This short-sighted policy has ensured no new infrastructure has been built over the last three years, with the exception of the bridal bridge to nowhere, dubbed ‘Walden’s Folly’ or ‘Walden’s Wank’ by the community. The eyesore is a lasting testimony to the hopelessness of a Board that offers no hope for a better future for Waiheke. Not only has our growing community not benefitted from having this ‘Essentially Hopeless’ Board in charge, it has actually taken us backwards.
It started three years ago by handing back to Council $1.4million of funds secured by the first Waiheke Local Board for projects such as a new boat ramp, new sports pavilions, and a new arts facility at Artworks. It promised a new swimming pool by the end of its three year tenure but has instead ensured there will be no community swimming pool for the next twenty years. It even stopped funding earmarked for the biggest environmental programme of wetland restoration in the region, despite it touting itself as a ‘green’ board. They have even ensured the demise of the island’s only backpacker facility. All Council owned community halls have been lost to favoured groups.
Unlike the first WLB, which left the mentioned fully funded legacy projects for its successors to inherit, there is nothing left in the pot for the next Board.
Nothing could illustrate the Board’s reduced role and recklessness better that the latest minutes of the Waiheke Local Board showing the winners and losers in the latest round of ‘grants’ made by the Board. The Board has been amassing funds for some time so that it could bribe its way to victory at the forthcoming election in October by giving ratepayer money to its favoured groups. It handed out nearly $155,000 of this year’s and next year’s budget to its favoured groups. Much of it is for wages to pay ‘community’ group ‘volunteers’, or for travel expenses for these volunteers to have a holiday at a ‘conference’ at ratepayers expense. Some of it is for favoured sports clubs with big voter bases, and of course the biggest group of influence of all, Waiheke High School.
This cynical approach by the current Waiheke local Board underlines why calls have been made in submissions to the Local Government Commission to increase the checks and balances on local board and Council funding
Our concern about financial accountability and transparency stems from numerous decisions taken by the current Waiheke Local Board - the net effect of which has been to direct public money to unqualified, inexperienced community groups to conduct ill-defined works/projects for Council.
These works have not been open to tender by other parties and there is little or no accountability regarding the methodology or resulting reports. The community groups do not have any history of expertise in the fields to which they have been funded to conduct work. Such works and projects would normally be undertaken by qualified in-house Council staff or suitably qualified Council approved Consultants. They would also be subject to the ‘checks and balances’ built into the relevant Council contracts and expectations of the appropriate professional bodies.
It remains to be seen if this Board’s cynical approach to ratepayers’ money as a fund to bribe its way to re-election if effective. If it is then, what is point of having a local board if all it does is use ratepayer funds to keep itself in power with no long term benefit to the community as a whole.
A new Board is needed that offers fiscal responsibility, sensible spending and some hope of a better future for Waiheke.