What is true of the country is especially true of tourism destinations like Waiheke island. Tourism business is booming, driving the local economy and dragging Waiheke into the 21st century. All well and good, but while New Zealand is good at marketing it is bad at making provision for the results of its marketing success. This is particularly true of Waiheke.
It is the job of local government to provide for the current and future needs of communities for good quality local infrastructure. Where is the Waiheke Local Board’s plan to provide the infrastructure for the growing numbers of tourists now and in the future? Where is the local board’s plan for providing infrastructure for the increasing number of residents? You will look in vain because there is isn’t one. Apart from Walden’s Wank, the eyesore bridle bridge to nowhere on O’Brien Rd that is still under construction and desecrating the Rangihoua SES (site of ecological significance), the Waiheke Local Board has embarked on no new infrastructure projects in the last two years.
What they have done is cancel infrastructure projects that were already funded and planned like an upgrade for the Matiatia ferry terminal, new boat ramps on the northern side of the island, new footpaths and new public toilets in Ostend.
Other failures include closure of the Council run backpackers accommodation on Seaview Rd. Backpackers arrive on the island expecting to find cheap accommodation, as they do throughout the world, only to find themselves stranded and having to sleep rough like vagrants. Council urgently needs another contractor to take over the lease at a realistic rent so that the backpackers can re-open. It is the local board’s job to press for this to happen.
The only other cheap accommodation is the campground at Whakanewha. Council needs to enforce a rule that precludes local board members, the Parks Officer and his mates from taking over the campground in the festive season while they let out their homes at exorbitant rates to visitors. Visitors are denied cheap accommodation by the greed of the very people who be setting an example.
This failure to meet the fundamental purpose of local government cannot be overlooked by the supercity powers that be. ATEED is the agency responsible for economic development and tourism. If the Local Board will not provide the infrastructure for a growing economy, then ATEED needs to by-pass them and work directly with locals to provide a range of accommodation to suit all pockets. For example, they could assist the marae to meet low cost accommodation needs.
The other big failure of the local board and our Councillor Mike Lee is to meet the current and future transport needs of the island, especially at Matiatia. This is ironic considering the considerable influence Lee could exert on Auckland Transport from his lucrative position as one of the AT's Directors.
More ferries, more buses to meet the ferries, more tour companies, more taxis, all compete for space in the keyhole at Matiatia. It is a bottleneck and a road safety hazard. Yet Auckland Transport refuses to provide sufficient car parking for tourism operators and locals alike. They fail to do so at our peril, literally.
Waiheke is prospering but is also a victim of its own success. This success is endangered by a failure of our elected representatives to fulfil the basic purpose of local government which is to provide the current and future infrastructure needs of our island community whose economy depends on tourism. Over-promising and under-delivering may yet result in killing the tourism goose that lays our golden future.
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