The term ahead for the Waitakere Ranges Local Board

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I have the privilege of being re elected as chair of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board and Michelle Clayton is the deputy chair.

This is an excerpt from my speech to this term’s inaugural local board meeting.

Can I thank everyone for attending this the inaugural meeting of the fifth 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 had a driver’s 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 third term and for Saffron Toms and I to share the leadership of the fourth term.  This is a great job.  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. 

Last term was in its own way quite exceptional. 

I said three years ago that the local board intended driving an electric vehicle fuelled by sustainably generated electricity. 

But I could not promise that we will not be doing any burnouts or hand brake jobs. 

It was more of a hybrid than a fully electric vehicle and unfortunately for the board we were rear ended by a one in one-hundred-year pandemic which then stole our hubcaps and siphoned all of our petrol. 

And onto this term which I think needs to be a rebuilding term, where we improve community cohesion and work to restore relationships which have been frayed while at the same time prepare our community for a climate changed future. 

Can I acknowledge Michelle Clayton.  It has always been a pleasure to work with Michelle and she always has the best interests of the community in her heart. 

Can I acknowledge former chair Sandra Coney.  She will be serving her 8th term in public office this term.  She brings a wealth of experience to the board and a determination that we address properly the environmental issues the board faces. 

Can I also acknowledge member Mark Allen who brings huge experience to the role, a keen understanding of community and a real dedication to serve. 

Can I also acknowledge Liz Manley who I met a few years ago when she was the Head of Woodlands Park Primary School.  She is very well networked, is hugely intelligence and I am sure will bring a great deal to the board. 

And finally, can I acknowledge Linda Potuaine who I have only recently got to know but I am already impressed with her enthusiasm and her desire to make this work. She is also our first Tangata Whenua member, and her iwi is Ngai Te Rangi. 

Can I acknowledge Councillor Ken Turner, or as we fondly called him last term Comrade Ken. 

I am a real admirer of a good political campaign and Ken recently conducted one of the best local campaigns I have seen as shown by his election to Council. 

The success of his campaign theme and the Mayoral campaign theme, that Council is broken and needs to be fixed is something that we all need to reflect on. Whether we like it or not when this message is delivered so clearly it is time to for all of us to reflect and to make improvements. 

Can I also acknowledge Shane Henderson who has been returned for his second term.   His return is a testimony to his desire to advocate and work for what is best for the west.  

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

Can I acknowledge Adam Milina and all of the staff whose professionalism and dedication make us look like we know what we are doing. 

A 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.  

Particularly those who coordinated everything. Can I acknowledge you Josh Kirwan and whoever is your Westwards equivalent. 

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 as I said last term all us politicians, 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.   

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.  This board’s environmentally protective beliefs accord with the dominant social values of the West. 

Three years ago, I set out eleven different areas I wanted the Board to work on and I thought I would do the same this term. 

The list is mostly the same although with some changes. 

Our fight against Covid was mostly successful but was achieved at a huge price. We may have a cumulative death rate that is only one eighth of that of the United States or the United Kingdom but the stresses of our lockdowns and of the mandates clearly has caused some unravelling of our community’s coherence. This is why I want us to make a feature of community events and celebrations, to restore to full health the community coherence that the west is famous for. We need to celebrate our diversity and be welcoming to new westies. 

And we need to make all aspects of Council more accessible. Whether it is access to elected members or access to parks and facilities Council needs to be more relevant and more immediate in people’s lives. 

Climate change continues to pose an existential threat to our way of live. We want to make good progress this term with completion of our Greenways Plan to offer safe and pleasant alternatives to car use.  And every decision we make should have a climate change filter applied to it. And the work not only has to address greenhouse gas emissions but also to improve community resilience as the effects of climate change become pronounced. 

Last term I was pleased that Laingholm Beach and Titirangi Beach were taken off the no swim list. But we need to continue with our emphasis in improving our 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. In particular in the near future Wood Bay should be remediated. 

We wish to continue to build on our relationships with Te Kawarau a Maki and with Mātāwaka. We will be cheerleading and supporting Te Kawarau a Maki as they progress their project of establishing a Marae at Te Henga. And we will support them in their quest to have the deed anticipated by the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act advanced. And we will continue to work with Te Whanau au Hoani Waititi Marae and the important mahi they perform. 

Transport will continue to be a major issue. We want to continue with work to provide public transport services to the remoter parts of the west and to prepare for the opening of the City Rail link which will be transformative. 

Which is why planned improvements for Glen Eden need to be accelerated. Already the growth and intensification that is occurring is stretching local resources. Intensification needs to happen in such a way that the quality of the area is enhanced, not degraded. We understand the budgetary pressures that caused the delay of our Glen Eden renewal project, but this was but the latest of many proposed plans that have not been implemented because of budget pressures over a lengthy period of time. The sooner that renewal happens the better. 

Our efforts to provide meaningful tree protection must continue.  It is absurd that we can have rules about what colour a house can be painted but not have general rules protecting trees.  Proposed changes to the RMA this term provide us with a unique opportunity to highlight this issue. 

Our focus on weeds and pests will continue. We pour huge resources in trying to hold this problem at bay.  Our work in dealing with weeds on the edge of the Regional Park is important but should be funded centrally not locally. We are only just holding on.  We can and need to do better. 

We will also continue with our support for Arts and Culture.  It is not coincidental that the home of Colin McCahon and Maurice Shadbolt and Len Castle and Ann Robinson and John Edgar is out west. It is a feature of artistic talent that they are attracted to engage in their art in an area of natural beauty. Our local board area is blessed with as divine art as can be imagined and we will continue to support our artists.  And institutions such as Te Uru provide a focus for artistic nurturing and development.  Last term the board worked hard to secure Shadbolt House as a writer’s residence.  This term we hope to have this project advanced. 

Alongside our Henderson Massey and Whau colleagues and local councillors we need to present a united front and make sure that the West’s interests are protected and enhanced. Knowing how parochial locally elected members are, I am sure this will not be difficult. 

And most importantly we will continue with our oversight role of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area.  The Heritage area faces many pressures, weeds, Kauri dieback, visitor management, and the stresses of development. It is the home of many groups who are passionate about its protection and enhancement and who deserve our support. We will continue to work with them to preserve and enhance what is a unique area.  

To conclude and to complete the car metaphor this term the local board wants to fix the dents, make the car road worthy again and make sure it can serve us well into the future. And hopefully progress to the fully electric version. 

But I still cannot promise that we will not be doing any burnouts or hand brake jobs. 



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