Keeping locals in the loop

Columns
Thursday, March 3, 2016

The weekend just gone saw another successful Howick in the Park and Military Tattoo, superbly organised by our local councillor Sharon Stewart and the Howick Lions. A big congratulations to them. 

A noticeable addition to the event was the number of mayoral candidates running around.  

New entrant Vic Crone spent most of the day meeting locals, as did Mark Thomas and Phil Goff stopping by between events.  

The few months before an election is often called the silly season – where the election is front and centre, and politicians don’t always act in the most rational manner.  

Arguably the term “silly” could be applied to much of the past three years of the Auckland Council, but none more so than last week’s consideration of the Unitary Plan and intensification.  

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to Auckland growing. We must allow some intensification and greater density to accommodate growth. However, this should be decided with the public being involved and consulted.

Apparently not, if you’re the Auckland Council. Here’s the sad story from last week.  

The Council first pushed forth with increased density plans that would have rezoned large chunks of Auckland to allow for more houses and apartments without any public consultation. It then withheld key information and maps from people. It then faced the wrath of angry ratepayers once the plans were scrutinised.  

Then it finally was left red faced as councillors entering the silly season pulled the pin and forced the Council leadership to abandon plans all together.  

The shemozzle of a process understandably left ratepayers confused. I worry for the state of Auckland housing. We need greater land supply to address escalating prices, but Aucklanders have a right to know where more townhouses and apartments will go and how to give their view.  

The way Auckland Council conducted itself left locals out of the loop and without a voice. Crucial decisions were taken behind closed doors on a 30-year planning document in an attempt to avoid sunlight as an effective disinfectant.  

Vic, Mark and Phil have an uphill battle in front of them. Whoever is successful needs to work hard to restore trust in New Zealand’s second-largest public entity.  

They also need to pull the planning department well in to line. Current and future homeowners deserve more stability and certainty than they’re getting.

Jami-Lee Ross

Member of Parliament for Botany