The ugly scenes at Kennedy Point this week didn’t happen by accident and they didn’t start in 2016 when the Kennedy Point marina was first mooted. Like so much across Auckland these days, the fault can be sheeted home to the bloated and congenitally managerialist corporate culture of a city council blind to anything but its own self-interest.
The Kennedy Point marina proposal came hard on the heels of the Environment Court judgement that put an end to the earlier marina plan that would have occupied fully half of Matiatia Harbour. Waiheke islanders, from the richest to the most modest, had pitched in (for the second time in 10 years) and raised half a million dollars by sheer public exertion to save the gateway harbour with its old pōhutukawa and restored coastal bush, it’s profoundly historic headlands and its horseshoe ring of ever-changing waterscapes watched over by the exquisite cone of Rangitoto. That was before Christmas in 2015.
Auckland Council (the consenting authority) and the Crown claimed court costs of roughly a million dollars each. Waiheke’s fundraising collective asked for its $500,000 back. Predictably the would-be developer liquidated and walked away.
The court judgement, however, didn’t close the book on further marina proposals for the island and Kennedy Point, also a defining gateway port, was low-hanging fruit for another bite.
The rest was history repeating itself. Auckland Council was to arrogantly ignore local board attempts at mitigations and compensations for the community. Financial contributions from the developers based on the 35-year occupation of public open space will help car parking and roading but could have gone further. It could help with our housing crisis. Perhaps roading further afield to Kennedy Point. It could even have provided the island’s schools with a much-needed community swimming pool. All would have been small-change for a high-end venture like a 180-berth marina facing no ground rental or capital outlay on the location for decades.
All of these wasted opportunities would have enhanced visitors’ experience of the island and added to the amenity of a community of 9000 that had built up an enviable, world-wide reputation as a great place to visit – with damn all help from its parent city and still desperately in need of infrastructure.
In the event, no hard conversations were had and in April 2017, a hearing panel chaired by resource management consultant and long-time council hearings commissioner Greg Hill and including Mark Farnsworth, Gavin Lister, Vernon Tava and Wayne Donovan approved the resource consent.
The proposal at that stage included building, in addition to the floating wave attenuators, 186 marina berths (reticulated for power and water), the world’s first floating access and car park, utilities, a floating marina office and berth users’ facilities, a floating “community use” building, viewing deck and storage, launch facilities for kayaks and paddleboards, public day-berthage for trailer boats and public pick-up and drop-off areas for recreational boaties. Along with 19 pile moorings.
For the next four years, the group Save Kennedy Point, at great personal cost, fought the decision through the courts on environmental and procedural grounds, and then the Pūtiki Bay occupation made up of residents and Ngāti Pāoa found the existing breakwater’s breeding colony of endangered kororā.
Among the infuriated citizens of Waiheke, planner-speak’s “effects no more than minor” is a catchphrase for the council’s system which can mandate a marina in our other gateway port before lunch but can obfuscate and extract rafts of fees and years of delay if a mere ratepayer wants to renovate granddad’s shed in the garden.
The same sort of ramshackle and callous decisions carefully removed from local input and signed off and made legal by cohorts of “independent planning commissioners” selected by the city’s pro-developer, pro-concrete and steel planning hegemony are deeply disturbing even established Auckland suburbs with battles from Parnell to the Dome Valley.
Every New Zealand city including Wellington has unequivocally refused to embrace this wretched supercity model pedalled by the Local Government Commission. In matters of planning, equity, stewardship of the commons, public spaces and citizen participation in its own wellbeing, the elimination 12 years ago of the vital watchdog role of the overseeing regional council was very ill for the city.
In its absence, Auckland Council gave away our whole bay. For nothing.
• Liz Waters