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August 11, 2013 by  
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市政议员Rob Thomas 致力于创建更安全的城市环境 -竞选专栏作者:David 刘

August 8, 2013 by  
Filed under 参与交流 共同拓进

Rob Thomas with AUT Chinese Student Association

Rob Thomas with AUT Chinese Student Association

无论对于居民还是各届政要来说,安全问题都是首先需要考虑的主要问题。城市的安全问题不仅关乎到居民们的日常生活和切身利益;同时从长远角度来看,它也是保证一个城市不断发展和成长所需要具备的根本条件。奥克兰作为新西兰的经济枢纽,它的安全问题尤其受到其政府的格外关注。尤其是奥克兰的市中心地区,作为新西兰人口密度最大的地区,其安全环境不仅关乎到更多居民的根本利益,同时也被时常作为作新西兰国家安全指数的风向标。

当政府在奥克兰市中心大力推进目前奥克兰城市整体规划方案的同时,当下市中心的安全环境却远远不能满足这些规划案的设计和发展。换句话说,奥克兰市中心地区的安全状况非常令人担忧。新西兰警局2012年统计的犯罪率报告显示,在全国范围内每10000起犯罪案件中,就有近1098起发生在奥克兰市。而在这些犯罪案件中,又属抢劫、盗窃、性侵犯、贩毒、酗酒伤人等刑事犯罪案件最为突出。奥克兰市中心地区的犯罪率不但严重地影响到了新西兰的国际形象,给外国游客的人身安全带来了威胁,同时它也成为奥克兰市经济,文化产业向前发展的一大牵绊。对于华人群体来说,不断增长的中国留学生和职业白领作为市中心地区主要群体中的一部分,其日常的人身安全也受到了影响。 针对此状况,奥克兰市警局和奥克兰市政府已经出台了一系列强有力的措施旨在于降低市中心的犯罪率,提升市中心的安全状况。其中,奥克兰市政议员Rob Thomas 尤其支持此项措施并且提出了具体的方案其目的在于创建一个更为安全的城市居住环境。

An artist’s impression of the proposed new playground area at Myers Park

An artist’s impression of the proposed new playground area at Myers Park

Mr. Thomas提出的改善措施主要是针对市中心Albert 公园和Myers公园的改建方案。奥克兰警局的最近年度犯罪报告显示,每年发生在奥克兰市中心地区的犯罪案件中,有多数是发生在Albert 公园和Myers公园以及其周边地区。Mr. Thomas 认为Albert 公园和Myers公园作为市中心唯一两大公园不应该成为犯罪案件的频发地点。特别需要指出的是,Mr. Thomas 认为Albert公园作为每年奥克兰中国灯笼节的举办地,其具有特殊的象征性意义。中国的灯笼节一直以来被奥克兰市政府列为奥克兰每年的主要文化活动之一。几乎在每年灯笼节期间,都会有数以万计的游客前来参观,其展出的所有花灯都来自奥克兰的姐妹城市广州的捐赠。因此Albert公园作为多年来灯笼节唯一的举办场所,长久以来都被奥克兰政府视为中新友好关系的象征,其形象应该是积极的,正面的,而不应该成为犯罪分子的日常的聚集点。除此之外,Albert公园作为市中心多数华人留学生上下课通行的必经场所,其安全环境关乎到每个华人留学生的切身利益。因此,Mr. Thomas认为对Albert公园及其周边环境的改建势在必行。公园的具体改建方案除了包括重新布置公园内的植被从而增加公园的可视度外,还包括修建更多的人行通道,拓宽已有的休息场地和增加夜间的照明设备,监控以及夜间巡逻人员的班次等。类似于Albert公园的改建方案,Mr. Thomas提出的对Myers 公园的改建计划也将会很快地展开。据初步估计,奥克兰市政厅计划投入2百万纽币在此项目上。在未来几年内,市政府将会在Myers公园内建设一个奥克兰最大的休闲广场,为居民和游客创造造一个舒适,安全的居住环境。

为了大幅度地减少市中心的犯罪率,除了对公共场所的改建以外,Mr. Thomas 还将提出一系列其他的强制性措施以达到此目的,其中包括规范并且增加市中心停车场内的监控和规划处更多的禁酒区等。Mr. Thomas认为“日益增加的华人留学生和华人职业白领已经成为支持奥克兰经济增长和文化发展的重要群体之一。保证华人群体在奥克兰的安全是奥克兰市政府还有他本人都非常关心的问题。在过去几年里,随着中新在政治、经贸和文化领域交流关系不断地增进,中国来新西兰留学、投资和旅游的人数有了大幅度增长。同时在可预计的未来,这种趋势将会更加明显。中国作为新西兰多年来的友好合作伙伴,对新西兰各个领域的发展都有着至关重要的影响。因此,新西兰尤其是奥克兰政府有责任对每一位在奥居住的华人的安全问题负责”。Mr. Thomas 希望能够与更多的华人朋友交流,倾听并且了解他们的担忧及关心的问题。同时Mr. Thomas 也希望能够得到奥克兰各个领域华人志士关于市政建设方面的宝贵意见和建议,为把奥克兰建设成一个和谐、现代化、多元文化的大都市做出应有的贡献。

(Myers 休闲广场公园部分设计草图)

한인 교민 사회를 위한 Rob Thomas의 공약

August 1, 2013 by  
Filed under 같이 의논해 봅시다

[Auckland Council Candidate Rob Thomas focuses on Korean community]

안녕하세요 한인 교민 여러분. 저는 이번 10월에 있을 선거에서 시청 카운실러 후보인 Rob Thomas 입니다.
오클랜드 시에서는 3년 마다 시장과 카운실러를 선출하기 위한 선거가 있습니다. 오클랜드 카운실 입후보자인 저는 시내 중심가를 기반으로 선거운동을 펼치고 있으며, 특히 이 지역에 거주하고 있는 한국인 커뮤니티에 특별한 관심을 가지고 있습니다.
저는 14년 동안 지방 의회 정치에 참여해 일을 하였고, 현재는 Waitemata Local Board 에 속해 있습니다. 그 동안 저는Auckland City Youth Council (오클랜드 시티 청년회)에서 의장으로 일하였고, 웰링턴 카운실과 런던에 있는 Westminster City에서도 일한 경험이 있습니다. 뿐만 아니라, 최근에는 저는 개인적으로 서울을 방문할 일이 있었는데, 그때 한국이 얼마나 경제적으로 발전했는지 몸소 체험할 수 있었습니다.
오클랜드 안에서 한국인 사회의 영향력이 점점 더 커져가고 있음을 느낍니다. 작년 통계에 의하면, 현재 오클랜드에 거주하는 한국인이 무려 20,000명이 넘는다고 합니다. 저는 경제, 문화적 측면은 물론, 다방면의 한국 지역사회 발전을 돕고 싶으며, 또한 이 점을 중대한 사안으로 여기고 있습니다. 저는 무소속 (non partisan)으로 선거에 참여하였습니다. 그래서 더욱이 한국인 커뮤니티와의 깊은 교류를 희망하며, 한인들의 삶을 향상 시키는 것에 적극적인 도움을 드리고 싶습니다.
실례로 저는 얼마전 오클랜드 대학 한인 학생회 (Auckland University Korean Students Association)와의 만남을 통해 현재 한인 학생들이 가지고 있는 고민과 문제에 대해 알 수 있었습니다. 만약 제가 시청의 카운실러로 선출되는 기회를 갖게 된다면, 학생들과 나누었던 문제들을 적극적으로 해결 할 수 있는 정책들을 세울 것입니다.
제가 한인 학생들과 첫번째로 나누었던 고민은 취업문제였습니다. 현지 고용주들의 한인들에 대한 편견, 학생 본인의 경력 부족, 한국과 뉴질랜드 간의 문화 차이 등등의 이유로 많은 한인 학생들이 취업에 어려움이 있다는 것을 알게 됐습니다. 더욱이 외국인 고용주들은 영주권 이상이 있는 고용인을 선호하기 때문에, 취업 시장에 있어서 영주권이 없는 한국 학생들과 지역 주민 사이에 넘을 수 없는 불평등이 있다는 것도 알게 됐습니다. 저는 한인 학생들에게 평등한 취업 기회가 주어지길 바라며, 이를 통해 한인 학생들의 발전은 물론 오클랜드 전체에 도움을 주고 싶습니다. 이것이야 말로 서로 윈-윈 (Win-Win)할 수 있는 방법이라고 생각합니다. 더 나아가, 한국과의 경제적 관계를 촉진 시켜, 오클랜드 내에 한인 일자리를 확장 시킬 수 있는 방안을 고려하겠습니다.
또 다른 이슈로 시내의 보안 문제를 이야기하고 싶습니다. 시내의 밤거리는 취객들과 마약하는 사람들, 노숙자들이 많아 혼자 돌아다니기엔 매우 위험합니다. 이 위험요소들 외에도 빈번한 싸움, 차량 및 물품 도난 사고 등의 문제로, 시내에 거주하는 한인들의 불안한 마음을 알고 있습니다. 알버트 파크나 홉슨 스트리트 같은 곳들은 특히 심각합니다. 오클랜드 경찰 통계에 의하면, 오클랜드 범죄의 7%가 오클랜드 중심부에서 일어나며, 차 유리를 손상시키는 사건의 11%가 또한 이 지역에서 발생했다고 합니다. 만일 제가 카운실러로 선출이 된다면 알버트 파크에 밝은 가로등이 설치된 인도를 만들 것이며, 시내 전체의 순찰을 강화하고, 더 많은 가로등을 설치하여 치안에 더욱 신경 쓰도록 하겠습니다.
세번째로, 저희는 대중교통의 불편함과 교통 혼잡에 대해 해결책을 생각해 보았습니다. 카운실러가 되면 저는 대중교통의 활성화를 위해 더 많은 버스 순환도로 및 자전거 전용도로를 만들 계획입니다. 오클랜드의 지하철 프로젝트 또한 적극적으로 지지 할 것입니다. 브리토마트 지하역 프로젝트를 맡아 일한 경험을 통해 더 나은 교통시설 확보를 꼭 약속 드리겠습니다.
제가 카운실러가 된다면 오클랜드 내에 한국 문화를 알릴 수 있는 기회를 더 넓히고 싶습니다. 한인 학생회에서 올해 처음으로 오클랜드 광장에서 두루제를 한다고 들었습니다. 이러한 축제를 통해 다양한 문화체험을 오클랜드에 사는 시민들과 나눌 수 있는 기회가 더 많아질 수 있도록 도울 것입니다.
저는 오클랜드의 한인 교민 사회와의 더 깊은 교류를 통해 한인과 시청과의 관계가 더 발전 되기를 원합니다. 또한 더 많은 한인들이 시청에서 추진하는 현안에 참여하여, 더 많은 기회를 얻을 수 있도록 더욱 도와드리고 싶습니다.
올해 제게 시청의 카운실러로 선출되는 기회를 주신다면 위와 같은 공약을 지킬 뿐만 아니라, 한인 사회를 더 많이 위해 헌신할 것입니다. 저에게 투표해 주실 모든 분들께 진심으로 감사드립니다.

ROB THOMAS

Column: Rail Through the Inner-City

August 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog

Rob Thomas HeadshotPonsonby News – August 2013 edition – By Rob Thomas – Candidate for Waitemata & Gulf Councillor:

 

Let’s Talk – Rail through the inner-city

The government’s announcement to back rail through the inner-city is a gasping breath of fresh air.

The rail link has been imagined for many years, dating back to the original Britomart Train Station on Queen Street which closed in 1930. More recently, the rail link has drawn many comparisons with Robbie’s (Sir Dove-Myer Robinson’s) rapid rail plan for the Central City, a plan which was defeated by the central government of the day. Only now has Robbie’s vision come close to being realised; with a comprehensive rail network for the central city.

We don’t have to look much further than the Britomart precinct to see how transport solutions can lead to city transformation. For many it might be a faint memory, but the former Britomart Bus Terminal and car park was an unruly and derelict cesspit on Auckland’s Waterfront. In 2003, when the station opened, there were a paltry 2,500 people using the station each day. Britomart has demonstrated how rail can reclaim parts of the inner city for local residents and businesses. Today, 10 years later, over 20,000 people rely on trains into the city every day. Our opportunity now is to replicate the same urban renewal along the route of the city link and planning needs to get underway now.

While studying at University, I worked alongside former Labour MP and Councillor Suzanne Sinclair on the Britomart Project Team, where we advocated to the public on the merits of the $204m transport, heritage and urban renewal project. Former Mayor and now Councillor Christine Fletcher was a driving force in its success. As you may recall Christine Fletcher’s Council signed off on the $98m station contract only weeks before John Banks was elected Mayor. That was a close call. I will always remember Christine Fletcher walking down to the Britomart Display Centre with the biggest smile on her face and bottle of Champaign under her arm after the contract was signed. Credit must be given to Mayor Len Brown for his leadership and persistency on this important Auckland project.

Winning design group Mario Madayag and Jasmax Ltd designed the Britomart underground railway station to allow rail to break through its walls into Auckland’s innercity. The jewel in the crown of the Britomart precinct, the former Chief Post Office Building with its ornate Oamaru stone and Coromandel granite facade, had new foundations designed to allow rail underneath her central domes. The current station configuration is designed to serve up to 10,500 passengers during the peak hour. The rail efficiency that will be gained from electrification, the rising cost of fuel and an increasing population will drive the current stagnant rail passenger numbers back up.

In the not so distant future, when Britomart reaches its limits and becomes operational inefficient, the innercity will be crying out to reach its economic and social potential and at that time I look forward to seeing the first sod turn on the Central Rail Link.

Let’s Talk – Dedicated cycling links

With talks around expansion of Auckland’s motorway and rail network, some of the city’s most exciting transport projects have fallen by the way side. These large, regional transport projects have eclipsed many smaller projects at a time when residents in our community are crying out for safer walking and cycling.

Cycle infrastructure has an excellent investment record. The existing western cycleway has seen a $4 return on every dollar spent on it, a great bang for our buck. Active transport modes takes money away from the fuel pump and puts it back into our local retailers, restaurants and bars while keeping us healthy. I cycle because it’s the best option for me. Cycling is not for everyone but for many people in our community it’s easy and the most cost effective way to get around.

Last month the Waitemata Local Board adopted our Greenways plan that will connect our parks and open spaces for walking and cycling. The first section of the Coxs Bay Boardwalk, which was delivered $70,000 under budget, is the first realisation of this plan. The heart of the plan is simple; that an 8 year old child can safely walk or cycle through our community. This is achievable with separation and dedicated paths. The plan has two key project priorities to build the Grey Lynn Greenway from Coxs Bay, through Grey Lynn Park, to the Western Cycleway and re-opening the abandon rail tunnel in Parnell to link the Western Cycleway at Stanley Street to Newmarket Park along the rail corridor.

While the Local Board is doing its bit, Auckland Transport is yet to come onboard and support the Greenways Plan and Auckland Council has stagnated on its decision to support the Get Across Campaign for walking and cycling across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge.

This election I will be standing as your Councillor with a commitment to focus on making the innercity more accessible and safer for walking and cycling.

THE BIG DAY OUT

A quick update on the BDO. A resource consent has been granted for Western Springs – so see you there!

市政议员Rob Thomas关注在奥华人群体利益 撰稿人:田思禹。

July 1, 2013 by  
Filed under 参与交流 共同拓进

AUT Chinese Student Association

Rob Thomas with members of the AUT Chinese Student Association

每三年一次的奥克兰市长和市议员选举已经进入紧锣密鼓的筹备阶段,各候选人亦都全力以赴地展开竞选活动。作为此次奥克兰市中心地区议员候选人之一的Rob Thomas格外关注华人群体在奥克兰地区的工作和生活现状。

现任奥克兰市中心地方委员会成员的Mr. Thomas从 14年前开始为奥克兰市议会工作。他不仅在惠灵顿市议会担任过重要职位,而且也曾担任奥克兰青年议会主席职位。在这些年中,他游历过中国的很多城市,特别是奥克兰的姐妹城市(广州,宁波,青岛)。因此他对中国文化产生了浓厚的兴趣。

近年来,华人群体在奥克兰的数量和影响力逐渐增加。根据最新数据统计,有近10万中国人目前居住在奥克兰。Mr. Thomas 认为“华裔群体对奥克兰的经济,文化等各方面的发展有着至关重要的意义”。 此次Mr. Thomas作为无党派独立人士参与了奥克兰市议员的竞选,他希望能够更深入的接触到奥克兰的华裔群体,了解华裔群体的生活状况并得到华裔各方面人士对奥克兰市中心地区发展的意见和建议。

近期他首先组织了与奥克兰大学和奥克兰科技大学的华人学生代表两次谈话会,借此聆听了华人留学生的声音,关注他们所面临的种种问题。在这两次交流讨论中,华人学生代表向Mr. Thomas 反映的几个问题引起了他的格外注意。Thomas也承诺 “如果成功当选,定会制定相应的政策来帮助解决这些问题”。

首先是就业难题,很多学生认为,他们在求职时会遇到来自雇主选择偏向,自身工作经验缺乏和职场文化差异的三大瓶颈。一方面,很多(洋人)雇主偏向雇佣本地(洋人)学生,使得非PR的留学生和本地学生之间存在着不平等的就业机会;另一方面,很多工作的门槛较高。很少有雇主愿意给刚走出校门、缺乏工作经验的留学生一个培养和实践的机会。 同时,职场文化的差异也使得华人留学生较难融入本地的就业市场。最后,就业机会少也给很多希望留在新西兰长期发展的华人学生带来了打击. 而Mr. Thomas认为“应该给这些在新西兰接受过良好教育、有才能的华人留学生提供更多平等的就业机会,吸引他们留下来,以达到留学生自身发展,与奥克兰总体发展双赢的局面”。Mr. Thomas表示“将大力支持奥克兰与其三个中国姐妹城市在经济,文化等各方面的交流活动,并希望通过这些交流来促进中新双边的理解和互信,进而达到加强双边经贸往来,增加奥克兰本地华人就业岗位的目的”。

Thomas还了解到华人留学生对安全问题的担忧。例如周末晚上街道上流窜的酗酒人士给住在市中心的留学生在夜间出行带来了很大的安全隐患。出于对自身安全的考虑,一些学生不得不绕弯道走在较明亮的区域,甚至走在马路中央的隔离带上,以避免受到酒鬼的骚扰。除此之外,市中心的安全问题同时还包括吸毒,抢劫,人身侵犯以及不断恶化的车辆被砸,车内物品被盗的治安问题。尤其是在一些不安全的地带,如Albert公园附近和Hobson 街周围,,这些问题显得尤为严重。根据奥克兰警局的最近统计数据,奥克兰近7%的犯罪和11%的车窗被砸事件都发生在此区域。针对这些现象,Mr. Thomas表示在他当选之后会支持修建一条明亮的人行道通过Albert公园并通过安装更多的照明设施,监控和增加更多夜班巡警的方法来改善。

交流中,学生们表示,交通也是困扰他们的一大问题。堵车,落后的公交系统也很难满足学生的日常交通需求。针对此问题,Thomas表示 “会适当增加晚上公交车次和修建更多的自行车车道的办法来改善”。除此之外,Mr. Thomas还表示 “他会大力支持修建奥克兰地铁的项目提议”。延伸Britomart地铁至更多的区域以缓解上下班时段堵车的问题。事实上Thomas对于交通系统的建设有着丰富的经验,早在几年前,他就作为设计者之一参与了Britomart的建设。

除了就业,安全和交通问题,Thomas也承诺将会继续在奥克兰推广多次多彩的中国文化。在和华人学生代表的接触中,学生们也持有同样看法。他们认为 “除了灯笼节以外,中国的其他传统节日也应该得到更广泛地介绍,比如中秋节和春节“。

Mr. Thomas作为年轻一代地区议员候选人希望能得到更多华人群体的支持。作为奥克兰市中心发展的重要组成部分之一的华裔群体在以往的市政议员选举中通常参与度不高,对市政规划和发展项目也缺乏了解的主动性。但事实上,Thomas认为 “华裔群体的声音与奥克兰的发展是息息相关的”。Thomas希望能够通过与华裔群体的深入接触来提高华人与奥克兰地方政府的互动性和参与地方事务的主动性。同时本报也希望大家能更积极地参与到今年10月份奥克兰地区议员竞选的投票活动中,为我们华人群体整体利益争取更多,更好的机会。

Column: The Cash Cow Diet

July 1, 2013 by  
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Rob Thomas HeadshotPonsonby News – July 2013 edition – By Rob Thomas – Candidate for Waitemata & Gulf Councillor:

THE CASH COW DIET
Auckland Council will be posting out the 2013-2014 rates bills this month which will include an average rate increase of 2.9% across the region. For most property owners in our community, myself included, we are likely to be hit with another harrowing 10% cap on our rates bill as we come to the final year of the regional rates equalisation. However, I was shocked to read in the 2011-2012 Annual Report that the total Auckland Council Group’s debt had gone from $6 billion to $7 billion. So, if you are one of the 514,000 Aucklanders that pay rates we share in the debt of over $14,000 per person.

The Auckland Council has been able to grow debt levels as it continues to borrow against its guaranteed income. According to the Council’s Draft Long-term Plan for 2012 -2022, it proposes to increase debt as a percentage of total revenue from 175% to 275%.

Simply put, if you had a guaranteed cash cow would you borrow against it to deliver what you want now or take a more cautious approach and save for the future? The Auckland Council must live within its means and have a fixed debt ceiling that balances out the need of our community today and for the next generation.

RED, BLUE, GREEN, INDEPENDENT– HOW LOCAL GOVERNMENT AFFECTS YOU

Being aligned to a central government party should not determine who you vote for in local government elections.

Central Government and Auckland Local Government are in loggerheads over the future of Auckland’s transport. This election we need a strong independent Councillor that can work across the political spectrum, working with the next Mayor of Auckland and Central Government to deliver a reliable and appropriate transport plan for Auckland. In fact being an independent is a blessing because you are not predetermined by your decision, you can work with the community and avoid towing the party line.

Waitemata needs a champion who passionately understands that great cities have a vibrant and growing heart. We need a Councillor that represents the dynamic and changing face of the Waitemata. As the only independently elected member on the Waitemata Local Board I have proven that you can be influential and effective without hammering colours to a wooden post.

The Waitemata ward has a population of around 72,000 individuals and employs 70 per cent of these residents. This highlights the importance of voting for Local Board Members and Councillors that reflect community experience, knowledge, age, ethnicity and diversity of opinion. There are many issues across our inner-city community that include parking, public transport, heritage and character protection, supporting business districts and sewage on beaches.

With current local government voting statistics sitting around just 40 per cent, local residents and community associations need to be adequately informed about the upcoming elections and how their vote can bring about constructive change

Nominations for local government elections open on Friday 19th July and I will be standing as your strong independent Councillor for the Waitemata & Gulf Ward.

Column: Parking in Auckland’s Inner-city

June 1, 2013 by  
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Rob Thomas HeadshotVerve magazine – June 2013 edition – By Rob Thomas – Candidate for Waitemata & Gulf Councillor:

Parking is the number one issue around Auckland’s Inner-City suburbs.

Every morning thousands of people from across the region, park on the surroundings streets of Parnell, Newmarket, Grafton, Eden Terrace and Ponsonby to make the most of free parking on their commute into the inner-city. To put the issue into perspective the surrounding streets of Freeman’s Bay have more free carparks than Aotea Centres’ Civic Carpark, that’s a lot of free carparking.

The Waitemata Local Board has been working closely with Auckland Transport to look at carpark occupancy rates throughout our business and residential areas. These results showed that during working hours the occupancy rates in some areas were between 90 to 100% and commuters are parking all day. The recent study undertaken in Parnell showed that some of the cars on residential streets were registered to inner-city apartments.

There are perverse consequences of unmonitored or unrestricted parking around the inner-city, having a direct negative effect on retailers, residents and adding to the costs of Auckland’s congestion.

St Mary's Bay Parking Zone from Auckland Transport Photo

St Mary’s Bay Parking Zone from Auckland Transport Photo

The issue is about prioritisation. In mainstream retail areas there should be easy access to carparking that encourages high turnover and availability. While on residential streets all day commuters should be encouraged to jump onto reliable public transport to free-up these streets for residents and visitors. A permitted resident only parking trial is currently being trailed in St Mary’s Bay that could be introduced to other parts of the inner-city. Feedback from residents involved in the trial has been overwhelmingly positive.

As your elected representative on the Eden Terrace Business Association Board, recently named UPTOWN, I am pleased to announce that a new parking scheme is being introduced in that area, that will balance out the needs of retailers and residents. The process showed that a one size fits all approach doesn’t work but the tools are available should residents, businesses, Auckland Transport and your elected representatives are prepared to work together to find a win-win solution.

Column The Unitary Plan the St. James Theatre test

June 1, 2013 by  
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Rob Thomas HeadshotPonsonby News – June 2013 edition – By Rob Thomas – Candidate for Waitemata & Gulf Councillor:

St JamesThe hottest topic in Auckland at the moment is the draft Auckland Unitary Plan. Like the Lord of the Rings, it’s the one ring bound document to rule them all.

Similar to all best laid schemes of mice and men, plans are only as good as what they have delivered on at the end of the day. The litmus tests for our community might be the Arch Hill’s Bunnings Warehouse for land use, Newmarket’s Station Square for urban design and in the case of heritage saving the St. James Theatre.

The St. James Theatre is an iconic category one, heritage building ideally situated in the heart of Auckland’s lively arts, culture and performance quarter. The theatre has played an important part of our city’s rich cultural tapestry and, like many of you, wish the building continues it key civic duties. The St. James Theatre is at interesting crossroads. After the fire in 2007, the building lays derelict, suffering from a lack of investment and increasing decay. The estimated cost to restore, earthquake strengthen and reopen to its former glory, is tagged at $50 million. I’m sure this is a significant financial burden to the land owner and it is an unsettling feeling for many Aucklanders.

Last month one of my favourite heritage heroes and the president of the Civic Trust Auckland, Allan Matson held a community meeting on K’Road to discuss heritage in the Unitary Plan. Allan is a tireless campaigner for heritage and believes there is a lack of carrots and sticks in the draft Unitary Plan to protect our built heritage. Heritage protection can also be a polarising topic with one blogger responded to Allan’s post saying that heritage was a slow death sentence for a building with the burden of restoration, earthquake strengthening and rising cost of insurance.

The draft Auckland Unitary plan identifies heritage and has a blanket covenant over pre 1944 buildings but this does not prevent heritage listed buildings being demolished by neglect. The true test will be how the Unitary Plan triggers council mechanism of heritage protection. It’s my view Auckland Council should look into three key areas:

  • Identification – work with the Historic Places Trust to undertake an annual survey to identify the most significant and at risk built, cultural and natural heritage sites.
  • Rules – develop heritage building rules which include regular maintenance.
  • Funding – establish a heritage fund that works as a catalyst to restore and preserve heritage.

Coxs Bay boardwalk re-opens

This month the Coxs Bay Boardwalk will re-open for everyone – including cyclists. The former boardwalk was a dilapidated, well-worn and narrow 1.2m wide path that was in urgent need of replacement. The new 2.5m bridge, which will open in early June, will significantly improve access through Coxs Bay and the bridge for future connections.

Thank you to the community for your support during the construction, to the contractors and council staff for all your behind the scenes work and my colleagues on the Waitemata Local Board for your forethought.

Last month Auckland Transport confirmed that they have started to undertake scope of a design for a walking and cycling highway that will connect Coxs Bay Reserve to Grey Lynn Park and the Western Cycleway.

Update on sewage free beaches

Following on from my article last month, I met with residents in Coxs Bay, at the newly refurbished Hawke Bay Sea Scout Hall, to discuss Watercare’s ten year plan to reduce sewage overflow. Long-time resident Christine Davis, I refer to her as our Kaumatua of the Bay, spoke about her experience swimming in the estuary as a child and watching the natural environment wane. Local residents raised a number of questions which include the duration of the project and looking at solutions to the run off from our road network.

Unitary planning rules to protect the Waitemata Harbour

May 28, 2013 by  
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Rob Thomas HeadshotMedia release – Rob Thomas – Waitemata Local Board Member,  Candidate for Waitemata and Gulf Councillor – 28 May 2013:

The Auckland Council’s draft unitary plan raises serious concerns about the future impact of a growing city on the Waitemata Harbour. The city’s population is growing at a rate of 50 new residents a day, increasing demand for high density houses and putting more pressure on the city’s stormwater system.

The waste water pipes in Auckland’s central suburbs of Parnell, Newmarket and Grey Lynn are non-separated; waste water and sewage share a single pipe. During heavy rain events heavy chemicals from the road network and sewage is discharged into the Waitemata Harbour.

Waitemata Local Board member Rob Thomas says “The current unitary plan fails to deliver stormwater management solutions and leaves the well-being of our coastal environment at the mercy of Auckland’s growing population.”

“Increasing the level of impervious surfaces in the city will create heavier storm water flows and more frequent overflows of heavy chemicals and sewage into the Waitemata Harbour.”

The Draft Unitary Plan in its current form uses the green star rating system to establish the green credentials of new multi-dwelling developments.

“The problem with the green star rating programme is new multi-dwelling developments can pick’n’choose which green features are used to achieve a green star rating. By leaving these options to chance, the council is unable to manage the effects of new developments on the city’s aged infrastructure.”

Mr Thomas says “The other key partner in this formula is Auckland Transport. As the owner of our road network they plan a vital role in storm water management. Auckland Transport cannot be precluded from their responsibilities to protect our natural environment under the unitary plan.”

“Council must use the standards contained in the unitary plan to ensure alternative solutions to storm water runoff. The solution to this problem is to make some green features compulsory. Features like green roofs, recycled stormwater tanks and swales on the road network will minimize the impact of urban intensification on the Waitemata Harbour.”

ENDS

Column: Uptown Business District Launched

May 1, 2013 by  
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Rob Thomas HeadshotVerve magazine – May 2013 edition – By Rob Thomas – Candidate for Waitemata & Gulf Councillor:

Auckland’s latest business district of Eden Terrace, Grafton and Newton has launched their new brand www.Uptown.co.nz

Upper Symonds Street has always been a unique part of Auckland nestled at the top of the city with its funky cafes and restaurants like Altezano Espresso or Gina’s Italian Kitchen. Lined the streets are many Boutique shops like men’s clothing store I Love Ugly, Ariel Books and Kite Works. Live gig venues such as The Powerstation or Kings Arms Tavern attract hundreds of people which embodies much of the areas energy and excitement.

The precinct is home to some of New Zealand’s largest and well-known brands like 2degrees mobile and Auckland Co-op Taxis. There’s also a strong flavor of professional services and manufacturing from O’Neils Personnel, Symonds Street Drycleaners to the team at Boston Wardrobes. The creative sector has set up shop in Uptown with businesses like Fuse Creative and D1 Creative that have jointly created the Uptown brand.

In front of a large crowd of local business owners, left to right in the photo, Uptown Manager Gary Holmes, Auckland Mayor Len Brown, Uptown Board Chairperson Ron Harcus and myself Waitemata Local Board Member Rob Thomas unveiled the giant Uptown logo.

Under Auckland’s draft Unitary Plan, the Uptown area is planned to undergo significant changes that would allow for an additional 18,750 new residents and 16,000 more workers over the next 30 years. Of course, the multibillion dollar question on everyone’s lips is will rail through the inner-city get the green light and a train station pop-up on Newton Road.

Whatever the future has installed – Uptown is well poised to take on the challenge.

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