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.

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