Is it going to be easier to separate from Auckland Council because we are already physically separate?

Is Great Barrier Island going to join Waiheke's de-amalgamation bid?

What will happen to the Waiheke Library?

What is the Auckland Council overhead?

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How would the decision making process change with a Waiheke Council?

Waiheke tried to separate from Auckland Council in the past and failed, what is different now?

What is the de-almalgamation process?

What will happen with community owned assets such as the public halls, land and debt?

Is the current Local Board able to achieve results for the Waiheke Community with Auckland Council bureaucracy?

As a Waiheke Council will we have better transparency over the wharf tax charge?

Will Waiheke have its own recycling and rubbish plant again?

That is a matter for a new Council to determine if one is put in place by the Local Government Commission. The current contract runs to 2019 and will almost certainly have to remain in place until then. The feeling on Waiheke seems clear, however. There is likely to be strong support for taking back control of waste management as soon as that is feasible.

Will local contracts be given to local contractors?

The current Local Board has worked hard to ensure that local contractors are fully informed about available Council work in its jurisdiction and to provide support to equip local businesses to apply for that work. We see every reason for any Waiheke District Council to do the same.

Will contractors and sub-contractors be held more accountable than currently?

Both the terms of contracts let and the performance measures applying to them should be much better informed by feedback about what works best in this community. Once put in place, the feedback loop will also be a pretty short one!

Will there be a commitment by the population of Waiheke to remain de-amalgamated for a certain period of time?

That is not a decision the Waiheke community can take. Under the legislation, these are matters for the Local Government Commission and it seems highly unlikely that it would make a decision it did not expect to be binding for the long haul.

Will there be a commitment by the new council to promote infrastructure such as a comfortable, convenient, size-appropriate subsidised, reliable and resident-oriented bus transport system, such as was envisaged in the original Essentially Waiheke plan?

We cannot make commitments in advance of a District Council being put in place by the Local Government Commission. Work is going on to enable the current Local Board to begin a consultation process to update and reaffirm the Essentially Waiheke Community Strategy. We would expect the product of that work to inform candidates for election to a new Waiheke District Council as to what this community wants to see implemented. After that it is the election process that would determine the intentions of the elected Councilors.

Will Waihekeans be able to access Councilors more easily? E.g. phone someone up about a council-type issue and get a person who can help immediately?

If the entire Council operation is a local one, we would expect more responsiveness from Councillors and staff to resolve issues.

How will a local council deal with conflicts of interest?

This issue and many other procedural matters are provided for in detail by the Local Government Act and established Local Government practice

What is this campaign all about?

As at early March 2015 it is not yet a campaign – rather we are exploring whether there is greater merit, in terms of improved, more cost effective local governance, of setting out to get the Local Government Commission to propose a separate District Council for Waiheke. When we believe the Waiheke community has been given an objective, comprehensive overview of the pros and cons of the issue we will seek to gain its view on whether we should make a formal proposal to the LGC.

Who is paying for this campaign? Is it coming out of the ratepayer's coffers.

No ratepayers contribution will be used – all expenditure will come from supporters.

What is the role of the Waiheke Local Board in this?

The Local Board does not have a role in the exploration process. Member John Meeuwsen is playing a leading role in his private capacity. He has the advantage of greater knowledge of the workings of local government, Auckland Council and the CCOs through his Local Board role. John has noted that local government politicians are playing a leading role in local authority re-organisation proposals in greater Wellington and Hawkes Bay at this time and sees it as mainstream political activity as sanctioned under the Local Government Act 2002 and, more particularly, the amendments to that Act made in 2012.

What will happen to my rates?

That is a matter for decision by the ratepayers and residents of the geographic area determined by the Local Government Commission for Waiheke when they are presented with options for a budget. What we can say is that Auckland Council is very likely to decide on a 10 Year Budget which involves a 5.6% rates increase for residential properties [see the Household Summary “You’re 7 ticks away from deciding” pamphlet recently delivered to households, page 4 para 3].

We believe we will be able to demonstrate the likelihood that rates on Waiheke can be contained at current levels and possibly even reduced. The process of decision-making will certainly be much simpler and more transparent.

Meanwhile, we simply do not have the infrastructural expenditure needed by a fast growing Auckland. For comparison, too, there are a number of District Councils with similar sized populations that have total expenditure well below the revenue that Waiheke is now paying into Auckland Council in rates and fees. The details will be provided during our dialogue with the community to illustrate the likely position for a Waiheke District Council.

What happens to the library? (Ostend free library)

If the Local Government Commission decides to establish a Waiheke District Council, there is no reason to believe that it could not negotiate a continuation of the present library book and item exchange services on a fee for service basis from Auckland Council. The LG Act requires that the Councils party to any re-organization must collaborate and it is common practice among Councils in similar situations throughout NZ to do so. Apart from access to reading material, Waiheke could determine its own library operating hours, operational arrangements etc.

What about other council buildings like Morra Hall? Will we have to buy them back from Auckland?

MORRA Hall, Rocky Bay Hall and the Onetangi Hall belong to local community organizations. Council owned properties of all kinds except perhaps the Whakanewha Regional Park, should be handed over to the new District Council just as they were transferred the other way when Auckland City Council was established back in 1989/90.

What will be an issue is determining the value of buildings and property that may have in some way have contributed to Auckland Council’s overall debt. Negotiation of our fair share of Auckland’s $7.3 billion debt [$4,867 per resident] will need to be mediated by the Local Government Commission and the transition authority it puts in place.

Will we have enough money or skills to survive it alone?

As has been clearly shown in an article in the Gulf News after an Official Information Act request [19 February], Waiheke conservatively collects more than $21 million in rates, fees and charges. This is considerably more than the total budgets of most District Councils with a similar population but, typically, much more infrastructure.

We are looking into the expenditure side of the equation but the indications are that, stripped of the significant overheads included in current expenditure, we should be able to deliver current services comfortably while at the same time having much greater transparency on options for expenditure and the effects on rates. If time allows, have a look at the last Annual Report of District councils such as Otorohanga, Stratford and Gore for perspective of what is possible.

How do we compare with other similar-sized towns?

Because a third of our residential ‘rating units’ are holiday homes, our rate take [$16.5m] is considerably more than District Councils with almost the same population – vis a vis our approx 8600 residents,   there are 17 District Councils with populations between 4320 {Mackenzie] and 14,000 [Central Hawkes Bay]. As examples Otorohanga – 9650, Stratford – 9260, Carterton – 8680 and Gore -12,400 all had budgets that are smaller than our revenues.

Do we get more or less money from Auckland than we contribute with our rates?

Auckland City and now Auckland Council finance staff maintain Waiheke costs more than it pays for. John Meeuwsen has asked for the financial proof but it has not been forthcoming. We now have an approximation of revenue collected on Waiheke and we are working on estimating expenditure.

Meanwhile, from his position on the Local Board, John is convinced that when the overheads that would be unnecessary in a much smaller, simpler District structure are stripped out, and given the limited amount of infrastructure Waiheke needs to maintain compared to similar sized Districts, Waiheke should be able to manage within its current revenue levels without the need to increase rates by 5.6% per annum as Auckland plans to do.

Won't we simply be duplicating resources that we are already getting from Auckland?

Since we would be taking over the role of Auckland Council and its CCOs, the short answer is NO.

Who will do all the planning and the paperwork? Won't we need a lot of staff and how much will that cost?

District Councils of a similar size to Waiheke typically carry out all Council planning and service provision functions, including contracting out when relevant, with 30 – 45 staff led by a CEO paid in the region of $200k salary. The Mayor typically receives around $60-65k p.a. [a little more than the Local Board Chair] and the 6 – 8 Councillors receive $14 – 18k p.a. [a little less than Local Board members].

The Local Board currently really needs the 6 staff dedicated to its support to manage interaction with the massive bureaucracy – Council and CCOs – and the numerous Auckland related issues that it has to deal with. The level of support needed should be very significantly less in a simpler, smaller structure. The total cost of ‘governance’ should reduce markedly.

Surely not more politicians! Who will be on the council and how much will they be paid?

See previous answer – the Local Government Commission would determine the number of elected positions, but we believe it is unlikely to be more than 7, and how the Mayor and Councillors are to be voted for – across the District or in wards. Consultation in the lead up to establishment should give insight into the community’s preferences in these respects.

If we separate, is that the end of our hopes for a swimming pool?

Since it would be a significant budgetary item and there may be options around size, structure and location that would vary the cost, that decision will be the prerogative of the voters in any new Waiheke District Council – if the issue is still to be determined after its establishment.

What about the Onetangi Sports Park and the promised upgrade?

This would be a decision for our eligible voters through the normal political process.

What will happen to our parks and reserves? Who will pay for the upkeep?

These should be transferred to the new Waiheke Council which would be responsible for their upkeep – on our terms.

What happens with our roads? Surely separation from Auckland Transport will be disastrous?

Why? Let’s put aside the quality of work currently being done and the seemingly haphazard way it is being carried out. Waiheke has a land area of 92 sq km and about 200 km of roads compared to most Districts with similar populations which generally have over 1000 sq km and 4x the number of km of roads we have.
Roading work is mostly done by contractors and the skill needed is in ensuring contracts are responsive and cost effective. The NZ Transport Agency is an active partner and funds at least half of an agreed work programme. Expert advice is readily available.

How big will the district be? Which islands will it include?

That is a matter for consultation and then decision by the Local Government Commission. [John Meeuwsen’s personal view is that the islands to the west of Waiheke relate more closely to and are best administered by Auckland Council – although the ratepayers of Rakino could be offered a vote on that. Islands at the eastern end would be attractive as part of Waiheke gaining greater influence in respect of the health of the Inner Hauraki Gulf. The Waiheke Local Board has one member on the Hauraki Gulf Forum – we believe a Waiheke District council should have 2 and the greater standing of a full Council.

What about Great Barrier Island and Rakino?

See above for Rakino. Great Barrier has a small, dispersed population and, therefore, high relative costs of providing services. It is therefore unlikely to be in a financial position to contemplate going it alone and we believe it would not expect Waiheke to provide the financial support needed.

What effect will this have on our position in the Hauraki Gulf Forum?

We believe it should strengthen our position with full Council status. We would push for an extra member of the Forum.

Will this affect the wharf tax and our ferry fares?

There is no reason to suppose the wharf tax would need to rise but we would demand the kind of transparency about what is collected and what is done with the money that is currently very opaque on the grounds of ‘commercial sensitivity.

As to ferry fares, again, there is no reason to suppose a new Council would be able to influence commercial rates. We would, however, expect more say in the way our facilities are used and endeavour to leverage the use of our wharf and related facilities to best effect for ferry users and the environment in which they operate.

Will this affect the Gold Card?

It should have no direct effect but we should be in a stronger position as a community to advocate on matters relevant to use of the Gold Card.

What about parking and the land at Matiatia?

It will be up to the Local Government Commission to determine the terms under which Council land and property is transferred to a new Waiheke Council [WDC] but, on past practice, all property except perhaps Whakanewha Regional Park, should be handed over. Eligible voters will have a say over major issues but we would expect the WDC to place all of its land at Matiatia in a single reserve for ease of management and planning. Existing leases would have to be honoured under their existing terms but over time and subject to local consultation and transport plans, we should be able to effect better outcomes to reflect local needs rather than regional considerations.

Won't there be a massive rush by Auckland Council to sell off our assets if this looks like going ahead?

The Local Government Commission would take a dim view of such behaviour – Auckland Council Properties are the key agency in this regard and they are once removed from Council. John Meeuwsen has written to the Mayor and CEO of Auckland Council noting that our exploration of this issue will not seek to criticize the performance of Council and CCOs but rather to examine the systemic shortcomings of present governance arrangements for Waiheke and the possible benefits of greater local control. He emphasized our intent to be responsible in any campaign and asked that they ensure that staff respond in kind. He received assurance from the Mayor’s office that we could expect officers to behave professionally and responsibly in this regard.

How does this affect housing? Many people can no longer afford to live here - especially elderly people?

This is another issue that must be dealt with by eligible voters in the Waiheke District Council if it established. It is clear, however, that there are agencies like Housing NZ who want to work with Councils to progress options. Greater local control and direction should allow us to leverage local Council status and resources to best effect and will enable more responsive, more creative solutions to be sought.

Will we still be able to use the services of ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) and CDAC (Community Development Arts & Culture).

Certainly, either on a collaborative basis – we have great alignment with ATEED for marketing and mutual benefits as Waiheke is a destination in its own right these days – or on a negotiated fee for service basis. The Local Government Commission will require Auckland Council and its CCOs to negotiate in good faith as required under the LG Act.

Is it going to be easier to separate from Auckland City Council because we are already physically separate?

Well it will certainly be easier to make the case unequivocally as compared to areas which border others. There is no Council controlled physical connection to the mainland, no subsidies on the ferries, comparatively little infrastructure and properties mostly pre date Auckland Council – the Library and refurb of the Service Centre being the exceptions.

How would the decision making process change with a Waiheke Council?

We would make our decisions but the processes would be as set out in legislation for all Councils.

Waiheke tried to separate from Auckland City Council in the past and failed, what is different now?

Twice the population, far stronger financial and community capability, now part of a much larger regional institution than Auckland City was and with very different aspirations in respect of growth and development.

A very significant difference is that we no longer need to have over 10,000 residents in any new District Council. A previous attempt required that we join another District Council [Thames Coromandel] and that was not well received. The legislation was amended in 2012 to both get rid of the population bar and to simplify the process of seeking a ‘re-organisation’.

. Do the figures quoted in the Newspaper on financial viability include estimates of regional council costs?

No they don’t. The reason being is that at present Auckland’s so called regional costs are incorporated in their total costs. However based on our research of other councils, in particular Gore District Council and Southland Regional Council we have learned that their rates levy is mainly concerned with water purity compliance, which has no Waiheke context. Our best estimate for Waiheke is that the total annual costs should be less than $100,000.