What the report shows is that under the Our Waiheke options there would be an initial deficit of $6.4 million for the Unitary Authority Option resulting in a 43% rates increase in year one to cover the deficit. It also showed the deficits would continue for at least ten years with similar resulting rates increases each year. The deficit figures for a District Council were $4.7 million or a 36% rates increase with deficits continuing for at least ten years.
It also became clear during the meeting, which I attended, that this was the tip of the cost iceberg. On top of the deficits would be ‘significant transition costs’ running into millions of dollars. There is also a multi-million dollar shortfall in transport funding, “To fully fund the (transport) renewals programme would increase the deficit by approximately $2.5 million per annum” or put another way rates would have to increase by 60% to cover this additional deficit.
Further significant costs include a new Unitary or District Plan. The consultants assume the process would take three years but experience on Waiheke shows the last District Plan process took nearly ten years. After that the extra costs continue with the need to develop bylaws, biosecurity plans, civil defence plans etc.
To put it bluntly, the real effect of the Our Waiheke options could be to double rates every year for the next ten years making Waiheke the least affordable place to live in the country. Rents would also skyrocket as landlords sought to recoup the additional costs from their tenants. The Our Waiheke proposals, if implemented, would ensure Waiheke becomes a place that only the rich and famous can afford, the very opposite of the result the regressive group say they want.
The three members of the Waiheke Local Board supporting the Our Waiheke bid, John Meeuwsen, leader of the regressive OW group, Paul Walden, Chair of the Local Board, and Shirin Brown were dismayed by the outcome, as was their long-time supporter Councillor Mike Lee. John Meeuwsen became very, very angry with the consultants, was rude and crude in his opposition to their findings, and topped off his total lack of control by accusing them of being corrupt. He then started threatening the Local Government Commission that if they accepted the recommendations of the report they can expect a series of protests and a PR war accusing the Commission of corruption and incompetence. In other words, doing what bullies always do, shout a lot, stomp their feet and expect to get their own way. It was all very unseemly. So much so that even one of his own supporters had to tell him to be quiet.
What also emerged from the meeting and the report is the total commitment of the Local Board to implement their plan of making no provision for future growth, something noted in the report. Walden reiterated his opposition to having tourists on Waiheke, his desire to take the island back into the middle of the previous century, and a desire to reduce the already poor levels of service Council provides. If you want to know why Waiheke looks so grubby look no further than Walden and Meeuwsen.
The taxpayers of New Zealand should be appalled that their money is being wasted by frivolous groups like Our Waiheke. This is a group that lacks the intelligence to understand the requirements of local government and national planning legislation, lacks the financial nous to understand the implications of their actions and lacks a vision for Waiheke that improves the lot of its residents.
The matter was supposed to be confidential until the Local Government Commission had made its report public but Meeuwsen takes no notice of confidentiality and has already given the story to Stuff. It is now on the Stuff website here
The Local Government Commission will not dismiss the findings of its independent consultants so lightly. The options proposed by Our Waiheke have been exposed as expensive beyond the means of most Waiheke residents. For this, and many other reasons, they are not considered to be Reasonably Practicable Options. It is to be hoped that when the Commission considers the report and recommends its preferred option, it puts an end to this expensive, unnecessary waste of our money and puts the final nail in the coffin of Our Waiheke.