Just how does the Waiheke Local Board keep losing the community money? When the WLB draft plan came out in the middle of last year, the 2015/2016 budget for operating expenses (opex) was set at $8.8 million and for capital expenditure (capex) $3 million. This was way above the budget anticipated by the Governing Body (ie. the Mayor and councillors) who had warned local boards that if they didn’t keep within the budget guidelines, they risked having their budgets slashed. In Waiheke’s case, the Governing Body was already unimpressed that previously fully funded and approved capital projects, to the tune of $1.4 million, had been unceremoniously ditched by the Board in their first six months.
Furthermore, the draft Waiheke plan had no new projects to which dollar amounts could be attached. Instead, it was full of words like ‘develop’, ‘encourage’, ‘scope’, and ‘plan’. All words for doing the sum total of nothing. They ignored community-led initiatives and worthwhile projects that had been in the pipeline for years. Clearly, these found no favour with a Board whose Green vision for the island is to ‘do nothing’, or, worse still, hankers after the bad old days of the Waiheke County Council.
The upshot, of the Board’s gamble (confirmed in the WLB’s December agenda) is that their budgets have been slashed to $5.5 million (opex) and $1.2 million (capex). This equates to a total loss to the community of a whopping $5+ million. Some of the biggest losers include environment and heritage protection, environmental initiatives, parks maintenance and nearly half a million for local economic development for which there is now no budget at all.
The biggest loss of all was the Small Local Improvements Projects (SLIPS) budget. This precious budget dates back to the legacy Auckland City Council days, when Auckland community boards had more discretionary money to spend than almost any other board in the country. SLIPs allowed the post-amalgamation Local Board to undertake small improvements to local infrastructure (see the ‘Background’ section of this blog to see what the first Waiheke Local Board achieved with their funds) and brought us projects that other local communities could only dream of.
The vast majority of the works that have been undertaken since this Local Board took office in October 2013, were projects of the first Local Board. In fact, the last of the nearly $1 million per annum gained by the first Waiheke Local Board will be finished by June this year. After that, the Waiheke Local Board will be scrabbling to maintain earlier standards, let alone produce anything new. No matter how much this Local Board spouts about providing ‘sustainable and affordable community housing’ or ‘saving the Bryde’s whale’ or any of the other crazy Green schemes Walden and Co. come up with for wasting your rates money, the reality is that they have rendered the local board role irrelevant.
If there’s nothing left to do but sit and naval gaze then, by and large, they’re a busted flush. “Thank God” I hear you say - followed by a sigh of relief. At least that way their damage will be limited. In the meantime, Micawber Walden continues to heap misery of Waiheke ratepayers.