What is the possible connection between a group of breakaway wannabees and high stakes property interests? Well, as I always say – follow the money. What this group of seemingly naïve, but power hungry nincompoops is paving the way for is a takeover of Waiheke future planning, where there would be no checks and balances on large scale subdivisions, in-fill housing and the inevitable – water and waste-water reticulation.
Business savvy enthusiasts for wealth creation from property have recently had their hopes dashed for large scale sub-division on the island. They have discovered that the latest version of the Hauraki Gulf islands District Plan (HGIDP) (which incorporates the principles of the non-statutory ‘Essentially Waiheke’ vision for the island) requires a residence to have sufficient land to deal with the household’s own water and wastewater needs. It is this provision that defines the larger section, ‘semi-rural’ character of the island at the western end of the island. This lies within what’s known as Auckland Council’s Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) with the larger lifestyle blocks and farmland of the eastern end providing the rural component.
While the HGIDP and the RUB are in place, they remain a barrier to opportunistic property developers, intent on making a fortune from their land holdings on the island. So, Meeuwsen and Co’s wild dreams of taking over Waiheke politics to its fullest extent must seem like a godsend.
With a bunch of wallies in charge of everything from planning and staffing and roading to finance, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that getting one’s own property development way through a change to the District Plan and a bid for wastewater reticulation would be a doddle.
It might even be the shortcut the Walden family has been waiting for to over-ride the HGIDP by changing Council’s RUB provisions to include their land (and other land at the western end) in the sub-divisible area. Starting to make sense now?
The ‘Our Waiheke’ group proposal would remove Waiheke completely from any Auckland Council jurisdiction and would create a mini- Unitary Authority. That is, those in power would have control over ALL local government functions on Waiheke. It would allow them to establish their own District or Unitary Plan and have control over all future planning decisions including staff appointments. Backers always want their pound of flesh and more intensive development and water and wastewater reticulation would follow, just as sure as night follows day. The Walden plan for intensification on their land already includes such a reticulation scheme. This would turn their large block into a mini-suburb of its own.
In addition to the usual green, jump on the band wagon, rent-a-mob of which Waiheke seems to have more than its fair share, the idea of an ‘independent’ Waiheke plays to gullible locals who see themselves as a race apart and pretentiously describe themselves as ‘Waihetians’. Despite their obvious links and dependence on Auckland’s wider network, they cling to a romantic notion of being castaways on a far-flung island (but with all the 21st century technology and comforts, including only a 35 minute ferry ride from the big smoke). They love the restaurants and café society but fail to comprehend that these can’t survive on their meagre custom only.
It also plays well to ratepayers who are sick and tired of the rate hikes they have experienced as part of the Auckland Council amalgamation and which their Councillor Mike Lee, has failed to protect them from. Their previous complaints about high rates under Auckland City Council (which were some of the lowest in the country) are now seen to be the hot air that they were. But they, too, are easy meat and happy to fall for ‘Our Waiheke’s’ disingenuous promises of rates reductions. Mayor Len Brown made the same sort of promises and we can see where that led.
Make no mistake, the lack of economies of scale alone would see rates on Waiheke GO THROUGH THE ROOF if we have to pay the true, unsubsidised, cost of all the local and regional services required under the Local Government Act, let alone the enormous costs of reticulation that have bankrupted small rural communities like Mangawhai and Kaipara.
When plans are mooted by politicians with vested interests it pays to follow the money. The money is in the hands of property developers waiting to make a packet out of their land holdings on the island. They’ll be long gone when the chickens come home to roost and Waiheke is left with a lame duck, malleable council and a mountain of debt to pay for the self-interest of a few.