Figures out today show a sharp decline in passenger numbers on Fullers Waiheke ferry service. This is bad news for Waiheke. It could lead to higher journey costs or reduced services.
Although Waiheke ferries are run as commercial services without subsidies from Auckland Transport, Mr Lee said wharf taxes collected from them declined to $1.172 million last year, from $1.56 million in 2010.
Undoubtedly the return cost of a trip is a big factor in reducing the number of journeys and therefore the decline in wharf tax revenue.
This is bad news for Waiheke. Because Fullers is a commercial operator less people on ferries will likely mean either reduced services or increased prices or both.
This could force commuters to think about moving to the city where city centre living is being actively encouraged through the Auckland Plan. I know from discussions with ferry bosses last year that, despite appearances, patronage of the Waiheke service has been static for some years. The company is now a net funder of the Gold Card i.e. it has to subsidise the service as more baby boomers reach the magic age of 65. Consequently, the Gold Card makes Waiheke more attractive to retirees. This is reflected in the latest Census figures which show a continuing trend towards an aging population.
However it will come as good news for the Waiheke Local Board. They want to stop advocating for tourism and actively discourage visitors from coming to the island. It looks like they are getting their wish. The trouble is the only people who will be able to afford living here will be older, retired professionals who can cope with high property prices and increasingly high rates.
Without visitors the island economy will die and so will the need for services. A Local Board, especially one that has set goals that fail to meet the vision of the Auckland Plan, might well become redundant. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Bigger than average rates rises and increased parking fees are two suggestions from Auckland Council’s finance officers to plug a $16 million gap in this year’s budget.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown has six weeks to plug a $16 million hole in this year's budget and achieve the goal of holding household rate increases at 3.6 per cent.
For Waiheke these average rates rises have been a myth. Increases have been more than double the Auckland average.
Finance officers have recommended a range of options to fix the $16 million problem, including holding talks with Auckland Transport to consider options such as increasing parking prices and penalties.
That’s really going to help commuters isn’t it.
At least the government has pushed back on the Mayor’s attempt to fast track the City Rail Loop. This one project could bankrupt the already debt laden city and Council still hasn’t shown the government how it will finance its half of the $3 billion deal.
After their stellar performance in front of the world’s media at the World Hip Hop Champs in Vegas Waiheke’s Hip Op-eration Crew is back in action.
They’ve been practicing a new routine ready for competing head-to-head against the top Hip Hop Mega Dance Crews from around the country on 2nd May 2014.
“We are really excited but also a bit nervous; as many of our competitors are the best hip hop dancers in the world. We don’t expect to win, but will certainly do our best to show the respect we have for the younger hip hop dancers – many of whom are 70 to 80 years younger than us,” says 80 year old Hip Op-eration Crew member Brenda Long (aka BB Rizzell).
The Hip Op-eration Crew will be competing on Friday 2nd May 2014 at the Victory Convention Centre, 98 Beaumont Street, Auckland Central (time to be advised – could be during the day or late at night). Tickets can be purchased from iticket (once they go on sale) at www.iticket.co.nz.
The Hip Op-eration Crew aims to reduce the stigma of aging through entertainment. A ‘behind the scenes’ feature documentary film about The Hip Op-eration Crew will be released in cinemas across New Zealand later in the year before having an international cinematic release.
Yesterday I wrote this in preparation for a blog.
I automatically ducked to my left as a motorcyclist leaned so far over while taking the sharp right on the main road near Marama Ave, I thought he was going to hit me. I had just enough time to register he was riding one of those high handle-bar affairs, was wearing jandals, and had a bare chest. My mind turned instantly to the mess he would make if he misjudged the next turn or met a driver closer to the centreline of a bend. I shuddered.
Today, I read this. "Family shattered after top boss killed in Ducati smash".
Chris Heilbronn sounds like he was a responsible motorcyclist and the accident wasn’t his fault. It's a sad fact that motor cyclists are the most ‘at risk’ road users. They head the road death statistics. Lack of proper clothing (footware, leathers and crash helmets) contribute greatly to the horrific injuries they receive if they are lucky enough to survive an accident.
That’s all really. No strident calls for more legislation to save people from themselves. No calls for campaigns to encourage motor cyclists to wear safer clothing. No berating of bad drivers who should take more care. Just a great sadness at the thought of another grieving family and that accidents should not happen, but always will.
Have you had your flu jab yet? If you haven't I suggest you go along to the medical centres and make sure you get one pronto. This report appeared in yesterday's Herald.
One of Hawke's Bay Hospital's patients symptomatic of the H1N1 virus was last night in a critical condition in the intensive care unit.
Whilst it’s good news Pier 2 is at last being made ‘fit for purpose’, I wonder what has happened to the promised upgrade to the Matiatia Ferry Building.
Over a year ago the former Board was shown plans for a revamp of the Matiatia ferry building. Work was due to start around October as part of short term changes to upgrade the facilities in the building. Since then not a dicky-bird.
The building is over ten years old and is no longer coping with the increasing demand from visitors or the local population. In particular the toilet facilities are both inadequate and in the wrong place. Additional toilet facilities were to be included in an area closer to the bus stops, the present toilet area was to make way for a viewing area extended toward the old wharf. This would make the best of views over Matiatia Bay. Extra, covered, parking for cyclists was promised.
Naturally Waiheke Local Board Chair Walden was against the project so I wonder if he’s managed to get it stopped. Who would know? So much is now decided in secret, a secrecy maintained by the failure of what’s laughingly described as the local press, to question anything the Board does. How he’s managed to stop the many projects that were in the pipeline prior to this new Board remains a mystery.
What isn’t a mystery is that once again the people of Waiheke and our tourist industry appears to have been short changed by Council through this Board.
At least we should all be grateful to the outgoing Board, after putting pressure on Auckland Transport, to effect the change in parking at Matiatia. 117 parking spaces were converted from underutilized lease parking to pay and display in November to free up short term parking for people wishing to catch a ferry to Auckland. This had been planned for six months but had to pass various regulatory hoops. It must have been sufficiently through the process for Walden to be unable to stop it.
Shame about the Matiatia ferry building, or so it would appear. We should be told what's happened to this project.
“A new covered waiting area will be installed in Pier 2 by the end of April.” At least that’s what it says in the Auckland Transport report on the agenda of this week’s Waiheke Local Board meeting.
This is good news for all of us who have sat in the cold and wet waiting for a ferry to Waiheke. It’s good news too for the domestic and international tourists who must have wondered what kind of a third world place they’d come to when the ‘jewel’ of the Hauraki Gulf was accessed through the gateway from Hell.
It took three years of nagging from your last Board to get this upgrade and persuade Auckland Transport of the importance for passenger comfort of having a waiting area sheltered from the elements. We were shown initial concept plans by AT but asked them to go back to the drawing board because they didn’t get to grips adequately with the shelter issue.
Council works at glacial speed so it’s good to know something is about to happen - but what? I was disappointed the plans were not on the agenda for us to get a glimpse of what’s in store. This should should have been insisted upon by the Board. Has the Board been keeping a close eye on the plans to make sure they achieve what’s needed? There’s no record in the minutes that they have, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. At least the work is due to be completed by the end of April in time for the onset of winter.
I see that work on Piers 3 and 4 is also to be undertaken. There were plans around in my time on the Board to change the ferry arrangements in the downtown basin so that all Waiheke ferries left from Pier 1 rather than 2, and piers 3 and 4 were to be upgraded to make way for all other ferry services. The cruise ship terminal was to move from Princes Wharf to Queens Wharf. Perhaps the Board could enlighten us as to what afoot in this important transport interchange area.
We need to be assured that the Board is looking after the interests of us all by maintaining our lifeline to services in the city which is the Britomart interchange. This area is every bit as important to us as the Matiatia area on this side of the ferry journey. City planners had other ideas for Quay St that didn’t take our needs into account so I hope the Board is keeping a weather eye of the changes being planned city-side, but who would know. Now there’s an issue for a future blog.
‘Stuff’ reported the results of another study showing wi-fi is safe, this week. Despite its continuing topicality, Gulf News steadfastly refuses to print letters on the subject. Local resident Ken Edwards asks why? I suspect it's because study after study shows Gulf News was wrong in its very vocal campaign against cellphone towers and it can't admit it.
Ken got in touch with me again recently. Here’s what he has to say.
Thank you for providing an informative blog site which covers a number of interesting local issues.
I’ve said before, and I say again, the Gulf News is nothing more than a personal blog for Liz Waters. As the owner she can report or omit what she likes but that hardly makes for journalistic integrity, which is what the public expect from a creditable news source. When a politician, in this case the Chair of the Local Board, declares they will only make public comment through a single source, Gulf News, you know there’s a cosy relationship: the quid pro quo being that the paper will not be critical of the Board. This is the height of irresponsible journalism.
Once a paper gets into bed with politicians its credibility is compromised and its decline assured. This is reflected already in the falling page count. It is a mere shadow of its former self. Competition, first from the Waiheke Marketplace, now from the immediacy of the online world, continues to eat away at market share. I expect there will soon be a merger with its sister paper, the ‘Weekender’, which at least attracts some advertising dollars.
Once a gulf opens wide enough for there to be a credibility gap there's no more integrity in its news.
David Farrar (Kiwiblog) comments as follows about the news that the Problem Gambling Foundation's has lost its Ministry of Health contract. This will be bad news for John Stansfield, former CEO of the Foundation and partner of hard left Green Party list MP Denise Roche, and for Roche herself who opposed the Sky City deal.
The left are going nuts claiming that the Problem Gambling foundation lost its contract with the Ministry of Health because it opposed the Sky City deal.
Following close on the heels of the news of Roche's demotion on the Green Party list, this news will be a further blow to the Stansfield/Roche household.
The long awaited Oneroa summer street banners, funded by the former Waiheke Local Board, were somehow stopped at the eleventh hour before the new Board even held a formal meeting (how’s that possible I hear you ask, as do I?). In so doing, the new Board wasted 70% of the money already allocated to the project (around $5000 down the Swannie). Then they declined a grant for the Waiheke Vintage Festival, the biggest island event this year.
It would just sound like pettiness except for the declared dislike of some Board members for the visitors who are the economic lifeblood of the Island. Proud Chairman Paul sitting on his throne is looking more and more like King Canute, believing he has the power to command the tides of tourists to retreat. Oh dear, how wrong can you be. Just when these Green Luddites thought they had stemmed the floods of ‘unsustainable’ tourists coming to the island, the Waiheke Winegrowers go and deliver them a rabbit punch.
Instead of the bare lamp standards that held sway over Oneroa all through Christmas, New Year and the summer months, the village has now been transformed, graced with beautiful, street banners fluttering down the main street. It's now ready for the Waiheke Vintage Festival taking place from 29th March to 6th April. The Winegrowers have publicised the event throughout Auckland and beyond and Fullers have come to the party with great advertising on the backs of buses. I love it. The tourists will love it. You’ve got to admire organisations that just ‘get on with it’.
Council on the other hand only knows one speed, glacial. Although I must say that works well if your main goal is to dismantle and block things. Six months after the original approval and funding of the Oneroa street banner project, Council officers (who have to actually deliver it) managed to get as far as ordering the banners, only to be stopped by the incoming Board, without any authority whatsoever. You’ve got to despise the bureaucrats who ‘don’t get on with it’.
Well done Waiheke Winegrowers! May your harvest bring forth a cornucopia of wine. May our tourists never be thirsty.
The (Green) party released its initial list this morning, which was decided by delegates and candidates at a February conference. Members would now vote on the final list, which would be released in May.
Some of the Greens' decline probably relates to the party's rather colourless political nature lately. In its very strong attempt to be a serious and conventional political institution, the Greens appear to have foregone some of the party's original colour and uniqueness. In the Q+A interview, for example, Russel Norman came across blandly and focused mostly on middle-of-the-road messages about 'responsible fiscal policy', 'paying off debt' and being 'fiscally prudent'. Similarly, in the weekend, business reporter Richard Meadows interviewed the co-leader about personal finances, and received some notably bland and conventional.
If Norman wants to shift the party towards the centre it’s hardly surprising hard left MPs like Roche find themselves on the outer. Anyway, apart from being cheer leader for her partner John Stansfield in his campaign to stop gambling in New Zealand, has she achieved anything for her $400,000 a year cost to the taxpayer?
If the Greens fail to get Roche across the line at this year’s election there’s talk she’ll expect a job on the Local Board. I doubt it, there’s just not enough money to support her lifestyle. No, expect the Board to fund some ‘consultancy’ or ‘waste management’ contract. Those are far more lucrative.
By now even the more vocal recent arrivals to the island should be aware why the High School gym is referred to as the ‘wreck’ centre. Ratepayers paid hugely for a community indoor recreation facility located at the School that was supposed to be, like recreation centres everywhere, available for community use. It’s been a failure for the community, though not for the School (which gained a nice new gym) with only limited access for the rate-paying public.
It all sounded so ideal at the beginning. As its contribution, the Ministry of Education permits the use of its land and the former Auckland City Council provides the bulk of the money, over one $million, to build a dual use (school/community) facility at Waiheke High School. The annual running cost of $75,000 p.a is provided through a Council grant from rates and the Centre is administered by a Trust (made up of school personnel and user groups with one Council representative) to ensure everyone gets a fair crack at the kumara.
Almost immediately it went pear shaped. The big sticking point was hours of use for the community as opposed to hours of use by the school. The ‘community’ Recreation Centre quickly became a school gym with a few odd hours available to the public should they wish to access them. Predictably, the school held firm on restricting community access to hours outside those required by the school, that is, week days from 7am to 4pm. It seems ‘stranger danger’ also refers to a facility the public thought was as such theirs as the school’s.
Then, again predictably, user group volunteers for the Trust became harder to find. Being a legal trustee has its responsibilities, on top of looking after your ‘community’ user groups. Understandably, the Trust handed over the Council’s $75k to various ‘management’ organisations, some better than others. The limited hours available to the public predictably limited first its usage and then public interest. Time and heavy school use had its toll. Repairs and upgrades were needed.
Now the school gym is set to become even more costly to the ratepayer. This Waiheke Local Board is proposing to hand over a further $35k every year, on top of the $75k already committed, with no questions asked and no solution to the access problem.
This is the same model being proposed by the Local Board to fund and run a so-called community pool on Waiheke – read, “School gets new pool for pupils”. The only difference being the scale of ratepayers’ investment with the massive additional cost of building, operating and maintaining a swimming pool as opposed to a school gym.
If, as looks increasingly likely, the Local Board goes it alone to fund a school pool there will be virtually no money left to make all the ‘small local improvements’ so vital to making a difference in our community. The Board has already flagged that it is going to deprive residents and ratepayers of $1.4 million of much needed projects to fund the schools. The annual running cost is projected to be half a million dollars. All of which will come from your rates.
On top of all this there is a big question mark over where the schools stand on this. Do their Boards of Trustees (BOT) even want a pool? In their haste to fulfil an election promise, the Local Board hasn’t produced any evidence that the schools are actively pursuing this project. Where are the BOT resolutions backing the school pool idea? When did this discussion take place? Yet the Waiheke Local Board has handed over $25,000 of ratepayers’ money to these BOTs to come up with a model that will deliver them a ‘community’ funded pool on their land. Talk about pushing your own barrow with other people’s money and putting the cart before the horse.
Or is this a cosy deal to reward Green Party supporters with a general election coming up? You’ll recall that Chairman of the High School BOT is John Stansfield, partner of hard left Green Party list MP Denise Roche.