The meeting followed a day long drop-in session at Waiheke Library where individuals were able to express their opinions one-on-one with LGC staff. This was attended by 50 residents. The same pattern is being followed today at Ostend Hall, 11am to 4pm and 7-9pm. The Commissioners, who will decide the fate of the OW bid, only attended the evening session.
The meeting was a typically Waiheke affair. The audience comprised mostly fans of the de-amalgamation bid with a smattering of others, including myself, brave enough to stand up and be counted. Sir Wira Gardiner opened the meeting by saying the Commissioners were there to listen. He handed over to the very able facilitator who asked the audience to listen respectfully to each other.
Firstly the OW followers were asked how they would measure the success of de-amalgamation, if it were to happen, ten years on. The big message was that, ten years from now, Waiheke would have returned to some pre-1989 mythical paradise where locals had pulled up the drawbridge that connected the island to Auckland. There would only be a sourcing of local goods and services, only cyclists on the roads, no ‘gentrification’ and local taxes on top of rates to pay for it all.
All this was listened to respectfully without interruption. Then those who wanted to remain with Auckland were invited to say why. The first speaker spoke of the close ties with the city, of the enormous strides in infrastructure and roading that had been made over the last twenty years, and the inevitable rise in rates if Waiheke tried to go it alone. This was greeted with a few jeers and the facilitator had to step in and remind the audience to be respectful.
I then stood up and spoke of the enormous financial risks involved in this ill thought out bid and that our community of interest lies with Auckland. The bulk of the island’s workforce commutes daily to the city and conversely, there is a daily influx of tourists who bolster the island’s local economy: it is a symbiotically beneficial relationship. The drawbridge over the moat to Auckland was lowered in 1989 and it cannot be raised again without lasting damage to the local economy.
This was greeted by interruptions, barracking from behind once again by the playground bully Paul Walden, Chair of the Local Board, and others in the audience. The behaviour of the crowd only served to demonstrate what I told the staff earlier in the day, that people will not attend public meetings because they will not subject themselves to rent-a-mob intimidation. Either that or they are too busy getting on with their busy lives to find time for those intent on wasting it.
This is only the start of a long, costly and time consuming process to assess a frivolous application that will fail a cost/benefit analysis, would not lead to good governance and does not meet the purpose of the Local Government Act.
Overall I was impressed by the Commissioners, their staff and the meeting facilitator. The facilitator defused the heckling by repeatedly reminding the audience of the need to respect one another’s views.
I urge those of you who want to remain with Auckland because we are better together to attend today’s sessions and make your voices heard.