Nobilangelo who? Well for you newer Waiheke residents, that really was the name of an erstwhile member of the last Waiheke Community Board (2007-2010), before amalgamation as Auckland Council.
Nobilangelo got it into his head that Waiheke had more in common with Thames (yes, that Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula) than with Auckland. He didn’t want a bar of the proposed amalgamation and began his own crusade to combine the two outposts. No matter that the other Board members were against the plan; Thames wasn’t interested; Waiheke ratepayers weren’t enthralled and there was no economic or other advantage whatsoever.
Not surprisingly, Nobilangelo was seen as being a bit of a clown. He was laughed out of court and ridiculed by the community. The lasting damage, of course, was in Council’s reinforced perception that Waiheke is home to a bunch of nutters and relationships that had taken years to forge needed years to re-establish
Now Meeuwsen, already regarded as the Court Jester, wants to follow suit. His dream is that Waiheke will amalgamate with itself and return to the 1980s when Waiheke had its own County Council - this, from someone who has been a Board member for only 15 months and is serving on one of the most dysfunctional boards ever. Not content with their financial bumbling; running the Board like a tea party for family and friends and massive loss of local funding, Meeuwsen wants to become a bigger fish in a smaller sea.
The idea wasn’t tenable then and it isn’t tenable now. But what would Meeuwsen know of all that? Nothing. He hasn’t even been on Waiheke long enough to know the history of Nobilangelo, let alone the Waiheke County Council. So whose idea is this really? Who is pulling Meeuwsen's strings? Who is it who wants to return the island to the Waiheke of their childhood? Who is it who is responsible for this Board achieving the sum total of nothing because he simply doesn’t want the island to move forward. That’s right, it’s the Walden vision for Waiheke.
What passes for governance on Waiheke now? This Board has lost $12 million of Waiheke ratepayers’ money in their first year alone. The one promise they made, a community pool, has dried up into dust. Because they thought they were smart; disregarded all the ground work put in by previous Boards and tried to manipulate the system, they’ve even lost any possibility the community ever had of getting such an asset. In a fit of pique, they threw out the already approved and budgeted projects gained by the first Local Board and lost the lot. And now they want more power? With no checks and balances!
So beware, Meeuwsen may say he acts alone but I’d say this is how they intend to spend what’s left of their term. Instead of focussing on how they can use what precious resources they have left to benefit this community, they’re going to squander the remainder on ‘exploring’ the possibilities of ‘going it alone’. They’ll muster up their diehard Green Party troops and rally the rent-a-crowd. Liz Waters will ferret out some old Gulf News headlines ranting against bad old Council and how they’ve been taking all our money and the joys of independence. Far left, Green Party list MP Denise Roche will wave the flag and chip in with a “democracy for the people” chant.
What fun it will be! They’ll organise the troops to put pressure on Auckland Council to “Let Waiheke Go”. The letter writers and Facebook fans will be back in their element. Protest politics will be back on the agenda. Board meetings will last more than one hour. People will start to turn up. Walden will be in the national media. There’ll be special screenings at the Waiheke Cinema. There’ll be an outbreak of community independence across the Green land.
They’ll be indignant! They’ll be aggrieved! They’ll wave placards and make selfie movies. They’ll be paying for their ‘volunteers’ days with your ratepayer funded barbeque, tents, and camping gear. They’ll be making their headquarters in a community owned (rate payer funded) building. They’ll be paying ‘consultancy fees’ to their aptly named pet, the ‘Waste Resources Trust’ for preparing ‘plans’ on how to return to bad old days of getting the community to wade knee deep in mud at the community-run ‘Sort Your Own Shit’ Centre. The Budgeting Centre will do some budgeting and discover that rates could be lower if we’d only turn back the clock.
They’ll be happy. They’ll be putting up a smokescreen, they’ll be dreaming … and, no doubt, they’ve already allocated the money. Because you can bet this will mean ratepayer funded trips for Meeuwsen and Walden to other District Councils throughout New Zealand to discover ‘how it’s done’. They’ll be in protest politician heaven - and we muggins ratepayers will be paying for it all.