Welcome to Waiheke. We hope you get to notice the blazing pohutukawa of all sizes around every corner, that masterful castle on the evening sand with a silhouette like a medieval city and the small-scale-ness of our villages and many of our houses, tucked as they are among bush that has a nostalgia all of its own.
We’d like you to enjoy the lively café scene we have here, the quality of our fine dining establishments and of our artisanal produce, breads, crafts, art, night-time music, Saturday market and general, good life ambience.
Notice that we’ve kept it small by design, a bustling atmosphere that makes the coastscapes and stretching beach scenes all the more memorable.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t encounter too many inhabitants; we’re the ones the shopkeepers give a quick smile of recognition and who twitch that wretchedly-imprecise island map out of your hand when, embarked on what looked like an easy stroll, you’re lost in a suddenly-quite-big landscape. At this time of year, you don’t need us. Mostly, we’re working anyway.
We will expect you to smile back when we encounter you strolling en famille on the road and we are doing the best we can with the traffic. Groups of us are making stands for having all the island’s vehicles free of fossil fuels by 2030, cleaning up Little Oneroa’s stream, getting the eels and kokopu back in the wetlands, ridding the island of pests and weeds, reducing our rubbish and generally being kind and helpful to all God’s creatures.
There are, however, some things we’d probably prefer not to talk about. We feel robbed by the Local Government Commission’s summary dismissal of our bid, over the last couple of years, to take on more of the local decision-making that would enable us to deal intelligently with contractors over our potholes and paper-thin road seal. We are dismayed at the forests of fatuous signage, the over-grown walking tracks and the endless, shuffling, revenue-gathering paperwork that displaces any real work by the city and its CCOs.
We apologise for the bus timetables which were shaken up by Auckland Transport during the year. Residents made more than 500 submissions to a schedule that seemed to expect anyone in Surfdale would want to use the Kennedy Point terminal. It still leaves you, the customer, sitting and waiting 10 minutes, either in the stationary bus or in the wind and dark at Matiatia. This may not apply over the holiday season, when just getting here means you’ve automatically arrived a lot later than you hoped and the next bus a chimeric entity.
What’s with the queues, you may ask. Don’t get us started. We’ve wrestled with the accommodation bed tax and even more iniquitous rates hikes. It’s bad news for those of us looking to Air B&B bookings to help meet swingeing rates bills and so visitors can come back later and get the deeper cut at the Waiheke experience.
The Auckland regional fuel tax, we were told in no uncertain terms, would be spent at the ferry terminal. This might have been a chance to rework the primitive ferry queues that now plague us every night of the week but, as it turns out, there is not a shred of amelioration in their sights.
Rain, storm or broiling sunshine, without a hint of apology from Auckland Transport, our visitors – let alone our commuters and the Waiheke public that has made several fortunes over the years for various ferry operators – are expected to wait in stagnant queues until the next available vessel arrives.
Or the one after.
It’s as if, having brought Auckland traffic to gridlock over decades, the sclerotic transport CCO that gobbles more than half the city’s rates revenue sees no reason why Waiheke commuters should not queue for the privilege of using a draughty, poorly designed terminal and an expensive, crowded ferry home.
Do they know or care that this wretched reluctance to deal with even normal transport issues in the present, let alone an even busier future, is putting an almost intolerable strain on local businesses in terms of freight, reliability, customer bookings and, inevitably, future trade? Not so you would notice. • Liz Waters