Tena kotou katoa, dear Our Waiheke supporters
Since quite a few of us gathered late in November at the MORRA Hall to hear the decision of the Local Government Commissioners about our application for a Waiheke Unitary Council, the decision has weighed heavily with me. Frankly for the first few weeks after we were turned down so peremptorily, it was difficult to get motivated.
Then it was pointed out to me not long before Christmas that if we wanted to appeal the decision to maintain the status quo for Auckland Council we would have to do so within a month of the formal announcement – effectively Christmas Eve. Reluctantly, I worked with Ron Walden to put together an appeal to the High Court only to discover that it closed for business on the 22nd. In the end we sought leave to file a little late and it was technically submitted on 4 January. Meanwhile the Northern Action Group [NAG] had filed an appeal before the High Court closed.
I say ‘reluctantly’ because, apart from the draining effect of the masses of research, writing, advocacy etc we have done, it is questionable whether a win in court will be meaningful. A ‘win’ in court will only mean that the LGC has to repeat the process. While the mindset, and that of officials, consultants etc is so deep seated in favour of council amalgamations, against new councils and unwilling to change their new creature, the Auckland ‘mega’ Council, a ‘win’ could be a very Pyrrhic victory in that a re-assessment of our application is likely to come up with the same result. Even if we press for consideration of establishing a District Council if a Unitary Council is considered too ambitious we risk either failure or a retention of the powers over us of regional CCO’s such as Auckland Transport,
For now, we decided that with a new government in place, led by a party with a better track record on empowering local decision making, it would be useful to use the appeal as a place marker while we pursue the wider political battle that is actually needed to achieve any chance of a council of our own. There is still a Bill before Parliament to amend the Local Government Act that will raise many of the issues needing consideration in this regard. I presented to the Select Committee considering that Bill in mid 2017 saying that “the Bill was basically a solution looking for a problem” and that giving yet more power to the Minister and the LGC will further disempower communities. With many other negative submissions, the National Government lost the support needed from other parties to pass the Bill into law.
The wheel has potentially now turned and the new government will be challenged to reverse a lot of the centralization of power pushed through over the last 9 years. An excellent paper called “Saving local democracy: An agenda for the new government” has just been published [Thanks Lindsay Jeffs.] Written by Dr Mike Reid, principal advisor at Local Government NZ it’s well worth a read to get a handle on all this – see
I won’t write too much more now. Suffice to say that Our Waiheke needs to know whether there is still significant community support for a council of our own and to gain tangible evidence of that support. Without that, any political efforts in Wellington, where the decisions will be made, will fall on deaf ears. That means we will need at least 20 people who are willing to join the Our Waiheke team – now very small indeed – to work for the cause. I think we will need to develop and deliver another newspaper to every household, run adverts etc to ultimately gain at least as many or more signatures on another petition as we managed last time [about 1850].
We will call a public meeting soon to explain all this a little more and to seek tangible support from supporters. Many hands will make light work and much of the information we will need has already been prepared. We have consciously tried to avoid diverting funds from the anti-marina campaigns that have been running during our campaign. We won’t need much money – all our efforts to date have cost about $7000, including the newspaper we had printed, and a similar amount should cover any further effort.