A combination of factors seems to have been responsible for a perfect storm of visitors. It was the start of the holiday weekend and the sun was shining. Indeed it was a cracker of a day, perfect for an outing to Waiheke. Two new ferry services made their debut and were offering cheap or giveaway deals to entice custom. This undoubtedly boosted the numbers, swelled further by a number of curious onlookers wanting to be there at the start of something new.
Whatever the reasons, it brings into focus again the inadequacy of facilities at the ageing wharf building. Every year as the tourist season gets going there are complaints that the toilets can’t cope with demand, that they are in the ‘wrong’ place and that all the ‘services’ are too slow. After many representations to Auckland Transport (AT) by myself, as transport spokesperson on the first Waiheke Local Board, and by the Board itself the AT team did indeed come up with plans for a complete revamp of the terminal. They included an increase in the number of toilets, a second story for offices on the street end of the building, re-positioning of the ticket offices to allow more passenger space, enclosing the outdoor area for more and better facilities, opening a viewing platform between the two wharves, covered bike sheds for increased cycle storage and a host of new features. All that was needed was final approval from the incoming Board. Since then, nothing!
In what has become a familiar pattern for the new Board nothing is getting done and projects already budgeted and in the pipeline have been stopped. This wharf upgrade was worth millions. It should have been in place last year long before the Mayor decided he needed every cent for his train set. Not for the first time I ask what is the point of having a Board whose only vision is to take the island back forty years. Add the loss of this project to the $2million already down the Swannie and the cost of the Board itself and Waiheke is getting closer to being $5 million poorer in one year alone whilst facing the biggest rates hikes in Greater Auckland. Waiheke Local Board Chair Paul Walden blaming the mayor and trying to paint himself as a martyr just does not equate with the facts. He and his Board had the money and simply failed to spend it. Without Local Board support Auckland Transport must have thought there were other Local Boards with projects needing our money and where their efforts would be appreciated. It’s 'use it or lose it' when it comes to Council spending.
The Board’s anti-tourism stance is well known. Maybe the thinking, such as it is in that collective kid-focussed, mushy brain, is that by doing nothing, giving the hated tourists a bad Waiheke experience, putting so much pressure on the Matiatia transport hub that tourism based businesses collapse, the Board will achieve its objective of taking the island back into some idealised hippy past. I can think of no other explanation for the failure and waste of money that is the hallmark of this Board. Pressure on the Matiatia transport hub will only increase. Will the response of the Board and Auckland Transport continue to be directionless? I know the answer and I’m sure you can guess it, but I’ll tell you more in another blog later this week.