It’s instructive to read the wording in the Draft Waiheke Local Board Plan regarding a swimming pool (submissions open on Monday, by the way, so here’s another chance for you to tell them you want a ‘community’ pool not a ‘school’ pool). The Chairman states, in his introductory message to his nation, a priority is “Building a swimming pool so our children can learn to swim in a safe environment, and everyone else can use and enjoy it”. Words are enlightening aren’t they? What that says to me is, “I want to build a pool for my kids and, oh, by the way, the rest of you can use it too”. Experience tells us we won't, any more than we get to use the school gym (Community Recreation Centre).
The Draft Plan itself makes only one mention of a pool. It states “We will advocate strongly for a community pool”. Now there’s a world of difference between ‘build’ and ‘advocate’ in Council speak. ‘Build’ means action – that there will be a project and there is a budget attached. ‘Advocate’ is the poor cousin. It means – we don’t have the authority or the ability to actually produce the goods, but we’ll make representations to those who hold the purse strings, in the hope of getting some action out of them. When a Local Board ‘advocates’, it is generally advocating to the Governing Body of councillors or to a Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) for part of the regional budget. In this case, the Board is targeting the councillors
I have looked at the budgets. There is NO money for a swimming pool in the 3 year Draft Waiheke Local Board Plan, either for the community or the schools. Meanwhile this new Local Board has been quietly amassing over $1 million, filched from other projects already planned for and funded by the former Board. My question is - what will happen to this money now? Natural justice says it should go back to the projects it was stolen from especially as they were agreed by full public consultation.
Have you noticed how the Board’s PR machine has suddenly gone quiet on the pool project? Spear-headed by the previously very vocal Dan Ballard (husband of ‘thousand-dollar-an-hour’ Board member Becs); there hasn’t been a dickey-bird for months now. Nor has there been a murmur from Becs herself - ‘face’ of the Waiheke Local Board on the school pool project.
Naively, Becs made wildly extravagant promises in the Essentially Waiheke Team brochure before the 2013 election. She and her Team mates would produce a community pool within a year, but certainly by the end of their term. That’s the problem with election promises; they’re so often ‘pie in the sky’ and designed to dupe the masses. Come on Becs, time to ‘walk the talk’. The honeymoon period is over. Now you actually have to do the work you’re paid $22,000 pa of ratepayer’s money to do.
My blog warned from the outset that Council couldn’t be bought and wouldn’t produce a community pool for Waiheke merely with a $1.4 million sweetener stolen from already budgeted projects. The delayed rebuild of the two schools, caused by the presence of asbestos in the walls, a fact hidden from parents for years by successive school Boards of Trustees, makes a mockery of the Local Board gifting ratepayers’ money for a school pool on what will be a construction site in two years time.
In a few short months, this Local Board has scuppered the ‘community’ pool idea that has been planned for years by successive Community Boards and the first Local Board. The former Board took the necessary first step of having Council officers prepare the initial feasibility study, including possible sites and preliminary cost estimates. They were savvy enough to know that a facility that will fully meet the needs of all the community will require Council backing and regional funding. By going it alone, this Board will expose Waiheke ratepayers to massive upfront and on-going costs – for construction and on-going maintenance and running costs. These will bankrupt the community as Council moves to targeted rates to fund local community facilities. ‘Targeted’ means the ratepayers of that community will pay for local costs. No more, spreading it across the region.
No doubt, the publicly unaccountable $25,000, already given to the two schools to ‘undertake a study which will explore financial viability and development of a business model for a community pool to be built on Ministry of Education land at Donald Bruce Road' has already been gobbled up by some consultant. Let’s hope it’s not so easy for local elected members to play fast and loose with ratepayers’ money when the figure reaches the million dollar mark (that’s usually the province of the Mayor and Governing Body). It shouldn’t be so easy for them to waste tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of our money either. It’s a sad indictment on the way Auckland Council is run that this Board gets away with thumbing its nose at transparency and accountability.
Take note of the way this Green Party inspired Local Board runs its business. Bad enough on the local level, imagine the chaos if the Green Party gets its hooks into central government. It’s over-promise and under-deliver, with the potential to waste countless millions of our tax and rates money in the process.