Investing and divesting

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    We’re at the point in the local government electoral cycle where a lot of stuff comes pouring through from Auckland Council before the reset of polling day on 8 October and that handy interregnum under CEO governance which can last to the end of January while the newly elected are corralled into the bureaucratic machine.

    If it seems particularly marked this year it’s probably because the cycles of two years of Covid lockdowns have spawned vast numbers of rules, plans, policies, strategic objectives, agreed principles and various revisions stretching into the future.

    All brought into existence with minimal citizen scrutiny. Some of the outpourings even sounded as if they were written by someone wearing pyjamas.

    As a result, bulging agendas for the Waiheke Local Board to sign off in May and June ballooned out to 600 pages, the Golf Investment Plan in the May agenda so incensing golfers that their responses filled hundreds of pages in the June tome.

    Council employees working on the plan appeared comfortable “sponsoring a document in the public domain that is filled with outdated information, factual errors, bias and misleading generalisations”, as Golf New Zealand said gently.

    To add to matters, the text itself quickly resolved itself into, not revitalisation of the city’s publicly owned golf greens for a valuable recreational and social purpose and suburban green spaces, but a thinly disguised divestment agenda.

    Rich clubs owning their own land were not included but the dozens of clubs with council leases were to move over to make their greenspace open to ALL Aucklanders; a stern warning not to be mean, while every now and again there were glimpses that they should also be surrendering their greens for the commercial betterment of their communities.

    The opus magnum of the June agenda was Auckland Transport’s parking plan.

    Blue-sky thinking has its place but, like everything in life, it needs balance and thorough critical thinking.

    Council officials have long stated (though mostly in private) that all parking should be paid and this plan revolves around that.

    It says “parking management is a lever in managing the transport network. Both in terms of the opportunities that repurposing of road space offers to enabling [sic] other modes and disincentivising car use.”

    Roadside parking is to become anti-social. AT will advocate to central government for powers to influence private parking through parking levies, residential parking permit cost-setting, bans on berm parking and parking infringement fines “to effect change and achieve better outcomes”.

    Fine if you are designing a new city from scratch. Delightful, even. But rather nasty if it engineers social demographics at minimum inconvenience to the well-heeled and the tax deductable.

    Parking meters on Mātiatia roadside parking a couple of summers ago emptied the street and crammed the third-world gravel hillside which is our ports’ park and ride.

    For many young commuter families, additional and overwhelming transport costs, with the loss of reliable buses to meet ferry timetables, has been the final straw that’s forcing them off the island in increasing numbers.

    Auckland Transport also gave us, in late 2020, the plan which looks like turning our Donald Bruce Roundabout into a pedestrian precinct (see letters on page 19).

    School trustees had waited for more than 30 years for a safe school crossing on the main road. Languid officials argued the requests away, mostly as too dangerous.

    However, all that was swept away, probably in the rush for government funding and shovel-ready projects, and a new plan passed through the board in late 2020.

    Since before Easter we’ve had chain mesh fences, a heavy machinery depot, queues to Ostend and weirdly punitive traffic light sequences on the Donald Bruce roundabout. Wasted fuel consumption alone must have been eyewatering.

    Now, emerging from the murk, are pedestrian crossings and raised speed tables which block entry and exits from the roundabout on three sides. The strategic and very busy corner could be permanently two buses away from gridlock.

    According to AT, our pedestrian “desire lines” dictated the choice of position, although why the crossing into Donald Bruce Road was not built 50 meters further along the footpath opposite the kindergarten is a mystery.

    Will we cope? Of course. We always do and the posh speed tables can remain even if the powers-that-be have to repaint a more sensible pedestrian crossing 50 metres down the main road towards Jellicoe Parade.

    Most of us do the right thing most of the time, happily acknowledging everyone else’s right to the good things in life and willingly doing more if it’s necessary to the common good. Especially on a small island with a community under threat. Which is what makes the city’s senior management culture so irksome. • Liz Waters

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