Attended the Long Term Plan Forum (and a mention in the NZ Herald)
So I attended the Auckland Council Forum on the Draft Long Term Plan yesterday morning. I was a tad late with the accident at Baldwin Avenue Rail Station (doozy cyclist – two tracks means TWO TRAINS) delaying my Southern Line train but I made it none the less and was seated with 11 others at Councillor George Wood’s table (sorry Mike maybe next time 😉 ).
The session which ran from 9:30-12pm with a coffee break in-between covered two major topics with a general session at the end of it. The topics were: Rates and Finance, and Transport (what my submission had mainly covered) and boy my table was a formidable one with seasoned campaigners. We also had Bernard Orsman from the NZ Herald present for the entire session with him writing up a report which I will comment on soon. In fact I recommend you read the actual Herald article, Bernard sums up the session quite nicely and saves me duplicating material.
As for me I went into bat and covered three areas of concern:
- Council Debt (as mentioned by Bernard Orsman)
- The City Rail Link
- The Port of Auckland Question
Now through the session we had guest councillors at the table: Christine Fletcher, Penny Webster (chair of the Strategy and Finance Committee which is overseeing the LTP process), Sandra Coney, and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse. So needless to say we had some movers and shakers visiting the table! I even got a quick face-to face introduction to Councillor Dick Quax (sorry I use titles in VOAKL post for people in official positions) during the coffee break – so both of us know each other quite literally know 😛 .
Now despite the limitations of the forum style setting compared to the traditional style which I presented my Auckland Plan and City Centre Master Plan submissions; I got my points home (and even a mention in the Herald), got Council to go check out Municipal Utility Districts as an alternative to Developers Contributions, and was given reassurances from our Deputy Mayor that my Port of Auckland Question will be answered! I was given the reassurance that a wide body made up of Local Government Authorities, the respective Ports in the North Island, industry, business, logistics, Kiwi Rail and even Central Government were conducting a thorough review of Port operations in the North Island including the possibility relocating Port of Auckland. I was given further reassurance that the community will be consulted in due time of the Port of Auckland Question – to which I will be submitting on when that time comes. I am not going to miss the opportunity of a life time with all my work on this project done so far and upcoming with Port of Auckland – that is for sure! Mind you I now await this review to see what comes up and whether we get excited or royally pissed-off and an opportunity that could be winner or simply blown…
Now as for the forum itself (before I go onto the Herald article); it was a new exercise for me after being use to traditional style hearings. There were both positives and negatives but in the end experience wise I gave it a thumbs up – however for my particular submission I would give it a thumbs down (which I will explain in a moment).
- With a group of diverse people so hearing different view points
- Got to debate and discuss with those diverse people and opinions
- Learn the art of compromise and negotiation with your table
- Learn who these people are and their passions (they also did the same to me)
- Focused on two main areas: Finance and Transport (although I got the POAL question in and people talking including the Deputy Mayor)
- Unable to go one-to-one with the Councillors as you could in a tradition hearing
- Time is always against you when its a table of 12
A person commented when I stated on Facebook I was off to the Forum yesterday (and a follow-up today) that my submission was not suited for the Forum style hearing – I will leave names out but these were the remarks including my replies:
The “forum” is not an ideal way to get across the important ideas and dat you have Ben Ross. Good luck… I suspect you’ll stand out from the crowd due to the effort you have put into your submission.
Well that happened in both accounts – it was hard to get points across (but I got them across and home) and I could say I stood out when I rose the Debt, MUD and POAL issues which got everyone talking on the table.
Thanks XYZ. The forum today was interesting and a learning curve as well. I had a formidable table that was chaired by George Wood to which I thank 🙂 XYZ you were right in the forum not being idea in my particular case with my LTP submission, it would have been better served in front of a traditional hearing of the Council. Needless to say I did have some luck with development contributions and an alternative I presented. While I have no disrespect to the people of my table, I did honestly felt my submission was in a league of its own. The submitters on my table were mainly concerned with their patch while I was concerned with ALL of Auckland in my submission. Thus the forum I found while interesting it did not serve my submission well. If I could I would front up in front of the FULL Council, the Mayor and CEO and hammer my submission out that way. Never mind, I now await what comes out of this, full report at my blog tomorrow.
Well tomorrow is today and here is the blog post 😛
My reply also sums up what came out of yesterday. While it was a positive for the education/experience value in another matter entirely, submission wise it was a negative for the reason I stated above. I did feel frustrated that the table did get bogged down with “patch issues” and I was the sole voice (well had two others) for ALL OF AUCKLAND!
The final comment presented was:
Ben Ross maybe worth considering a deputation to Council, at the very least so they all hear your main points.
Now that is a thought worth considering – a deputation in front of the FULL Council and Mayor to hammer my submission home. Probably get locked into a debate with the Councillors and the Mayor but it is one way of getting crucial points home! Right time to go find out when the Governing Body is next up for a meeting.
As for the Herald article
As I said Bernard Orsman was at our table taking notes of the proceedings, his article can be found in the hyperlink above. As I also said I got a mention when I was hammering on about debt:
Another burning issue was the level of debt Mr Brown’s council is proposing and lifting the debt ceiling from 175 per cent of rates income to 275 per cent to pay for projects in the 10-year budget. Ben Ross, a new homeowner, found the figure of 275 per cent scary and wanted the Government to put strict instruments in place to control burgeoning council debt.
Fleeting but it’s there in the Paper – so I am happy there. I just noticed though this:
The informal budget hearings continue today and next week. The council is holding traditional hearings for larger groups starting on Friday.
Right that is enough to stir my to seek a deputation in front of the Governing Body – if larger groups get a Traditional Hearing, then I am going to go all out and present my case in front of the Full Council. So time to write a few emails to some Council secretaries.
So an interesting day yesterday by all accounts. Whether I do it again is another story 🙂 But I hammered my points home (despite the inherent difficulties with a forum-setting) and got Council to go investigate a few things, so a victory for me and VICTORY FOR AUCKLAND on those fronts.
Below was my Submission to the LTP (Link to Municipal Utility Districts are on page 10)