‘Our Waiheke’ is the name adopted by a group of people led by Waiheke Local Board member, John Meeuwsen, whose aim is to establish Waiheke as a Unitary Authority separate from Auckland Council. Just over 18 months ago, John Meeuwsen, was elected to represent Waiheke as part of Auckland Council and is paid a $23400 annual salary to do so. Yet he now chooses to spend his time leading a campaign against the very organisation to which he is contracted. Just as Waiheke Community Board member Nobilangelo Ceramalus did in 2008/9, when he came up with the bright idea to amalgamate Waiheke with Thames/Coromandel (which was soundly rejected by the Local Government Commission in 2009)
Until recently, this Green Waiheke Local Board was an enthusiastic supporter of Auckland Council and, particularly, its left wing Mayor Len Brown. After all they had inherited over a million dollars of discretionary spend plus a budget of over $10 million, which the first Waiheke Local Board had painstakingly negotiated with the Council. Indeed Auckland Council has continued to spend more money on Waiheke than it takes in rates, just like Auckland City Council did for years before it - at one stage spending three times what it took in rates.
However, this all changed last November when Mayor Les Brown and the Councillors, desperate to find some spare cash, reneged on their previous budget promises to all the Local Boards, right across the region. The situation was made worse for Waiheke because Local Board members had foolishly handed back $1.4 million to Council as they rejected those projects already approved and funded by the first Local Board. In addition, their complete lack of financial know-how has resulted in their constant struggling to spend their budgets in a sensible, timely and constructive manner.
Unsurprisingly, the Council has concluded that Waiheke does not need the previously allocated amount, which was after-all, generous by regional standards. Thus, the Mayor and Councillors voted to cut the money the Waiheke Local Board had in its discretionary fund for small local projects (SLIPs) and which the Board had planned to squirrel away and spend, not on the promised community pool, but on a school pool.
This was a public relations disaster for the Local Board. Blaming Auckland Council for its broken pool promise was untenable. So what to do? The Board’s political strategists quickly moved to Plan B – ‘divert attention from your rotten record’. They decided on the Nobilangelo option, only this time they would have to go it alone as nobody would want to inherit the ratepayer burden that is Waiheke.
Meeuwsen needs to show some humility and admit that he and his Essentially Waiheke team have cocked up and wasted our ratepayers’ money. Concocting a break-away movement and a smoke-screen because you don’t get your own way shows the lack of mettle of this pack of silly school chums. Could this man and his team be trusted to lead any kind of Council? I think not. Could any of this Local Board be trusted? Of course not.
As I said in a previous blog "Like any organisation a strong structure and culture need to be established, but that is not enough without good leadership. Get it wrong and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down" and who knows what the consequences for Waiheke will be in terms of higher rates and lower house prices.
Don’t be fooled. Their so-called ‘Our Waiheke’ is only for ‘them’.