The Board predictably talks about ‘local jobs for local people’ and many other platitudes about implementing their Local Board Plan. Yet, at the same time they are making these demands they have taken the biggest step backwards in keeping Waiheke local that it’s possible to take.
The Waiheke community has always been very outspoken in their demands to keep our own identity. It became known as the ‘Waiheke Characteristic’ and for many years successive community boards and the first Waiheke Local Board fought hard to keep our distinctive walkway and parks signage and bus shelters - to name a few. This was not an easy task. Auckland City Council, for example, went through seven different parks signs while Waiheke kept its own.
At the recent opening of the new Waiheke library, the Mayor reminded Paul Walden and the new Local Board members that they stood on the shoulders of many elected representatives before them - those who had really delivered the project. Yet the hypocrites on the Board have now stopped all the work that was done to develop and retain our own unique signage. Instead they have opted for urbanisation and adopted regionalisation of our parks signs.
When the SuperCity was launched, the whole local character versus regional sameness reared its head again. Local Boards around the region tried in vain to retain their distinctive characteristics. Only the first Waiheke Local Board was successful and seen as an example by other areas.
The first Board fought a three year battle for keep our own Waiheke signage against the wishes of a myriad of Council bureaucrats and none more strident than local Parks Advisor, Gary Wilton. Gary became a law unto himself and worked furiously behind the scenes to derail the Board‘s direction – frustrating progress and delaying delivery. As too many bureaucrats are wont to do, he put his own wishes above those of the people he is paid to work for.
Now Wilton has finally won, with backing from his mates on this new Local Board. With one stroke of the pen, the Board has wiped away years of effort to keep the Waiheke Characteristic and ‘keep it local’.
Gone also is any notion of keeping our commitment to being an ‘accessible’ community and the resolution of the first Local Board to actively support the “Be Accessible’ principles. At a time when former Board member Don McKenzie OBE, CNZM is presenting to the Hearings Committee of the Proposed Auckland Council Unitary Plan (PAUP) on ‘universal access’ or ‘inclusive design’ (ie. environments and services that are usable by all people regardless of age or ability) the new Board and Council’s parks design team come up with something that flouts all sensibility.
Try not to trip over this new regional signage – that is, if you can find it when you need it. The Waiheke characteristic track markers (dark green poles with bright yellow tops), based on sound visibility and recognition principles have been superseded by hip-height blocks of plain wood with orange signs attached that are very small, too small to contain pertinent information, too hard to see from a distance of more than a metre and very, very hard to read.
Some are even green and blue tones with little white writing, indistinguishable against a bush-rural backgroundand the antithesis of ‘universal access’. At knee height, they are a danger to the unwary.
Gone is a cost-conscious approach to get value for money for Waiheke ratepayers. Past experience shows that when Wilton foisted a few of Auckland City Council’s city-wide signs on the Community Board prior to amalgamation, it was demonstrated that regional signs were at least three to five times the cost of locally manufactured signs and were soon badly affected by UV rays, rendering them virtually unreadable.
Gone is our own distinctive Waiheke identity. This is a huge loss to both the community and the visitor experience and flies in the face of the advice given by international urban design experts that in large cities it is imperative to keep ‘place-making’ identity through signage.
So – don’t be fooled. All this breast-beating about wanting more power devolved to the local level is just for show or aggressive personal agendas. The reality is the Board members are lazy hypocrites who have already lost the community much more than they have gained.