hazard.  And I have had many distressing complaints from people suffering from sleep deprivation caused by incessant rooster crowing.
 
Time will tell if we actually have been successful but I have my fingers crossed!

The contractors who performed the work, Treescape, should be thanked for their work and the officers involved should also be commended, particularly Jon Cranfield who oversaw the project and senior manager Barry Potter who stepped up and kicked matters off when I suggested to him that the situation was now an emergency.

It would be good to think about the future.  My impression is that native bird numbers have declined lately and it would be good for their numbers to be strengthened.  Locals can help by having feeding stations with sugar water on their properties.  We could work on making Titirangi a renowned native bird haven rather than the renowned chicken haven that it was in the past.

Open Studios festival

This is a regular event sponsored by the local board where local artists’ work is showcased and members of the public are invited into artists studios to inspect and hopefully purchase their work. Visitor maps are prepared and tours are organised.

This year the festival was launched at Arataki Visitor’s Centre with the centre having some of the art on display. I thought this was a really good idea. The Waitakere Ranges are clearly an inspiration for local artists and to host their art nestled in the great forest of Tiriwa was a nice touch.

The event has grown from strength to strength with this year over 80 artists and 40 studios taking part. This included 12 new artists that are opening up their studios for the first time.

The feedback that I have had from this event has been overwhelmingly positive. Hopefully everyone involved will make sure that the event continues on for the foreseeable future.