Carpe jugulum*

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    Clearly I haven’t been nearly plain enough these last two years about my Waiheke-centric dissatisfactions with Auckland Transport’s management of Pier Two in the downtown ferry basin.  

    At this moment, it looks as if more delays, ever-present queues and disruption is the most we can hope for from the rejig of the Downtown ferry basin, despite the fuel tax funds that are being collected from us as we speak, a heist justified by spending on a multi-million re-development of the area. 

    Now out for public consideration, it’s plain that, unless we intervene, plans for the ferry basin – and teeming thousands of cruise ship visitors – include nothing to solve problems that have kept us staggering along over the last few years. 

    The regrettable Pier Two terminal for the Waiheke traveller was always an abominable piece of architecture. Lucky part-time ferry commuters heading for Bayswater or Birkenhead will never know the utter agony of Pier Two’s waiting room as its doors open and close to admit a late-night south-westerly gale.

    Or the minimalist ‘wind-tunnel’ marshalling yard, ad hoc queues, ever-less-adequate ferry sizes and a dismal lack of any responsibility for profound disruption to Waiheke’s visitor reputation. 

    The increasingly horrible ferry experience now includes the scurry to discover which pier is in use for the about-to-depart next sailing and the futility of having a 12-hour working day away from home extended even further by the comings and goings of improbably small looking ferries and hour-long waits.  

    Then there’s the annual $3 million bonanza of wharf tax monies paid by islanders who – without any help from Auckland Transport – have built up a jewel of a traveller destination with a world-wide reputation – despite lousy roads and endemic civic parsimony.

    The new designs for Quay Street also indicate that all we might have to look forward to along the waterfront itself is a better class of precinct for those huddled in the shade of pavement trees trying to keep out of the summer sun while waiting for a ferry to the tattered, over-sold remains of the fourth best destination in the world. Feedback closes on 17 December.  Resource consents are already being applied for.

    There is other infrastructure of vital importance to the next 15 years on Waiheke that Auckland Council wants its citizens to ‘submit’ on over the summer holidays.

    At last Thursday’s Waiheke Local Board meeting, a council team ‘tasked’ with gathering feedback for an ‘omnibus’ reserve management plan arrived with plans for community consultation on all 23 of Waiheke’s community parks, timed to open soon and, they anticipated, closing at the end of January.

    One sensed (that is, they said) there was a desire to go off on the summer holidays and come back with a good idea of how much feeling there was ‘out there’ on the issue of local parks.

    These are the treasured areas where people grub weeds, restore wetlands, raise children and that are generally vital to the community, said board deputy chairman Paul Walden gently. It wasn’t appropriate to demand a response over the busiest part of the year.

    He didn’t mention that Auckland Council and its predecessor had, on cost considerations, abolished the regime of reserve management plans that keep such public assets on the rails, even in such puddle-jumper counties as Waiheke.

    Or that it’s a standard trick of successive Auckland supercity councils to run iffy consultations over the Christmas holidays, a tactic in full flood this year.

    It was agreed that the ‘consultation’ process would be extended to 20 February. At the same meeting, the Rangihoua reserve management plan was launched.

    Weeks earlier, with the quarterly rates bills, came yet another consultative ‘Waiheke Area Plan Project’ (running alongside a raft of other council documentation).

    If you want to submit in person, it’s useful to know you have to keep your points down to three minutes, which isn’t much if you’ve lived and loved a place for yonks. There is also the freedom camping issue on which the conscientious citizen may want to ‘have a say’ (as they say).

    The underlying culture is one reason why democratic structures have got such a bad reputation in recent years: a tendency of large bureaucracies, particularly their middle management, to label and rule ‘residents’ or ‘ratepayers’ or ‘neighbours’ or that amalgam of troublemakers loosely referred to as ‘all the usual suspects’.

    Not actual, intelligent, sentient fellow humans with a lot to contribute. • Liz Waters

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