- Stop wasteful spending
- Stick to core Council services
- Bring back accountability and transparency
These themes have been a constant feature of my blogs about Auckland Council and the Waiheke Local Board during the last three years. In the run up to the election I will be re-posting some of these blogs to illustrate my points.
Today’s theme is wasteful spending.
I have chosen the most glaring example of the waste of Waiheke ratepayers’ money, the Bridle Bridge to Nowhere’. The bridge goes from nowhere to nowhere, is unfit for purpose, and is an eyesore in a site of ecological significance. The sorry saga has been the subject of many blogs but this most recent one sums up just why the Waiheke community has to put an end to the culture of waste that is consuming their rates on what amounts to vanity projects of the Board Chair, Paul Walden.
Waiheke Local Board has been far luckier than most. Relative to other boards it has had much money at its discretion to spend as it sees fit. In broad brush terms it has had around $5 million over its three year term to make a difference to the future wellbeing of the local community. This consists of $3million in capital and operational expenditure, $600,000 from the Auckland Transport Capital Fund and fully funded legacy projects of $1.4million handed over by the first Waiheke local Board.
What has the community to show for so much of its money?
There were extravagant promises made such as building a new community pool and more pensioner housing. Certainly $5 million would have gone a long way towards bringing those promises to fruition, but in reality the Board has not only failed to deliver but, far worse, it has ensured there will be no community pool in the foreseeable future, no new pensioner housing, and no legacy projects for the next Board.
The only addition to the island’s infrastructure has been Walden’s Folly, the $300,000 bridle bridge to nowhere blighting the beauty spot in one of our most significant wetlands. It is built slap in the middle of a Site of Ecological Significance, is unsightly and unloved. It was Walden’s own personal vanity project for his horses.
Where has all the money gone?
It has been spent largely on paying the Board’s crony groups for their support. The biggest recipient is the Board’s mentor John Stansfield and his wife the local left wing Green Party MP. Over $500,000 has gone into their Waiheke Resources Trust. Once the money has gone into Trusts all accountability and transparency is lost. A further $500,000 has gone to support other crony groups. $400,000 was handed to the Waiheke Boat Club to clean up the mess it has made on Council Reserve on the Causeway. This was over a year eighteen months ago and the work remains on-going. No progress reports have been on the Board agenda and once again there has been no visibility of the accounts to see how their money is being spent. The remaining $1.3 million has been frittered away in junkets, plans, and more largesse to its friends. All this has been well documented throughout the last three years on my daily blogs without which the island would know nothing.
The greatest damage done by the Board has been to rob future boards of funding. Its first act in office was to stop all the $1.4 million of legacy projects handed to it on a platter by the first Board. This money went back into Council coffers never to be seen again. The Governing Body, responsible for allocating money to boards, took this as a sign that Waiheke was getting far too much, especially when every other board was crying out for cash. Subsequently, the Governing Body cut the board’s long term budget by more than half resulting in a loss of over $6 million.
The only way back for Waiheke is to elect independent candidates who have experience and wisdom. Only then can Waiheke have a future that meets the demands of a growing population and thriving local economy with local jobs.
I have every confidence such candidates will emerge so that ratepayers and residents have real choice in this election.