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.

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