It is heartening for me to see the good relationship I had established with Auckland Transport (AT) still bearing fruit around the island. As the transport portfolio holder on the last local board I worked co-operatively with Auckland Transport to improve the island’s roading infrastructure. Everyone has benefited - motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, bus users, commuters who park at Matiatia, and disability card holders.
The latest beneficiaries are the people of Waitai Rd who petitioned the former board for a safer road. Faye Storer and I visited several of the residents last July after which we began discussions with AT to see what improvements they could install to make it safer for pedestrians, especially as there’s an early childhood centre there. They obviously listened and put some money into the 2013/14 budget for the improvements now under way. I’m told by residents there that they are delighted with the results.
It’s a similar story with the bus landing pads being installed around the island. When I took office I was told there was no money for these. However, with the help of Don McKenzie, we identified the most needed stops and wrote a submission to Auckland Transport to make the case for concrete landing pads to make getting on and off buses safer. They listened and, in line with the former Board’s commitment to being a ‘BE Accessible’ board all bus users are benefiting.
At the same time as AT are undertaking these works they are improving stormwater management by the excellent expedient of putting in kerb and channel. The proof of the pudding for has been the work they did on Erua Rd after Cyclone Wilma in 2011. Water flowing down the hill from Erua Rd flooded businesses on the downside of Tahi Rd. Since the kerb and channel work undertaken later in 2011 the problem has been solved. It’s sad that dopey activists like Tony King-Turner and protest politicians like our current local board, who have no engineering or stormwater management qualifications, still try to disrupt the excellent work AT is doing to make the island a better place to live.
Lastly I’m pleased to see the road safety measures I discussed with AT’s engineers at the corner of Wharf Rd and the Causeway are almost finished.
Working closely with Auckland Transport was the most pleasurable part of being on the board. They were professional and had a ‘can do’ attitude that I didn’t come across in any other department of Council. Their qualifications were second to none and they were more than willing to sit around the table, listen to the concerns of various pressure groups, and make changes where they could to accommodate them.
There has been nothing positive for future roading infrastructure put forward by the current Board on their agenda over the last eight months. This means there will be nothing in the pipeline for another eighteen months. No new projects, no new footpaths, no new bus shelters or landing pads. AT will continue doing routine maintenance and road safety improvements without the Board’s input, but that’s as far as they will go.
With greatly increased rates demands soon to drop into letterboxes I wonder how many will think they are getting good value for money from their know nothing, do nothing elected members.
The Mayor is playing a game of UPmanship and we, the ratepayers of Auckland, are paying for it. Rates, land prices, water rates, and now parking charges are all escalating to pay for the mountain of debt ($15,000 for every man, woman and child in Auckland) accumulated under the leadership of our Mayor and Council.
On top of this we will soon be asked to pay more for our rubbish by the kilo and our parking by the meter.
Where is this UPmanship leading?
The other thing that keeps going up and up are is the number of plans. You could build an Auckland suburb out of the accumulated plans written by the burgeoning bureaucracy of an increasingly dysfunctional Council.
And what has actually been achieved? Not one of the mayor’s ‘transformational’ shifts has happened or is likely to happen in the foreseeable future. Money has been squandered at an alarming rate, debt is on the UP and so are interest payments as a proportion of your rates.
Eventually the Mayor’s south Auckland voter base is going to feel some of the pain foistered on the rest of us. Then the game will be well and truly up for the Mayor and his Councillor cronies.
The World’s Oldest Dance Group: The Hip Op-eration Crew is the only international group invited to perform to an audience of over 14,000 at the Taipei Stadium in Taiwan. The event in November is called ‘Seniors on Broadway’ and features 10 performance groups from around Taiwan; all aged in their retirement years.
The Waiheke Island based hip hop mega crew was recently awarded the international status of ‘World’s Oldest Dance Troupe’ by Guinness World Records.
“We are very honoured to be invited to perform at this special event. It’s a really big deal in Taiwan and attracts a lot of attention from news media all over Asia. The organisers, the Hondao Senior Citizens’ Welfare Foundation (Hondao Foundation) and Silver Linings Global, saw us on an Asian news programme and tracked us down,” says 80 year old Hip Op-eration Crew member Brenda Long (aka BB Rizzell).
The Hondao Foundation is a non-profit organisation which provides various services to support seniors in Taiwan to lead healthy and fulfilled lives. Silver Linings Global works alongside the Foundation and also provides strategic consulting on knowledge management, global marketing and event management in the ageing and healthcare industries - including international networking.
The Hip Op-eration Crew consists of 23 senior citizens aged 67 to 95 years old; all neighbours on Waiheke Island. They have competed in the NZ National Hip Hop Championships over the past two years and were guest performers at the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas last year where they received standing ovations.
“We are doing lots of fundraising to pay for the flights to Taiwan in November. The Hondao Foundation and Silver Linings Global are raising the funds to cover the costs of our food, transport and accommodation and that is just fantastic. They know that, on a pension, we just can’t afford those expenses. We are hoping to raise $5,000 in donations on our Givealittle charity site to contribute to our flight costs.
“Going to Taiwan is going to be a real culture shock for us so we’re both excited and a little bit nervous about the trip. I think we will be quite overwhelmed by everything – but in a good way. The whole show in the Taipei Stadium will be in Mandarin Chinese and we’ll be the only westerners there. The language, food and customs will be completely new to us so it’s going to be a real adventure.
“We’ve also been asked to share our life stories with the other senior citizens in Taiwan. It’ll be great to compare how our life paths differ from theirs. It’s not just a hip hop performance; it’s a real cultural exchange which hasn’t really happened before with people in our age group.
“Our aim is to do New Zealand proud and represent the youthfulness of our people, both old and young, to the rest of Asia,” says Long.
The Hip Op-eration Crew members include four people who use mobility aids, five members in their 90s, many people who are deaf, and one member who is legally blind. The average age is 79 and there are five men and 18 women in the Crew.
A ‘behind the scenes’ feature documentary film about The Hip Op-eration Crew will be released in cinemas around the world later in 2014.
Each member of the crew (called a homie within the crew) has a hip hop name such as Quick Silver (95), Kara Bang Bang (94), Shake it up Sheila (81), Dollar 91(91), Terri 2 Cents (93), Tiny Tot (81), Snoop J (79), DD Bugz (67), BB Rizzell (80).
More Information following this press release from Crew manager Billie Jordan
Donations to the Hip Op-eration Foundation charity can be made through Give-a-Little at: http://www.givealittle.co.nz/org/hipoperation
About Silver Linings Global
Silver Linings Global, a social startup inspired by non-profit Hondao Senior Citizens’ Welfare Foundation ‘s effort to promote active ageing and ageing-in-place, was established to address the opportunities emerging from the global rapidly ageing trend. It aims at developing a platform and tools to facilitate knowledge transfer and engage industry leaders in creating quality services and products for seniors. Silver Linings Global also provides strategic consulting on development of international cooperation, knowledge management, global marketing, and event management in the ageing and healthcare industries. It assists local businesses and non-profit organizations to build global connections and exposure through various events, activities and vice versa.
About the Hondao Foundation and Dreams Never Get Old Campaign
Established in 1995, Hondao Senior Citizens’ Welfare Foundation (Hondao Foundation) is a leading non-profit organization that provides various services to support seniors in Taiwan to lead healthy and fulfilled lives. Hondao Foundation’s Dreams Never Get Old Campaign includes a series of active ageing programs such as Grandriders, Grand Baseball league, and Seniors on Broadway Show etc. These programs have drawn the “Forever Young Revolution” in Taiwan and impact hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Silver Linings Global believe Hondao Foundation’s success in mobilizing seniors to lead active and fulfilled lives would greatly benefit a global audience. By building a strong partnership with Hondao Foundation, they proactively promote and share its Dreams Never Get Old Campaign with the global community through specialized 50+ volunteer travel packages, global conferences and various events.
Denise Roche has been dropped even further down the Green Party list to the marginal position of 14th. If the Greens percentage of the vote stays the same at the next election she will retain her seat in parliament but it’s a big vote of no confidence from her Party for the Waiheke local.
She may have got her party into power on the Waiheke Local Board but she’s a has-been Green as far as national politics is concerned. Even for the party full of Communists she’s too hard left to stomach.
Let’s all hope the electorate vote of the Greens drops sufficiently for this waste of space to be relieved of her trough.
A recent survey showed a third of the Waiheke community does not support a school pool. This is in direct contrast to the intemperate outburst by Waiheke Local Board Chair Paul Walden in his self-professed propaganda vehicle the Gulf News, that only 10 people were against a swimming pool on MoE land. His only data source was the husband of his good friend and fellow board member Becs ‘thousand-dollar-an-hour’ Ballard who'd run a Facebook survey through the aptly named Survey Monkey. Becs is the local board’s front person for the school pool.
That’s what passes for community consultation these days is it? A survey on an obscure Facebook page engaged in by a miniscule percentage of the population. I don’t think the result would hold up in Court do you. But if Facebook is the ‘Essentially Waiheke’ way of getting the information the Board needs to justify expenditure of the $1million plus they’ve stolen from other projects to spend on a school pool then let’s look at the results of another Facebook survey on the subject.
I belong to a Facebook page called The Other Waiheke Community Page. It’s a debating site for Waiheke that tackles local issues as well as any matters of interest to its members. A quick check of 60 group members showed 20 or so who said they’d registered their opposition to the idea of a school pool on Ballard's survey. There was anecdotal evidence of many more. If I do an ‘Essentially Waiheke’ extrapolation from that figure then I can surmise that the opposition figure to a school pool is around a third of the community, which is much more like the real figure.
Four months ago the Waiheke Local Board gave Te Huruhi and Waiheke High schools $25000 of ratepayers money to find out where they’d like to site their new school pool following the rebuild of both schools by the Ministry of Education. This was done despite there being a scrap of evidence that the school’s actually want a replacement pool on their grounds. There has been no further information since.
It is almost unthinkable that a single project costing over $1 million dollars can be undertaken without robust community consultation and without the community being given all the necessary information by an independent body on which to make an informed decision. Such information must include the on-going operational and maintenance costs to the ratepayer.
This one project has the ability to bankrupt Waiheke for this and every other generation. Is it really what we want? Let's do a proper job of finding out and not make monkeys of ourselves.
It’s been more than 6 months since the new Waiheke Local Board took office. They have admitted stopping or deferring projects to the tune of over $1 million. The cost to you, the ratepayer, of having a Waiheke Local Board during this time has been nearly $600,000.
I thought it might be instructive to see what this Board has done with their discretionary money, bearing in mind all current island projects were put in train and almost completed by the former Board (new community library and Artworks courtyard upgrade; old Oneroa Bowling Club upgrade; fruit tree planting; new bus shelters and footpaths etc. - see the ‘Background’ tab at the top of the home page on this website for a comprehensive list of the former Board’s initiatives)
At the time of the changeover, there was roughly $165,000 left in the pot for the incoming Local Board to spend on discretionary projects under their SLIPs (small local improvements projects) budget. Here's what Waiheke has got for the $110,000 the Board has spent (with a further $55,000 as yet unallocated).
Cost of Board Members’ salaries (6 months) $75,000+
Cost of Board Support - staff and offices (6 months) $500,000+
SLIPs Capital Expenditure (capex)
5 signs at Onetangi Sports Park (average cost $3,000 each) $15,000
Grant to Ngati Poua (no details) $15,000
Walden/Brown ‘slush fund’ for their unsupervised expenditure $ 5,000
SLIPs Operational Expenditure (opex)
Ferry ride junket around the Hauraki Gulf $15,000
Walden/Brown ‘slush fund’ for their unsupervised expenditure $5,000
Grant to two Schools to justify ratepayers’ expenditure on a school pool $25,000
More fruit trees (on top of the thousands of dollars already invested) $20,000
Little Oneroa Beach concept plan $2,180
Rakino Island biosecurity sign $5,000
Water saving brochure (increased budget for WICOSS involvement) $800
Bench for an Oneroa business $170
Funding for Artworks Theatre to hire Theatre Design Consulting services $2000
SLIPs Projects, already approved by the former Board, which were Stopped:
McKenzie Reserve weed control and signage (environment) $17,000
Oneroa street banners (tourism) $7,800
Waiheke Walkways Brochure update (tourism) $8,000
Bus shelter and landing pad Wellington Rd (transport) $17,000 Total $49,800
Former Board policy that was Stopped without consultation:
In response to community feedback, the first Waiheke Local Board fought hard to retain unique parks and walkways signage for Waiheke.
One of the main worries going into amalgamation with the Supercity was that Waiheke’s local identity would be lost as Auckland’s smaller communities were absorbed and regionalised. Therefore, the former Board negotiated and won the right to have our own unique signage; to retain and enhance the difference that is Waiheke - the only Board in the region to successfully do so. The Board then allocated thousands of dollars to this project. Ironically, this was fought every step of the way by green activist Council Parks employee Gary Wilton. It is therefore, very sad to see that this project was one of the first to be ditched by the new Board and Gary Wilton rewarded by having ‘regional’ signage put in our parks and walkways. Could there be a bigger waste of your money? And what unique Waiheke characteristic will be next to go?
Walden, Brown and Ballard have failed to attend all Board meetings.
Treadwell is a persistent latecomer.
Ballard has attended none.
Open Board meetings are now barely an hour long, with limited discussion and debate; Green Party public forum regulars are in hibernation while their party is in control and decisions already made behind closed doors at unreported ‘workshops’.
Value for Money
Chair Walden: Pulling in $52,000 per annum for an estimated 10 hours a week on Board business, compared with the 50+ hours and 7-days/week put in by the former Board Chair Faye Storer, who was paid $10,000/annum less.
Member Ballard. At an estimated one hour per fortnight (her workshop attendance is zilch) she costs the ratepayer around $1,000 an hour
The community, tourism and the environment.
Green Party supporters.
The agenda for the Waiheke Local Board meeting to be held this Thursday shows Waiheke domestic rates will go up by 6.3%, the highest in Auckland, and 163% higher than the average of 2.4% (3.6% when business rates are taken into account).
These steep rises are not the end of the story. When capital revaluation of properties has been completed and taken into account who knows whether or not you’ll be able to afford this year’s increase. If properties have risen 10% in the three years since the last revaluation, then this increase will be on reflected in even higher rates.
The big questions I have are WHY has Waiheke been targeted and WHAT do we get out of it?
What are our rates for? We get little value out of the vast sums paid for roads, rail and motorways on the isthmus. We have very limited, very expensive, access to the many arts and recreational facilities available to most Aucklanders, we get no subsidised ferry services, unlike other commuter ferry runs. I could go on.
So it’s all a bit rich when the Mayor puts up those nasty Little Jack Horner thumbs of his in the photo in Herald this morning to brag about his big pay rise taking his salary to a whopping $259,000 p.a. I expect it’s because he thinks he’s been such a ‘good boy’ to deserve the extra salary plums: a view not shared by the majority of Aucklanders.
The pay rises for Mr Brown and councillors (3.4%) are higher than increases in the labour cost index of 1.7 per cent for private sector salary and wage rates and 1.2 per cent for the public sector. The figures are for the year to March. The consumers price index rose 1.5 per cent over that time. The pay rises come into effect on July 1, the same day average household rates rise by 3.6 per cent.
All this and he still isn’t prepared to repay the full cost of the inquiry into his affaire or pay for his hotel bills and gym.
And why isn't our Councillor Mike Lee, Councillor for Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata Wards, standing up for his Waiheke constituents? Because he's got too many thumbs in too many pies, that's why. At a Board meeting I asked him to explain last year’s outrageous rises, almost the highest in Auckland. He didn’t even know what I was talking about. In fact he all but called me a liar when I told him the facts. But why would he bother himself about the plight of his constituents when he’s got the benefit of two salaries, one from Auckland Council, one for being on the Board of Auckland Transport, plus extra for his chairmanship of the Infrastructure Committee. No, Mike doesn’t need to bother his economically illiterate head about such things because, like the Mayor, his thumbs are covered in plums.
They’re the ‘I’m all right Jacks’ of Auckland. We’re just the jackasses who put them there.
Nothing shows more clearly why the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF) should have lost their contract with the Ministry of Health than their legal action against the government. David Farrar of Kiwiblog pulls their argument apart as follows.
So the PGF will use its existing taxpayer funding to try and force the Government to keep funding it – rather than the Salvation Army (which was judged better by an independent panel of public servants and experts).
The PGF has always been a vocal critic of pokie machine rorts and gambling harm. It believes, as an independent body with other income streams, it has the right to speak out. The ministry argues there should be no perception government money is being spent on campaigns.
If the PGF was not overwhelming funded by the Government, then it could campaign for whatever it wants. In fact it should welcome losing the contract, because it frees itself up to be an advocate. They claim that they never spent government funds on their lobbying – so ipso facto the loss of the government funds can’t impact their lobbying.
The PGF was a partisan lobbyist. Their founder is the husband of a Green MP. Their campaigns manager is standing for Labour. Their original lawyer was a Labour Party office holder. Their just retired chairman is a former Labour MP. The Salvation Army also speak out on gambling issues – but they don’t make that the major focus of their work.
The founder referred to is Waiheke local John Stansfield, partner of hard left Green Party list MP Denise Roche. It comes as no surprise to those of us who’ve lived on the island for a long time that this would be the inevitable next step. It’s what the left does, so long as they can use other people’s money, of course. Delay and litigation and is next to godliness for the likes of Stansfield, Roche, Mike Lee, the Walden family, and a raft of ‘green’ umbrella organisations on the island. They’re addicted to it.
Hello. My name is Jo and I’m an addict.
I’m addicted to puzzles. I do cryptic crosswords. I compile cryptic crosswords. I puzzle as often as I can over Kenken, Codecracker, Sudoku, any word game I can find. I keep in touch with my university friends via the on-line scrabble game Lexulous. I eagerly await my weekly fix, Kropotkin cryptic crossword in the Saturday Herald. I’m in a quiz team the Cryptic Cowboys that plays every Thursday in Ricky’s weekly quiz.
Lately though, my attention has been diverted away from these long term favourites towards something much sweeter, and more sinister, the on-line game Candy Crush. It’s become my puzzle of choice. How did I get hooked? It’s a familiar story.
I think my big mistake was buying a tablet. This allowed me to run out of lives on one computer and switch to the other. By the time I’d done the same with my mobile phone I was well on the way to having no time for much else.
It’s little consolation to find out I’m not alone? Here’s what an article in the Guardian had to say.
Within a year of its release for Facebook in 2012, Candy Crush had become the social networking site's most popular game, with 46 million average monthly users. Now it has been downloaded to more than 500 million mobile devices worldwide and 97 million of us play it every day. It was the most downloaded free app of 2013 and the optional paid-for extras (which help players move forward) generate $850,000 (more than £500,000) in daily sales.
So here I am at Anagrams Anonymous, confessing all.
However, I bring hope. This week, something miraculous happened. It’s called level 50.
For some reason I got this far on all computers without paying a cent. Now I can get no further no matter how many times I clear all the jellies, unless I’m prepared to pay.
Fellow addicts, this setback is the hope you need to wean yourselves off this pernicious addiction. For me, having to pay brings me up against an even bigger addiction – to keeping what I’ve earned. I am happy to wile away the hours hooked on a free game that costs me nothing, but as soon as I have to pay that’s me finished. I’m outta there. It was fun while it lasted but now the hunt is on for another addictive FREE game.
Thank goodness! It was beginning to eat up too much time.
On no! I’ve been offered a free pass to move onto level 51. I’m now at level 62. Heeelp!
Waiheke Local Board Chair Paul Walden was spotted by several people at Onetangi Sports Park this Wednesday rendezvousing with a private ‘Inflite’ helicopter that specialises in corporate charters.
The helicopter, which approached from the direction of Ecozip, landed close to the children playing soccer and a people out walking their dog.
Walden was the only passenger to board the aircraft and was quickly whisked off to goodness knows where. But more importantly we need to know why.
Yesterday it was the Hip Op-eration Crew in the headlines for entering the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest dance troupe. Today it’s Billie Jordan, inspirational leader of the crew, who is hitting the news. Billie has been nominated for the Pride of NZ Awards in the 'community spirit' category. Billie commented “It’s such a privilege to be nominated.”
The Herald briefly tells the background story behind our world famous crew.
It might be that they wear bright green and pink socks, or that their hair features splashes of blue, red, purple and orange.
Billie won one of Waiheke’s “Outstanding Citizen” awards last year so it’s great to see she’s been nominated for this much bigger award recognising her contribution to the country. I hope she wins. She deserves it.
Guinness World Records has announced that Waiheke’s own Hip Op-eration Crew is officially the world’s oldest dance troupe. Billie Jordan, whose vision led to the formation of the crew, has just released the news.
“People thought we were quite an oddity when we started out because we were about 70 to 80 years older than all the other hip hop dancers around the world. But hip hop has become our life now. My homies and I are a really tight crew and hope we can keep dancing until we die; which isn’t far off for some of us,” says dance crew member Brenda Long (aka BB Rizzell) aged 80.
CONGRATULATIONS! You are an inspiration to us all. Waiheke salutes you. You've put the island on the world map and done us proud.
Was there a meeting of the Waiheke Local Board last night? Who would know? Certainly one was scheduled, but no agenda had been posted on line one hour before the meeting which was due to start at 4.15pm yesterday afternoon.
The Board is required to give the public enough notice of the agenda, usually three days, to allow them time to consider if there are any matters of interest after scrutinising the content. In this day and age this means reading the agenda on line as the Council strives to save the world by cutting down on the number of printed copies.
Several members of the public also make a point of attending these meetings. A couple of friends turned up yesterday to find themselves locked out.
This morning at 4am I went looking for an explanation. After searching the official Council website and Facebook pages I eventually found a notice, posted around noon yesterday, saying the meeting had been cancelled. There was no explanation as to why.
What? I can imagine the outcry if any meeting of the former Board had been cancelled without notice or explanation and rightly so. In a properly functioning Council the public has a right to know how their hard earned rates money is being spent and to observe democracy in action. Such is the lack of respect this Board has for the people that they can’t be bothered to keep us informed.
Why was the meeting cancelled? Several possible explanations spring to mind.
The Board has run out of things to discuss. Unlikely! The former Board agendas often ran to over 500 pages and even with two meetings a month there is still a lot of Council business requiring input from local boards.
They have blown their budget. Maybe someone has pointed out the cost of running two meetings a month is far greater than the amount budgeted for one meeting as was the case before this profligate Board was elected. The budget for local board services was around $1.2 million annually, but must be much more now with double the meeting costs. In other words it takes the rates of 4-500 Waiheke ratepayers to fund this Board before any work is actually done to provide Council services, infrastructure and amenities.
They all need a break and are on holiday. This is highly likely. The Board could only muster the bare minimum number of three members required for a quorum at their last meeting. Brown, the workhorse of the pack, is away for a month. Walden is lazy, as I know from experience, with a very low boredom threshold, so perhaps it’s all too much for him now he actually has to do some work instead of organising protests or junkets and he needs a rest. Treadwell is usually late so perhaps she had a more pressing engagement with her job in town. Ballard is never at workshops, is late for meetings and clearly has no idea of what’s going on anyway and who’s the other one?
One thing’s for certain they don’t want the public to know what they’re up to. The minutes of the meetings are scant and lack important information as I’ve pointed out before. Decisions are made behind closed door at workshops whose ‘minutes’ contain no detail. It’s widely recognised that the public meetings are nothing more than a rubber stamp for those decisions. Inveterate meeting attendees like Ross Gillespie and Christopher Wragge have stopped turning up. Even they can see there’s no point.
These elected members demonstrate the very antithesis of open and transparent government. All their rhetoric pre-election has been shown to be a sham.
There’s a general election coming up. Let this Board be a warning to the country of how an elected Green Party government would trash democracy.