The local board has given $24,000 to the Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust so that it can employ marine biologists to investigate areas for potential marine reserves and an area for a set net ban.
The first phase will be carried out this month and will cost $12,000. The second phase will also cost $12,000. The research will result in a report and a brochure.
These do not appear to be covered within the $24,000 budget so additional monies will need to be set aside.
It is planned to present the report and brochure to the community by May 2017. But why is this research being carried out at all?
Paul Walden is aware that Sea Change-Tai Timu Tai Pari, a partnership involving mana whenua (local Māori who have customary authority over the area), Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council, the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries and Hauraki Gulf Forum has been working on a marine spatial planning initiative designed to produce a Marine Spatial Plan since 2013.
Walden is concerned that this plan may not recommend any marine reserves. That instead they could recommend that a percentage of the gulf be set aside as marine reserves without identifying suitable areas. Walden hopes that Sea Change might be able to include some of the local board's reserve proposals in its marine spatial plan. How does he see this happening? Sea Change will present their report this year. The local board's report won't be ready until next year. It seems a little bit fishy. Especially when the local board has already predetermined the areas they want set aside as marine reserves and no-go zone for set nets.
Firstly, couldn't Walden have contacted Sea Change, discussed with them the local board's proposals and left them to get on with the job they were appointed to do.
Secondly, why can't he wait until he sees what Sea Change recommend in their report. There is no reason at all for wasting $24,000 of ratepayer's money simply because he doesn't think they'll give him the answer he wants.
This Waiheke Local Board has had over $4million to dispense as it sees fit during its three years in office: but what to do with all that ratepayers’ money, when the only policy you have is to try and turn the clock back thirty years? The answer from the Waiheke Local Board has been to use it to buy, reward or maintain support from groups loyal to its Essentially Waiheke Party. That way it can sustain itself in power even though it has achieved absolutely nothing for the benefit of the community as a whole; no swimming pool, no addition to the walking track network, no more public amenities, and, saddest of all, the loss of all our ratepayer halls to Walden support groups.
The only problem faced by the Board is how to give ratepayers’ money to loyal groups in such a way as to not breach the Local Government Act. You commission your supporters to write useless reports of course. The $24,000 to the Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust is only the latest in a string of useless reports commissioned by the Board that rewards its supporters - $150,000 to Direction Matiatia, $400,000 to Waiheke Resources Trust, $40,000 for a report on the Essentially Waiheke document that had the added benefit of promoting the Board's political party brand..
The HGCT has lost out recently to other more favoured groups in the handing out of ratepayers’ money or community halls. Firstly, they lost out to the Waiheke Resources Trust in their bid for exclusive use of the Old Oneroa Bowling Club building, and then they lost out to the Rudolf Steiner School in their bid for exclusive use of the Surfdale Hall.
This might well cause the HGCT to feel aggrieved after all the support the Trust has given the Essentially Waiheke Party and its Board. I’m sure $24,000 sugars the pill nicely.