Having a Council that represents local democracy, value for money and does a great job is what everyone wants in a Council. Our Waiheke was formed around 3 years ago because Auckland Council has had the lowest satisfaction ratings, is increasing rates continuously and has dis-empowered it locally elected representatives so they are glorified figure heads.
John Meeuwsen who has been a CEO, board member, local board member and worked for the government in many roles realised within 12 months of being a local board member on Waiheke Island that Auckland Council so called super city was really a super nightmare.
The rates for the super city have sky rocketed, debt is going the same way, public opinion is at an all time low, the entire system is bogged down in bureaucracy, local democracy is just not happening on Waiheke Island.
So John Meeuwsen formed Our Waiheke with the intention to apply to the Local Governance commission for Waiheke to separate from Auckland Council and form it’s own council.
That was over three years ago, Our Waiheke surveyed the Waiheke Locals and most people supported the bid to get a Waiheke Council. So the Our Waiheke team began the long winded process.
Fast forward to August 2017, it has been three years into a process for Waiheke to get it’s own Council. There have been endless meetings, endless waiting for LGC to do the next step and now we find the consultancy firm that the LGC has engaged suggests that they are experts in councils amalgamation and de-amalgamations have just delivered a report stating that a Waiheke Council would not be financially viable.
The salt in the wound is that Our Waiheke was advised that Morrison Low, the said consulting firm would simply be crunching the numbers. They won’t be making any decisions, seems this was to lull the Our Waiheke team into a false sense of security. Crunching numbers, we have done that, in fact our team has compared Waiheke Island to 6 other similar population sized councils around New Zealand and in every instance of our comparison Waiheke has the most income and the least infrastructure compared to these Council’s so the Our Waiheke team waited around yet again for another part of the LGC process to be completed.
On the 21st of July 2017 we got the report, to our horror Morrison Low had not compared Waiheke Island to other councils around our size at all. What they had done is exclusively used the figures given to them by Auckland Council and added costs to that. The whole purpose of leaving Auckland Council is to leave the giant bureaucracy and their bloated costs behind and take a leaner approach done the “Waiheke way” and the way all other small councils around New Zealand currently do things.
Also as salt into a wound they have also not used any of our figures comparing other councils, plus they have also made a decision as to whether a Waiheke Council would be financially viable.
Why would they do that? Well we can think of only two reasons,
1. Morrison Low don’t know how to compare Councils
Morrison Low don’t know how to compare Councils of similar population size to Waiheke. All small Councils around New Zealand have their financial information freely available on their websites, so to help Morrison Low out we have gone to the websites and have made a list of their income and key costs. In all cases shown Waiheke has the most income and the least infrastructure.
Please note that Auckland Council did not supply Morrison Low with their exact costs for Waiheke as Auckland Council does not have the ability to split out costs for Waiheke.
However there is a silver lining, the local board, plus the Our Waiheke team, plus others have tried in the past to find out what the Waiheke rate take was (so much for transparency). In this report we have found that the income from Waiheke Island is 29 million. Our Waiheke published a possible Waiheke Council budget and we used a total income of 22 million and we showed that a Council at that could be financially viable. At 29 million that is more than double the income of some of the councils we compared Waiheke to.
Here is an image showing all the Council comparison.
Something to note is the Cost per KM, [ML] Morrison Low has Waiheke at $56,800 per km of road, you would think Waiheke roads are gold plated. Turns out they are not, there are pot holes from Matiatia to Onetangi.
Plus, here are the links to the respective Council’s annual reports so Morrison Low or anyone else can find the figures out for themselves.
Council Annual Reports
There are plenty of other Councils around New Zealand that have a similar population size to Waiheke that have successful Councils, here they are.
The Our Waiheke team will be sending a copy of the Morrison Low report to all these councils to see what they think.
2. The result is predetermined
The only other reason Morrison Low has come to this conclusion is because it has been predetermined that Waiheke will not be getting it’s own Council despite going through this 3 year process. This makes sense as there is enormous pressure for Auckland Council to be successful.
Upon closer inspection we have also found that Morrison Low also has had other contracts with Auckland Council and which could of influenced their decision. You can view how Morrison Low has worked with Auckland Council previously here https://www.morrisonlow.com/projects/search/?category=&keyword=Auckland+Council
It was National and Act Party that made the “Super City” happen, allowing any de-amalgamation would be admitting the “Super City” is a failure. Also some could see Waiheke setting a precedent, if Waiheke did get their own Council perhaps Waitakere would also attempt to break away, then perhaps the North Shore might also try etc.
However Waiheke Island is an island, it makes sense for all of Auckland to be one Council as they are connected with roads, storm water, sewage etc. Waiheke shares no such infrastructure with Auckland at all, in fact the only thing connecting Waiheke to Auckland are the ferries, telco and power (all of which is privately owned) Waiheke Island has unique challenges facing it, such as tourism issues, urban creep, environmental issues, parking issues, pollution etc. Auckland Council has proven that it just can not do a good job.
Having locally elected representatives empowered to oversee a local Waiheke Council is the way to get the best local outcomes for Waiheke rate payers.
So on behalf of the majority of Waiheke residents that would like a Waiheke Council – let us have one!