Out Meeting the Locals

At Public Meeting on Liquor Store Application

 

Tonight I was notified of a public meeting facilitated by Papakura Councillor Calum Penrose (so my local Councillor) here in Papakura (my home and community) on opposition to a liquor store being opened in the area. So I trundled down to Papakura Central School where the meeting was held, said my hellos and took a seat to listen to proceedings. Normally in public meetings (as well as hearings) I might get up and ask questions or have a say, but tonight this was new territory for me so it was a case of sit quietly and observe what was going on in this public meeting.

 

This Facebook status sums up what the meeting was on:

 

A great turnout in Pahurehure, Papakura tonight – 120 residents turned out in objection to a liquor store proposed for their corner block of shops. Excellent leadership from Calum Penrose for Papakura and Manurewa, he is pictured here with his friend and popular local JP Raj Thandi and Manurewa Local Board Chair Angela Dalton. Aways on hand to give my sister town Papakura my personal support. Photography by Daniel Newman – nice job, good angle 😉

Calum Penrose, Raj Thandi, and Angela Dalton working to stop the opening of a liquor store in Pahurehure.

 

I also posted a Facebook staus:

 

Attended my first public meeting inside my on Local Ward (Maurewa-Papakura) on opposition to a Liquor Outlet being opened in the area. Was a good discussion lead by Local Councillor Calum Penrose. — with Daniel Newman and Angela Dalton.

 

As I said above; while I have been to public meetings before they have been outside my Ward (so Orakei and North Shore), this one in Papakura as I stated in my Facebook status my first LOCAL public meeting – so new territory.

But while new territory tonight, it was also an excellent learning experience for me. There was a chance to mingle afterwards where I would make introductions and conduct some networking like I have done in Orakei and The North Shore; however a fatality on the Western Line tonight (groan) forced me to return home to support Rebekka who had her shift extended by half to assist with all the “disruption” that goes with a fatality.

But in saying that, while tonight was my first LOCAL public meeting where I got to observe the locals in my or rather our own local community, it shall not be my last!

The people present are locals, fellow locals in our fellow community that is Papakura, and the very people I wish to represent next year after the Local Government 2013 elections. So my focus is returning home Auckland, to Papakura. Yes I will keep an eye out for wider Auckland, especially as the Regional Public Transport Plan and Unitary Plan are either up or coming up for submissions. But attention is now back to the home front as it is where I live, play, work (in part) and shop. That home as I have said is Papakura.

Yes I will still attend submission hearings and pop over to other Wards in Auckland to pay a visit, but my primary attention and focus is now returning home – to Papakura.

 

So look out Papakura, you shall be seeing more of me 😀

 

BEN ROSS: PAPAKURA

Shining the Light with You – Towards a Better Papakura

Papakura 2013: YOUR COMMUNITY – YOUR CALL

 

And

 

BEN ROSS : AUCKLAND

Shining the Light – To a Better Auckland

Auckland 2013: YOUR CITY – YOUR CALL

 

 

 

Advertisements

Our Council Controlled Organisations

How Well do Our CCOs Rate?

 

Bernard Orsman of the NZ Herald wrote a two part series about Auckland‘s Council Controlled Organisations – a.k.a The Auckland Bureaucracy.

You can read the respective articles in the list below:

 

 

What was interesting first up was the fact that the some of the CCO‘s could be up for a merge, or downsizing. That is fine with me to get some savings back to the ratepayer so long as our services are not affected.

 

Although what was more “interesting” is what Orakei Local Board Chair Desley Simpson had to say on the Herald’s series about our errant CCOs:

 Saving $ is great but what I am interested in is the improvement in communication and interaction with local boards Hope this will be reviewed at the same time Happy to input!

That prompted this remark from me:

  • Ben Ross Might be finding both Local Boards and normal ratepayers wanting to give input to OUR errant CCOs. But the CCO that needs the largest kick up the backside can not be touched due to the law…
  • Desley Simpson No guesses needed as to what you are referring to there Ben!

 

Upon reflection of that comment, ATEED is the CCO that needs the biggest kick up the backside for the amount of grief that CCO has put Auckland through. From the Rugby World Cup to the V8 Pukekohe saga, ATEED seems to have the knack in really annoying Auckland ratepayers from either daft decisions or being all Secret Squirrel with Councillors and the public over some of its decision-making processes (The V8s being the most recent). So using Desley’s remark on interaction and communication, ATEED fails badly there.

As for that other CCO that we shall not name and I was initially commenting about, well I can not exactly give it a kick up the backside for interaction and communication as that CCO which we shall not name has actually improved, especially if their Twitter communication and interactions are anything to go by as that has gone for strength to strength. So thumbs up there. As for a few other things, well we shall say that is a work in progress folks and leave it that.

 

But at the end of the day it is the communication and interaction that the CCOs really need to work on. While at arm’s length from Council Governing Body, having a healthy and open relationship with the GB, Local Boards and the ratepayers would be a wise idea unless the CCOs want open hostility from the ratepayers on a really good day.

So I recommend to the CCO’s if they want to help boost their “street-cred” with the Local Boards and ratepayers adopt these simple philosophies and stick to them:

 

  1. Open Governance: I believe in open governance where the public can sit in, listen and where possible discuss “matters-of-state” as much as possible with their representatives. None of this hiding behind closed doors (except for commercially sensitive material that does come up from time to time), and fessing up when you know you have stuffed up. You might find the public are more sympathetic you one acknowledges and apologies for a legitimate mistake
  2. Basics first: One thing I learnt when I moved out from the parents’ home and struck it out in the real world (including getting married and owning our first house) is that with the limited resources you have got, you did the basics first then with anything left over you just might be able to afford a luxury. Same applies to our civic institutions; they have limited resources so get the basics right first then “treat yourself or others” to a luxury if you are able to do so once the basics are taken care of.
  3. Listen and Engage: God gave us two ears and one mouth. In my line of work you actively listen with both ears THEN engage IN DAILOUGE with your one mouth. Not the other way around as that is usually monologue and the fastest way to get your ears clipped. Same applies to civic institutions:  you actively listen with both ears THEN engage IN DAILOUGE with your one mouth unless you like getting your ears clipped… Oh and remember some days all the person wants you to do is JUST LISTEN to their little piece – as all we want some days is just to get it off our chests.

 

That was from my What Do I Stand For and Believe In – For a Better Auckland. Something I will be using as benchmarks if elected to Papakura Local Board next year to see how our CCO’s are  treating the ratepayers and their money. But if the Herald article from yesterday was anything to go by, all three points above need some serious working on from ALL our CCOs.

 

In the meantime back to submission writing!

 

In Brief

A Brief View of Auckland

 

 

Was a busy day in the NZ Herald today with two different articles on Auckland’s Transport, and another two on our Council Control Organisations.

 

The two transport articles were:

 

In both these cases I have run commentary on these and are giving specific mention in my submission to Auckland Transport‘s Regional Public Transport Plan. Further commentary will be at hand as the week advances and I continue my RPTP submission.

 

As for the other two articles covering our CCO‘s, they were:

 

In regards to these issues, I have run commentary on this before and it seems I will be doing so again here at BR:AKL again this week if not next week. CCO’s being secretive is one of my pet hates and a campaign plank as I run for Papakura Local Board in next year’s Local Government 2013 Elections.

 

So yes today was a very busy day in the NZ Herald, with plenty more to campaign on for a Better Auckland here at BR:AKL!

 

BEN ROSS : AUCKLAND

Shining The Light –
To a Better Auckland

Auckland 2013: YOUR CITY – YOUR CALL

 

Papakura Set for ‘Large’ Housing Development

Upwards of 500 “Low Cost” Housing to be Built – In Papakura

 

We all know housing affordability in Auckland sucks with the Demographia Affordability rating being around 5.3 or “severely unaffordable (affordable is at 3.0 meaning the total cost of a home purchase should not exceed three times the total annual income of the household living in it. Currently Rebekka and I sit around the 3.52 mark). All sorts of measures are trying to be taken to allow the average person to at least being able to afford their very own house to live in. In this particular case Housing New Zealand has put out a tender to the private sector for the construction of upwards of 500 new homes that are: state houses, social housing and full private houses. The NZ Herald explains:

 

From the NZH:

Big low cost homes job set to start

By Simon Collins

5:30 AM Friday Oct 12, 2012

 

 

Housing New Zealand is seeking a private partner to build houses on former Papakura army camp land.

Earthworks for Auckland’s biggest low-cost housing development in 25 years will start next month on land that used to be part of the Papakura army base.

Housing New Zealand is seeking a private sector partner to build between 450 and 500 homes on the 24ha site between Walters Rd and McLennan Park. Tenders close on October 16.

Its general manager of asset development, Sean Bignell, said the homes would be a mix of 10 per cent state houses, 20 per cent other social housing and 70 per cent for private sale at prices likely to be “in the high 200s to the high 300s” – putting most of them below the lower quartile mark of Auckland residential properties sold this year.

Finance Minister Bill English said recently that high land prices had skewed Auckland builders towards large, high-value houses, and there was “no housing being built for people in the lowest quartile of income”.

“That is clearly unsustainable,” he said.

A start on the Papakura project comes as Housing NZ bows out of another long-planned 10ha development next to the Weymouth child welfare home, which the new Social Housing Unit in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has allocated to “third-sector” social and affordable housing.

 

If you want to know where approximately, check the map below

 

Click for full resolution

 

So between 450-500 new houses are to be built in the vicinity to where I live. Hmm means its going to be noisy and dusty for a while but I am not particularly minding too much. Look we need more “affordable” housing and if Housing NZ can take the lead in offering this affordable housing then so be it. If I was to have any concerns it is not around the fact “low-cost” housing is about to be built in my backyard; my concern is around the urban design factor which sets the future for this large-scale project for life.

I assume the houses will be a mix of 2-4 bedrooms on sections between 400-600m2? I need to go hit up my Local Board and take a look at the plans as they are not easily found online at the moment. The plans would tell me what kind of urban design work is being done and whether the urban design method chosen will be a benefit or a total hindrance to the future of this development. And something tells me the urban design of this development is actually going to be a hindrance more than a benefit here. How so?

Quick crude maths tells me the following:

  • My house is 110m2 on 520m2 – and I have a 3 bedroom home, so that means I have a front and back yard
  • The new development site is 24 hectares or 240,000m2
  • Divide the 240,000 into 500 houses and you get 480m2, however take into account roads, paths and berms and the average lot would be around 400m2
  • Divide the 240,000 into 450s house and the figures move to 533m2 and 450m2 respectively
  • This does not take into account parks, green spaces or “alleyways”

If we want the kids to at least have a decent backyard to play in and maybe grow the vegetable garden as well (although that is a lost art in Auckland) I would suggest 450m2 sections for three and four bedroom houses would be a generous and comfortable size. Anything smaller and we get no yard space for the kids and that can generate problems if there are no parks nearby. And no Bruce Pulman Park does not count unless you want to cross a very busy Walters Road while the McLennan Park is often used for sports. From what I have also gleamed from the graphic for this new development, thankfully the roads inside the new development are grid which promotes easy of traffic (foot and vehicle) flow while mitigating against the Fear of Crime perception that often comes about in urban development. However there are only two ways in and out of the development (so connecting to main roads) which could be a bit of a pain and isolating factor to this new development. In fact the lack of access to the main roads could isolate this new development and lack of accessibility can mean crime can fester inside the development.

In all that regard, I am going to have to go take a look at the plans to see what is exactly proposed. As I said nothing wrong with new development even in my backyard (I knew things like this would happen in Papakura when we chose to move here), but piss-poor urban design that turns this much needed housing into a crime-bed will not go down particularly well with me.

 

Now as for public transport access. This development is somewhat isolated from the main bus network which runs up and down the Great South Road. Rail-wise you have Takanini and Papakura Station both within 5-minutes of each other although 450 new houses will put pressure on Papakura’s existing Park and Ride which is already short of spaces. This new development would be the perfect time for Auckland Transport to haul arse and get the new Walters Road Rail Station along with a Park and Ride (with 450 spaces) and shuttle bus bay to serve Papakura north, Addison, Takanini east and the new development soon to be built. Trying to encourage public transport with Walters Road Station and Park and Ride would be a good start in improving public transport accessibility, especially for our new residents soon to move in.

Papakura Local Board as well as myself support and are advocating to AT on the Walters Road Station, this new development PLUS the continued development of Addison would be the perfect catalyst into getting our new station by 2015!

I have written in previous submissions as well as the current submission I am writing (the AT Regional Public Transport Plan) for the construction of Walters Road Station, and am making it an election campaign pledge to continue to have the station built sooner rather than later in the Local Government Elections next year!

 

But in the mean time, I shall go search those plans for this new development.

 

Family Pass Hard To Get

Yes We Know You Can Not Get Family Passes for the Train Easy Any-More

 

The guys over at Transport Blog picked up and ran with a post on the lack of accessibility to get a Family Pass for the trains, for a day out as currently being seen in the school holidays:

By cbtadmin, on October 11th, 2012
…This policy discriminates against any family that doesn’t live near the three stations mentioned. For instance a family of 5 wanting to travel from the new Manukau Station to Britomart return will have to pay  ($6.80 x 2) + ($4 x 3) = $25.60 x 2 = $51.20 return!  The same family of 5 going from Britomart to Manukau return could get the $24 family pass….

 

Sorry to say guys but where have you been for the last three to four weeks – seriously?!

BR:AKL picked up on the Family Pass issue last month and ran an extensive post on this: $57.80 FOR A RETURN TRIP ON AN AUCKLAND TRAIN

 

The BR:AKL post also included all relevant public information available on the ticketing regime change as well as the Fare Matrix on the new costs of a family day out on the train due to the Family Pass issue.

I emailed every single Councillor and the Mayors Office over this situation as this was of high concern as we approach Labour Weekend and the summer holidays. Needless to say I have received a few replies back and been in extensive email conversation with Councillor Mike Lee over the Family Pass (as well as the fare affordability situation in general) issue.

BR:AKL will maintain the pressure to assure a fair and balanced outcome for family and day tripping users as it is unfair and unbalanced to get slugged $57.80 for a day in town compared to $26 if that same family went by car!

 

I have also made it an election campaign pledge in my running for Papakura Local Board (Local Government 2013 Elections) next year to continue the lobbying and pressure Auckland Transport to restore fair and balanced fairs for families if the situation as not been reverted by then (one year from now).

 

 

But regardless to who posted first on the Family Pass issue, the point being is that Auckland Transport needs to fix the issue NOW as there are not a lot of happy people. Actually off-peak patronage as noticeable dropped these school holidays according to feedback to BR:AKL. I wonder if that is due to the difficulty getting Day Rovers, Family Passes and Discovery Passes from the rail network now. Hmm…

 

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, QUERIES OR COMPLAINTS ON FARE MOVEMENTS WITH AT-HOP THEN CONTACT ANYONE OF THESE AUCKLAND COUNCILLORS ON THE ACCOUNTABILITY AND PERFORMANCE COMMITTEE WITH YOUR CONCERN. THEY ARE THE ONES THAT CAN HELP YOU (or Auckland Transport themselves) WITH YOUR CONCERN – NO ONE ELSE (including Veolia)!

Dodgy Governance

White Water Rafting in Manukau or White Water Shafting in Auckland?

 

It seems Dodgy Governance at Auckland Council continues, again around the White Water Rafting Shafting facility that was “approved” (subject to public “consultation”) by – oh look the Auckland Council Strategy and Finance Committee. The very same committee blasted over The Long Term Plan and the V8 saga down in Pukekohe!

 

A press release from Councillor Cameron Brewer – Orakei

 

Rafting’s compelling economic story news to economists

Tuesday, 9 October 2012, 6:44 pmPress Release: Cameron Brewer

Whitewater rafting’s compelling economic story news to Council’s economists

Today’s revelation that neither Auckland Council’s own economic development unit nor Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) were asked to have input or to review last week’s proposal to support a $20m – $30m ratepayer investment into a whitewater rafting facility in Manukau, shows the poor process surrounding the project going from bad to worse, say Auckland councillor Cameron Brewer, who chaired today’s Economic Forum.

“At today’s forum some councillors were genuinely surprised to hear from representatives of ATEED and council’s own EDU that neither were involved in the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust and Regional Facilities Auckland’s proposal for proceeds of a council land sale to go into converting a South Auckland paddock into a whitewater rafting facility.”

Mr Brewer says that’s concerning given the controversial proposal narrowly got through last week largely off the back of all the economic development promises sold to councillors.

The report circulated to the 4 October 2012 Strategy & Finance Committee promised that the project would create 110 full-time equivalent jobs, attract 31% of its visitors from outside the Auckland region and New Zealand, act as a catalyst to attracting quality development within the surrounding area, and contribute an additional $7.4m annually to Manukau’s GDP.

“Now we learn that the compelling economic story that helped to successfully sell this project was never audited or even inputted by council’s own economic team or ATEED which employs 60 people in its economic development operations alone. That’s not good enough, particularly when you consider the proponent’s business case for this facility was completed in July last year. As councillors we need to be confident that what is promised can stand up to scrutiny and that should start with internal reviews of such big economic promises at the very least.

“I support those councillors who now want to see this project’s economic feasibility and business case peer reviewed by either council’s own economic development unit or ATEED. That needs to be done before this project becomes part of council’s draft annual plan for 2013/14.”

“This project was rejected outright by the former Manukau City Council three years ago. It then somehow escaped this council’s proper 10-year Long Term Plan budgetary process, and now we learn it has also avoided the scrutiny of council’s two economic development teams despite it being sold as an economic development project. Ratepayers should be even more worried,” says Mr Brewer.

ENDS

 

Well this sorry saga flies in direction contravention to just about every fundamental I stand for – for a better Auckland, specifically these points:

  1. Basics first: One thing I learnt when I moved out from the parents’ home and struck it out in the real world (including getting married and owning our first house) is that with the limited resources you have got, you did the basics first then with anything left over you just might be able to afford a luxury. Same applies to our civic institutions; they have limited resources so get the basics right first then “treat yourself or others” to a luxury if you are able to do so once the basics are taken care of.
  2. Listen and Engage: God gave us two ears and one mouth. In my line of work you actively listen with both ears THEN engage IN DAILOUGE with your one mouth. Not the other way around as that is usually monologue and the fastest way to get your ears clipped. Same applies to civic institutions:  you actively listen with both ears THEN engage IN DAILOUGE with your one mouth unless you like getting your ears clipped… Oh and remember some days all the person wants you to do is JUST LISTEN to their little piece – as all we want some days is just to get it off our chests.

 

Council is not getting its basics right if it splashes out on this rather large-scale luxury item. Council is also not listening nor even consulting those who should be auditing this facility proposed in Manukau City so how the hell are we meant to display the remotest of confidence in our civic leaders which Councillors and the Mayor are.

The answer is we can NOT!

Council has infringed on my fundamentals with this White Water Shafting deal and I am not very happy about it – in fact I am disgusted by those Councillors who voted for the proposal…

 

Can I spin a positive out of this? Well apart from standing for Papakura Local Board next year the answer in short is sadly NO!

 

Although I have to ask this question: Do I continue to stand for Local Board, or try my hand at Council itself and try to tip out a centre-left sitting Councillor north of me (in other words NOT contesting Papakura as the current councillor centre-right and it is pointless trying to tip out one of your own). It is a question that I will need to think long and hard over as the elections draw near.

In the mean time it is back to submission and speech writing – before Council does anything else rather daft!

 

SUBMISSION TO RPTP – CTD

Part One Down, Onto Parts Two and Three

 

As mentioned in my SUBMISSION TO RPTP post, my submission is currently being written in response to Auckland Transport‘s call for feedback on the Regional Public Transport Plan:

Have Begun Writing Submission to Regional Public Transport Plan

As mentioned in the ALL THINGS PUBLIC TRANSPORTAuckland Transport has released the Regional Public Transport Plan for public submissions. I have read the 138 pages of the RPTP document and have begun writing my submission to the plan. My submission will be covering five main points on the RPTP which will be further reinforced in the subsequent hearings panel afterwards – the points being:

  1. Lack of direct Manukau to Papakura South Rail Link from Manukau Station
  2. Constructive Criticism and Praise to Chapter Five – Key Directions which looks at the proposed network (and services) through to 2022
  3. Chapter 6.4 – Fares and Ticketing. Specially my counter proposal around zone fares and pricing
  4. Chapter 6.5  – Infrastructure of the physical Public Transport network and facilities (building on from my submissions to The Auckland, and Long Term Plans)
  5. Chapter 6.6 – Customer Service Interface – and how best it can be used and improved for a clean,easy, efficient and “happy” portal for customer service interactions

I will endeavour to keep a running commentary as I write my submission and get it in by the deadline of Monday 4th November 2012…

 

I have completed Point Three: Fares and Ticketing. That part of my submission is around introducing zonal fares rather that fares based on distance travelled, coupled with suggestive fares public transport passengers would be charged. You will be able to see the full submission as I send it to AT once I have completed it.

And so I move onto the next part which is Points One and Four: The Lack of direct Manukau to Papakura South Rail Link from Manukau Station; and Chapter 6.5  – Infrastructure of the physical Public Transport network and facilities (building on from my submissions to The Auckland, and Long Term Plans).

 

In regards to the lack of a direct link from Manukau to Papakura; I will continue to lobby and advocate to Auckland Transport on getting a firm timeline of completion for that link. As I have commented in the past here at BR:AKL (formerly VOAKL) Manukau Station is handicapped by access and pathetically low patronage due to a lack of a direct link from Papakura to the station. In my experience, the bulk of your peak and off-peak passengers (regardless of the tertiary institution campus being built on top) to and from Manukau come from your: Homai, Manurewa, Papakura and Pukekohe stations. Currently the passengers from the south have to catch a train and go as far as Puhinui Station before transferring to Manukau from Britomart service (it is vice versa if leaving Manukau and wanting to go back south)  which runs hourly in the off-peak and weekends, and around 20-30mins in the morning and afternoon peaks.

To me this is unacceptable to which I actually put the blame on Auckland Council and the former Manukau City Council rather than Auckland Transport. Auckland Transport got lugged with the Manukau mess so I am strongly recommending to AT to help clean up the situation and pressure Kiwi Rail to build that South Link by 2018!

 

In regards to the infrastructure point, I am basically looking at rail and bus stations in regards to: facilities on the stations, ease of access, whether Park and Rides should be build adjacent to the said stations, and whether the tough call needs to be made in closing down or relocating stations for better patronage and access to the travelling public. I will also investigate looking in establishing a light rail system that spans the Waterfront to St Heliers Bay along with running up and down Dominion Road as far as Lynfield. Now I said investigate as Light Rail was part of my Auckland Water-Frontier proposal especially around Wynyard Quarter, so I will “see” if this system can be expanded further in its reach and access. Now if anything, this part of the submission and the fares part will be the most prickly in the hearings with AT after I submit my submission (unless AT really take to task my points on the Customer Service Interface – and how best it can be used and improved for a clean,easy, efficient and “happy” portal for customer service interactions knowing how err sensitive our CCO can be).

But at the end of the day I am submitting fair and balanced, but constructive feedback to Auckland Transport on their RPTP. There will be no defaming, there will be no harsh negative comments. Any thing I do constructive criticise will have ideas, proposals and alternatives from what I believe can make our public transport submission better.

And this is the goal of this submission; “To a Better Auckland”

 

My RPTP, along with all other submissions I have done to Auckland Council or Auckland Transport (Auckland Plan, Long Term Plan, CBD Parking Regime Change, City Centre Master Plan, the Regional Land Transport Plan, soon the Unitary Plan, and currently the Regional Public Transport Plan) form my policy platform (extending on my What I Stand For fundamentals) as well as I stand as a candidate for Papakura Local Board in next year’s Local Government Elections – for a Better Auckland.

 

Updates will continue as I continue to write the submission to the RPTP

BEN ROSS : AUCKLAND

Shining The Light –
To a Better Auckland

Auckland 2013: YOUR CITY – YOUR CALL