A wise man, back in the 80s, speculated – with all the gusto of a local pundit – that Waiheke had more cars per mile of road (he was of the age for miles) than anywhere else in the country.
By then, Waiheke’s county council had already put together a wharf tax on the island’s two ports to enable it to provide ongoing infrastructure needs for commuters and visitors without rating much of the population out of the community.
It had also secured long-term parking space for the island’s long-suffering, pre-Quickcat commuters.
The tax, handsome at the time of amalgamation in the late 1980s, continues to pour into the city’s coffers – sadly with little effect on our access to urgently-needed infrastructure and transport management.
Auckland Transport this week put out proposals to tinker with public parking both in the original foreshore carparks and at the Owhanake gravelpit. Unfortunately, even if they were vastly cleverer than they look, the plans will be lambasted by residents and commuters whose lives and livelihoods have already been put on the line by the seething mess at Matiatia over the summer.
They increase revenue and tinker with solutions for parking allocations over which businesses reliant on Matiatia’s visitors slaved for much of last year (fruitlessly, as it turned out). Clearly, no CCO official involved has ever had to work round Waiheke’s ferries, either, since the premium parking ticket will expire at midnight – that is 40 minutes before the last ferry gets in from Auckland.
After all these years, no-one can bet a cracker on leniency in any area of council revenue gathering, even at midnight.
No mention is made of the de facto annexation of the premium keyhole parking for Fullers’ combined ferry and bus tour empire – aka the loathed double-decker buses – and the proposals don’t create any extra parking spaces, while extinguishing many of those currently used in all three car parks.
The documents also tick off local people for inconsiderate parking at the three-in-one gravel slope that is the creative scrimmage that has been the Owhanake park and ride. It proposes demarcations and cutting out parking spaces that long-since became essential.
Since the ankle-breaking, push-chair-lethal paddock has to have gravel relaid at regular intervals, just how the control might be applied is a mystery. Probably, someone is on an overseas junket as we speak, securing some novel new bollards at far greater expense than re-contouring or even just sealing the pop-up, 20-years-young facility.
The Owhanake parking has jurisdictional issues with rival Watercare CCO that apparently preclude any more efficient or beautiful infrastructure, while Auckland Transport and Auckland Council Properties likewise eye up each other’s turfs lower down the valley.
The outlook isn’t good if we cannot reverse this empire-building trend. AT has already taken over the functions of Auckland’s Harbourmaster, pocketing the not inconsiderable revenue of the City of Sails’ mooring fees. In the process, it’s come out with such extraordinary statements as the one that appalled us over the jetski business which it deemed to be operating on a road, formerly known as Onetangi Beach.
Another business that has popped up on the beach where I have paid rates for nearly 40 years, apparently has a ‘permit’ to operate on tidal flats that are renowned and beloved for their annual godwit migration and their fierce little tribe of dotterels – nationally one of our most endangered species.
Recently, I found myself making an unreasonable request of a council worker elsewhere in Auckland Council’s monolith in which she referred to ‘ownership’ of the material I was requesting.
It was in no way her fault – it’s the culture – but the material in question was a gift to the people of Auckland a hundred years before Auckland Council existed – a fragment of the billions of dollars of public assets handed to first Auckland City and then to Auckland Council.
This without the smallest suggestion of democratic participation from citizens who lost their City of Sails and found themselves powerless in the face of a Government relentlessly turning it into the City of Sales.
Neither Auckland Transport nor Auckland Council Properties Ltd ‘own’ their jurisdictions over the valley floor properties at Matiatia. They manage it on our behalf and we have an obligation to call them to account.
• Liz Waters