Auckland’s Inner-City Ward is a highly contested political stomping ground. You don’t have to go much further than the efforts of National’s Nikki Kaye vs Labour’s Jacinda Ardern to understand the effort, commitment and resources that are spent to firstly support the community and secondly contest the electoral seat.
Despite the confusing political alliances that are formed in #Auckland #LocalGovernment, such as Team Waitemata, C&R, City Vision, Auckland Future, Affordable Auckland and the independent candidates; this is a highly represented and contest local community.
Here are the trends as I saw them in the 2016 elections:
-Waitemata & Gulf Ward Councillor-
In the Councillor seat Bill Ralston was almost 1,000 votes earshot of MikeLee, the closest result in three terms of the Super City. While being an independent is a major challenge my voter base grew by almost 1,500 this election and has almost doubled in two terms. With Mike Lee’s 30+ year political life and my fledgling 6.. it’s just a matter of time and change is the wind.
-Waitemata Local Board-
The Waitemata Local Board has had a refresh with just four incumbents remaining. Members Pippa Coom and VoteRobThomas were the clear front runners with over 8,000 votes each while Shale Chambers received over 7,000 votes. City Vision new comers Adriana Avendaño Christie and Richard Northey along with Auckland Future candidates #MarkDavey, and former #WaitemataLocalBoard member Vernon Tava making the cut. There were just 10 votes separating Jonathan Good and Vernon, followed by four other candidates within 500 votes. Former Auckland City Councillor and Local Board member Greg Moyle polled in twelfth place. With former Local Board Members Christopher Dempsey and Deborah Yates deciding not to stand for re-election.
The centre left once had a commanding lead in #Waitemata but the margin has now narrowed by over 10% of the overall vote and this is a clear shift towards a great balance of decision making across the political spectrum. Fresh faces provide both an opportunity for new thinking but also a challenge of continuity. New members Adriana and Mark are business #entrepreneurs and should bring a greater depth to the decision making process.
The next chairperson will need to be collaborative and act fairly to bring members together. In my view the workloads across each portfolio, business association and committee delegation can no longer be held by one group but will need to be shared to get the best outcomes for our community.
-Waiheke Island Local Board-
It was a great result for independents on #Waiheke Island with newly elected #BobUpchurch leading the charge, independent new comer Cath Handley, independent incumbents Shirin Brown and John Meeuwsen and former chairperson Paul Walden.
-Great Barrier Island Local Board-
With such a small population, the voting is always close on Great Barrier Island with just 276 votes separating first and last place. #IzzyFordhammaintained her commanding lead followed by new comer Luke Coles for local board, Sue Daly is back on along with #JeffCleave and ecologist #ShirleyJohnson.
Overall there was a feeling of change and this was reflected in the number of new faces and a string of independents successfully elected across the ward.
*election figures taken from elections.org.nz, Auckland Council, and Wikipedia.
Eight months ago a post graduate student in landscape architecture Andrea Reid approached the Waitemata Local Board to discuss her Pollinator Pathways university assignment. The general premise of the proposal identified the massive loss of habitat for pollinators such as bees, insects, lizards and birds in urban areas due to the reduction in habitats in the built environment and diseases that have ravished bee colonies. The concept was to reintroduce habitats into the urban landscape. The original concept designs from her university portfolio are quite spectacular and there are many concepts yet to be realised for Auckland.
Andrea presented to Waitemata Local Board member Deborah Yates and me in the environmental portfolio. The original proposal was targeted in Kingsland to intersect with railway land, Auckland Transport land and a local neighbourhood. Apart from the proposal not being in our electoral ward, the proposal would have been highly complex introducing a new concept to multiple stakeholders on land designated for infrastructure. A new location had to be identified that was within control of the Waitemata Local Board’s area of influence and decision making.
Two proposed locations were recommended to Andrea; the Grey Lynn Greenway that was being built from Coxs Bay via Hakanoa Reserve to Grey Lynn Park; the second proposed location was the Auckland Domain as a feeder network for pollinators within existing reserve land. With these options on the table Andrea decided to pursue the Grey Lynn Greenway option.
With funds committed by the Waitemata Local Board to develop the in-park component of the walking and cycling corridors of the Grey Lynn Greenway this was already a live project. With the hard walking & cycling infrastructure of the corridor underway the Pollinator Pathway was a natural fit to deliver enhanced ecological connection between Coxs Bay and Grey Lynn Park.
The two draft designs looked to collaborate with private land owners of Mitre 10 to build a butterfly farm along the Westmoreland Street West western side of the berm and the Farro Fresh garden which already has an active bee hive.
The owner at Mitre 10, Warren, was superb and went through all the internal management process and had Mitre 10 approved the wall to be used as a habitat for butterflies. This is, of course, now my preferred home improvement depo for all my purchases. Mitre 10 corporate where amazing. However, Auckland Transport created a barrier, requested a deposit of $1k to use the berm which was so unreasonable and against the key principles of the Greenway Concept. This concept is still very much alive with an initial design if at some point Auckland Transport can join the party.
The Farro Fresh team were initially on-board with the partnership proposition but had concerns over health & safety of people walking in the carpark with new legislation coming down the pipeline. Also, the proposed Auckland Transport Greenway Route along the fence line was still under concept design and Auckland Transport could provide no clarity or certainty over the new route.
The most obvious location was to refocus on park land and in particular Hakanoa Reserve. One late evening Andrea and I walked the route looking for the ideal spot. It was clear that the V shaped junction on Sackville Street as a point of entry to the Greenway, with its existing community lending library, would be an ideal location for the first pollinator pathway. To make the future greenway connection a success there needed to be visual ques to show people the way between Coxs Bay and Grey Lynn Park and this seemed liked the ideal spot.
To deliver the project, Andrea applied to the Waitemata Local Board community grant of $7,500 which was successful. As funds need to be accountable, Andrea worked under the umbrella of Chris from the GECKO Trust New Zealand who provides support for hundreds of community led projects across Auckland. Having assisted her throughout the possess I declared my conflict of interest and allowed the other member of the Waitemata Local Board to talk and make the decision on the grant application.
A community open day was held and the project received 100% positive feedback with most saying just “get on with it”.
Left to Right: Rob Thomas (Waitemata Local Board), Andrea Reid (Pollinator Pathways), Andrea’s Mum and Chris Ferkins (Gecko Trust) consulting in Hakanoa Reserve
Left to Right: Deborah Yates (Waitemata Local Board), Andrea Reid (Pollinator Pathways), Jennifer Northover (Grey Lynn Business Association) and Rob Thomas (Waitemata Local Board).
The weeks that followed Andrea pushed hard through the land owner consent process and requirements placed on her from the Council’s Parks Team. Andrea presented to a number of groups including the Grey Lynn Business Association, local schools and kept the Grey Lynn Residents Association informed of the project. A stakeholder email newsletter was compiled with regular updates on community feedback, concept design and the important volunteer day. Throughout the project there were regular meetings between Andrea, Chris and I to help with the project.
The scene was set. On Saturday 1st October 2016 after the rain had stopped and before the volunteers arrived a butterfly from the surrounding neighbourhood flew in and landed on one the swan plants. Andrea was able to capture the moment in this photo. For that moment, even if it was for less than 20 seconds, it had seemed the site had received its blessing.
Volunteers from all over the community came to dig up the grass, plant vivid pollinator plants, lay bark and watch the release of the bumble bees.
Earlier in the week builders put together a small “insect hotel” wall ready for local children to build habits for insects. Stones, sticks and sand were collected from around the neighbourhood to place in the masonry blocks for the insect habitats. A group of local kids went back home to tack river stones from their house to place in the wall with the parents not blinking an eye.
While everyone dug up the grass, to prevent weeds, there were a number of Irish jigs being fiddled and it seemed like we were digging up potatoes or peat from the swamps. There was a great community atmosphere as people worked the land and children ran around getting face paints and rummaging through the bush to find sticks. Even the local police arrived to help.
The volunteers took to planting, with children being taught how to carefully remove the bag from around the root, dipping the base into active fungal water, laying top soil and placing in the ground without air bubbles that would kill the roots.
The enormous task of placing bark as the ground cover saw three wheel barrows arrive on site from neighbouring properties. Everyone was chipping in, especially the young children climbing up the mound of bark and sliding down the other side.
Then came the moment everyone had been waiting for – the release of the bumble bees. The bee boxes had been securely put in place for the leaf cutting bees and the bumble bees. The night before Andrea had received the bumble bees in a cardboard box ready to be released into their new home. Despite the rain, one bumble bee emerged from the box and did its inaugural circular flight before eventually returning.
The day was a huge success. Even the gorilla tactical urbanism of Waitemata Local Board Member Pippa Coom, entirely endorsed by myself, painting yellow lines to prevent cars parking on the entryway for walking and cycling along the Greenway. Feedback Auckland Transport had not responded to despite many requests. Good on you Pippa!
Over the next three months local residents have been asked to help water the plants, especially the swan plants, to ensure they survive the change of season.
It’s still early days but the overwhelming support from the community shows it to have been a great success. Time will tell as the bees and insects become accustom to the space that New Zealand native lizards might find refuge in low foliage as the plants mature, and the Nikau Palms over the next 10 years provide fruit and sanctuary for birds.
The combination of Andrea’s design expertise, her dedication, vision and passion from the project was contagious. There are many good ideas but it takes a certain person to see this through to completion and bring others along with you on the journey.
The Pollinator Pathway in Hakanoa Reserve was always envisaged to be a catalyst for future project. To make pollinator paths a part of Auckland’s urban design fabric there needs to be greater buy-in from orgnisations like Auckland Transport. The Hakanoa Reserve Pollinator Pathway project shows the great depth of support that exists within our community for these types of initatives.
So, where to next!
There are prime sections of land all across our city centres that are underutilised; either vacant or used for car parking. The Council and the Government received very little tax revenue from leaving these prime sections under developed. Rather than focusing our attention of Greenfield sites that require hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure projects that the Auckland Council cannot afford, there needs to be a focus on sites with existing infrastructure with greater land yield return.
My land use plan for Auckland:
- Auckland Property Development Agency Panuku to identify prime development sites in central city/town locations and work with owners/developers to incentivise growth with a maximum five year rates pay back period for Council.
- A key focus of new developments are for housing; support housing shortages.
- Auckland Council identify site that incorporate further social housing.
Case Study: Hobsonville vs UpTown
Hobsonville will eventually have 3,000 dwellings contributing $6-7m in rates per year. The infrastructure cost for Hobsonville was $535m for a mains pipe and $110m for local roads. The cost of the overall infrastructure in this community is likely to be paid back over 100-120 years and therefore this is not a financially sustainable growth model for Auckland Council.
UpTown (Upper Symonds Street) could eventually have 12,000 dwellings contributing $16m per year. There is little to no infrastructure cost and incentives of up to $80m would be paid off in five years. Plus this area will have greater economic growth than Hobsonville and greater government tax generation. After this Auckland Council earns an additional $16m per year and has a greater and more vibrant community. Win win win win win win.
Having multipul high-yield development site will start generating $100m of dollars in addtional rates within 5 years. This will allow the Council to pay off debt and/or pay for infrastructure projects like transport.
Auckland needs to encourage greater population growth around our major rail, bus and ferry hubs/towns/city centres. We need to provide seperated heavy rail, lightrail, bus and ferry services that are frequent, reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly that connect these hubs.
This electoin I support:
- A direct Rail Connection from the Auckland Airport via the Puhinui Station.
- Delivering the Central Railway Line project with stricter controls and governence to prevent esculating cost.
- Championing for the second harbour crossing to have Rail to the NorthShore.
- I will continue to suppor the role-out of cycling & walking projects to make it safe for commuters and recreational users.
- A greater focus on clean technology to reduce air pollution from our public transport.
Works are almost complete on the in-park component of the Grey Lynn Greenway.
Over the last few months the footpaths in Coxs Bay and Grey Lynn Park have been widened to allow for shared walking and cycling as part of an off-road safer route from the Auckland Harbour Bridge to the Western Cycleway.
13 December 2015 – Coxs Bay Walkway Upgrade, click here
20 April 2013 – Construction update: Coxs Bay Boardwalk, click here
1 April 2013 – Column: Starting soon construction on our first walking and cycling highway along Cox’s Bay Creek, click here
10 March 2013 – Construction commences on cycling and walking highway, click here
4 March 2013 – Greenways consultation closing soon, click here
2 September 2012 – Coxs Bay Creek Boardwalk rebuild approved, click here
11 December 2012 – Waitemata Greenways, click here
Work commences this week on a major upgrade to level pedestrian crossings across Ponsonby’s main street. This involves created raised tables on Collingwood Street, Lincoln Street, Angelsea Street, Norfolk Street, Douglas Street, Brown Street, Mackelvie Street and Pollen Street.
More information can be found here
Last election I campaigned on rolling out a resident parking scheme as a response to the overwhelming request from residents to kick commuters out of leafy suburban streets.
I am delighted to say that this is now happening with residents parking permit applications now available in Freemans Bay. This may also follow in Ponsonby, Arch Hill, Grafton, Newmarket and Parnell if there is positive feedback from the current consultation.
Click here to provide your feedback on the proposed scheme for Ponsonby.
The first notice of motion placed on the newly elected Waitemata Local Board agenda in 2010 was from myself in regards to transferring the land under Mayoral Drive so that it could be upgraded with Myers Park.
Finally the day has come to upgrade the Myers Park Underpass which provides a vital link from the park into the Aotea entertainment precinct. This will provide a safer connection and engaging space for performance and to tell the story of the stream that once flowed from K’Road down Queen Street.
Click here to find out more about the Myers Park Development Plan.
Auckland’s City Centre population is exploding. As of June 2015 there was an estimated 34,850 people and the latest data shows an additional 5,000 people moved into the city center to live in the last year.
Construction begins soon on the major upgrade of the Ellen Melville Centre and Freyberg Square. With financial support from the Council Governing Body, this project will transform the worn and tired space into a vibrant community hub. This will be the first community centre in Auckland’s Inner-City to support a growing and more diverse community.
To find out more click here
Approximately 300 people provided feedback on the Domain Master Plan.
Overwhelming the feedback was positive. Of those that responded to the survey the top reasons for visiting the Domain included visiting the Museum, to walk or jog, visiting the winter gardens and attend events.
The greatest support for the plan was to redevelop the nursery (2ha) followed by creating playspace. Of those that responded to the survey, 60% of people supported closing roads.
A pragmatic approach to freeing up roads might be around the sports fields for joggers & walkers, with possible electronic bollards on the weekends, are now being considered.
The feedback is currently being reviewed by by the Auckland Domain Committee. The full report can be downloaded click here.