Requests for a list of attendees produced only a sanitised (name withheld) amalgam of various local positions such as teacher, school student, School Boards of Trustees, Awaawaroa, Forest and Bird, Cycle Action, Waiheke Cinema, Waiheke Radio, community member, Gulf News….in short all those who had supported the election campaign of this Waiheke Local Board, plus a few other hangers on. Oh, and another ‘project manager’ this time for the Round Waiheke Walk.
In addition, there were a wide range of ‘overseas’ guests including tangata whenua, iwi (various), the whole of the Great Barrier Local Board, various Council members from around the North Island and some oddball, but aptly named, ones like ‘shipwrecks’. This raises the question of who was picking up the tab. What with flights, hotel expenses and meals, it couldn’t have been cheap.
In order to put faces to the ‘positions’ on the list, myself and a friend went along to take some photos of the happy campers as they were about to embark on their ratepayer funded day out.
The first surprise was the number who didn’t want to be photographed - were they afraid of being named and shamed? Who knows? One even assaulted me and had to be physically restrained. The second surprise was the string of verbal abusive from a man in an elevated position in the community (more of that tomorrow). The third surprise was that quite a few had no idea why they’d been chosen at all.
Was it all worth it? You can bet all those aboard thought their free trip paid for by the other, uninvited, 95% of the community was a good deal. The Gulf News will be printing editorial, letters, and articles next week saying how marvellous and educational it had been and what good value for ratepayers it was. It will be full of praise for the Local Board Chair for showing excellent initiative and bringing along mum, dad, wife and the kids to show how much he cares.
Nevertheless, I suspect I won’t be the only person questioning what it was really all about.