Remember this? It was one of the first blogs I wrote way back in January.
Waiheke Gifts Auckland Council $1.4million
The Auckland Council must be laughing all the way to the bank as the Waiheke Local Board plans to hand back $1.4 million of ratepayer’s money, successfully secured by the previous Local Board. This is spelt out in the Draft Waiheke Local Board Plan currently out for submissions.
In a move of breathtaking ineptitude and naivety, the new Waiheke Local Board plans to withdraw $742k earmarked for the much needed Onetangi Sports Park pavilion extensions, $410k set aside for community facility upgrades (including refurbishing the old library space), and $268k planned for recreational boat ramps and give it back to the Auckland Council in the hope they will fast-track a community swimming pool for Waiheke. There are no guarantees this sweetener will actually work. The Board has not set any conditions around this massive repayment to Auckland Council; making it basically an unconditional koha with no right of retrieval.
In a belated attempt to finally reign in spending, the Mayor and Governing Body have taken the knife to Local Board budgets, including Waiheke’s. By faffing around for a year and deferring the spending of the precious funding that had already been put in place for this Waiheke Local Board to spend by July of this year, it looks as though it’s now going to be lost forever - as I predicted. Walden and Co. will have effectively lost nearly $1million dollars of funding for Waiheke at a time when rates have increased by over 50% for most Island property owners.
Walden is now quoted in the Waiheke Marketplace as saying “our resolution creates an argument for us to posture to the governing body”. ‘Posture’! Well that says it all. This has been nothing but posture. Walden’s 18 months ‘experience’ is the only local government experience on the new Board so, no doubt, his fellow members are relying on Walden to guide them. They must be wondering by now what they have got themselves into.
Once the community was allowed a say, the Board decided it risked a backlash if it didn’t at the very least retain the Onetangi Sports Park pavilion extensions in the Plan, as well as money for refurbishing the old library space. However, all the money secured for the boat ramps and half the money for the old library upgrade didn’t even make it into their budget. ‘Use it or lose it’ is a basic understanding of how Council finances work from year to year. All this money was given to this Local Board on a plate. They didn’t work for it or lobby for it. They didn’t use it and they’ve lost it.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, this Board has also ensured Waiheke will never get a community swimming pool, which is where they intended to spend the money they tried to squirrel away and ‘defer’ in the first place.
To further remind you of my prophetic words in that first blog, here is the remainder.
With Waiheke previously placed at the bottom of the Auckland Council’s aquatic facilities priorities, it is highly unlikely this koha will have any influence over the Council. Even more seriously, the bigger message this will send Auckland Council is that “Waiheke doesn’t need all this money. Take it back.” With the Mayor already under pressure to reduce ballooning debt, he will rub his hands at the prospect of a windfall from Waiheke ratepayers.
The Waiheke Local Board is now controlled by elected members with Green Party aspirations and no governing body experience. A word of caution; every rate payer in New Zealand needs to take note of what a ‘Green’ takeover of local rates could mean for their community. The lack of basic business sense and high level of naivety is astounding …