Tag: Local Board

To 2016 and also Future of Auckland relative to New Zealand

Focus to the 2016 Local Elections

 

The Local Elections for 2013 are nearly over with voter turnout to be the worst in living memory. We will be teeth gnashing over this for months to come on reasons why the turnout was so crap.

Along with my Geography of Tourism paper I am writing on Te Papa North – Manukau, I might also write one up on these elections as well for Auckland. I have had some interesting conversations with people over these elections and the conclusions whether they be Left or Right were generally the same.

Just as a test on Political Marketing 101 here I am going to copy over two election campaign “blurbs.” See what you think and if inclined leave a comment below. Oh comment on the style rather than personal attacks on the person please…

From Len Brown and John Palino

From NZ Herald

Election heads for low vote count

By Bernard Orsman @BernardOrsman

Len Brown

Much has been achieved since the establishment of the Auckland Council, but there is more work to do. We’ve brought our region together and are tackling the big challenges facing Auckland.

We’re seeing progress on the infrastructure needed to unclog the roads. Average rate increases have reduced from 5.7 per cent under the old councils down to 2.9 per cent, and I’ve pledged to reduce them to 2.5 per cent next year.

If I have the honour of being re-elected mayor, my priorities will be:

Fixing Auckland’s transport, with a focus on starting the city rail link, better bus services, school transport plans and upgrading local roads

Keeping rates low and delivering efficiencies across council budgets

Increasing the housing supply with more affordable housing, so families have a place to call home

Supporting economic development and more jobs for Aucklanders

Protecting our beautiful environment and cleaning up our harbours

Investing in the pools, parks, libraries and town centres that make our communities special

I’m proud of this city, its spirit and the diverse people and cultures that make us unique.

John Palino

I’m going to put the “local” back into local government. That means more power and responsibility for you, your community and local boards on one hand, and on the other means I’ll be able to focus on keeping rates down, controlling our region’s exploding debt and providing the best possible regional services for you, your family and your business.

I’ve committed to keeping rates at the level of CPI inflation (currently 0.7 per cent) or below that every year that I am mayor.

I’m going to strengthen local boards so that decisions are made closer to residents, removing the need for bureaucracy, and improve transparency of council processes so you can monitor progress.

For new growth to Auckland I will concentrate in priority areas where there is both public support and public transport.

The most significant such area will become a second CBD in Manukau, because that’s where the strongest growth is, where the biggest need remains for jobs and where there is existing infrastructure.

I’m going to target congestion by making it easier to take public transport, not more unpleasant to drive. I will greatly expand park-and-ride facilities and, with growth focused on transport-equipped priority areas, will reduce future traffic increases.

—-

I will make my own musings on this later

 

 

Focus though now will be turning to the 2016 Local Government Elections. Any one with a sense of intelligence will realise that if you want to run for Council, Mayor or Local Board in 2016 your campaign starts now. Actually it started 18 months ago for Mayor.

 

It takes time to build rapport with your potential voters and get use to the issues of a Council. See for example if I were to run for a Council seat in 2016 my campaign would have started 18 months ago and continue until the day before election day 2016.

You start quietly by getting involved with your community and finding out how Council works. By getting to know your community you get to know the issues as they are often long-“lingering” ones. By finding out how Council works you can learn how to not make a total muppet of yourself in the formal stage of the campaign by “promising” things that can’t actually be done (Local Board candidates wanting to revoke the Unitary Plan being one). To find out how Council works it means taking time to rock up to Town Hall and sitting in through some often long and very boring Committee Meetings. My particular two were Transport and the Auckland Plan Committees (and those weren’t actually boring, Strategy and Finance always was 😛 ).

But I learnt a wealth of information at those meetings, struck up networks with Councillors, Officers, Media Officials and other members of the public. That networking and often a sense of curiosity on my part would allow me to be invited to the media table at Committee meetings and media briefings on things like Finances and the Unitary Plan. A privilege I am honoured to have and one I return thanks back often.

Local Boards you will need to familiarise yourself with too and what they get up to. They are an integral part of the Council in making sure your community is being looked after. Local Boards are also often the first port of call if you have a problem you would like to take up with Council. Admittedly I short-circuited my Local Board and would either go straight to the main Council or to Auckland Transport if a transport issue. More lately though I have been keeping a more close eye on my Local Board with some heavy issues coming up (The Rural Urban Boundary, Manukau and Glenora Road Station). So don’t forget the Local Boards too.

And from that if I were hypothetically run for Office the skills and tools learnt from interaction mentioned above I could use in a campaign.

 

Media and Social Media presence is a bug bear by candidates to me. You never see most candidates until right weeks before the elections where they suddenly pop up – often like a weed over the summer, then after the election you will never hear from them for three more years.

Your campaign for 2016 starts now if not 18 months ago. This means from GO you need a media if not social media presence. There are all sorts of ways this can be done and various good campaign managers will brief you on that. Again if I were to run hypothetically I have my blog to call back on. Talking Auckland is linked to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and via email. This means I can run a social media presence that has been picked up by Main Stream Media outlets, Council itself, other Social Media Commentators and other individuals out there.

It also means that by 2016 I would have built up over five years roughly a presence that can be capitalised on. Candidates need to do this and be in for the long game if they want both a good voter turn out and a measure of respect as well. A good pre-built presence also means you can swat away daft MSM coverage like berms and focus on the actual stuff should it happen…

There are many other things that can be done as well to build up a good profile for an election if you are chasing office. While I am not running for office I am sharing the above points as I use them when fleshing out candidate choices – especially if I do not like the incumbent. I also believe in good voter turn out and respect back to the voters. Doing the above will earn that respect and achieve a good outcome, do the opposite as we are seeing mostly at the moment and you wonder why the turn out is crap as it is.

 

So your campaign for 2016 has already started – it actually on real thoughts started 18 months ago. If you have not started then start now. Wait three years and forget it you wont be getting my vote.

 

Something to remember

 

 

The Isthmus and Berm Mowing

Compromise or Harden Up?

 

Must be election time in Auckland. Why? Apart from the fact in front of my keyboard I have my voting papers (for: Mayor, Ward Councillors, Local Board and District Health Board – and which make some depressing reading (the pamphlet of candidate choice is not that inspiring)), the Isthmus is still going on about their berms in front of their properties being mowed.

This stems from a decision on the 2012-2022 Long Term Plan deliberations (the LTP is now operative/in effect) that to save $3.2m from the Council budget, the former Auckland City Council area residents will no longer have their berms mowed by a Council contractor. The Isthmus like: Franklin, Papakura, Manukau, Waitakere, North Shore and Rodney will now have to mow the berm that is in front of their properties.

The rest of the City is wondering what is the Isthmus moaning about when for years if not decades everyone else just mowed their berms when they mowed their lawns. The most common reason I hear from the Isthmus is that the $3.2m of a service cut was not passed on in rates savings. Rather than parts of the Isthmus have been stung with a string of some of the highest rate rises in all of Auckland over the last three years.

 

At the end of the day we can keep going around in circles and most likely tell the Isthmus to harden up and join the rest of us in wider Auckland.

Or we could seek a solution. Councillor Casey and candidate Mark Donnelly both mooted an idea, one that I also submitted on to my submission to the 2012-2022 Long Term Plan. The Solution?

  1. Proper funding of the Local Boards for local services
  2. Allow individual Local Boards to pick whether they want contractors mowing the berms in their area

Basically if a Local Board wanted to pay a contractor of their choice to mow their areas’ berms rather than have the residents do so then they are free to choose. However, the cost would come out of the Local Board’s budget. This means the Local Board would have to decide how to raise the money for this service. The most obvious one would be a targeted rate to pay for the service.

But that way the Local Boards could choose whether they wanted the berms in front of houses mowed by a contractor.

 

While this does not address wider issues such as the 10-10-10 rate rise and loss of earlier berm mowing on the Isthmus it is a remedy to allow Local Boards decide local decisions.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below

 

Really – With The Surveys?

Seems the Centre Right are Lacking Again?

 

This keeps cropping up today thanks to Councillor Cameron Brewer:

Polls cost millions

Len Brown‘s Auckland Council has spent more than $5.1 million on pollsters and surveys in the past three years.

A council spokesman said about 60 per cent of the spending was required under law, mainly for annual planning and reporting.

 

But councillor Cameron Brewer said spending on pollsters was “out of control”.

 

Brewer said: “Think of the improvements a local park or playground could’ve enjoyed with this money. Instead it’s all gone into lining the pockets of private pollsters.”

The figures were released to Brewer under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

 

“It’s time to stop the spinning and get back to delivering core council services for ratepayers,” he said. He suspected the polling was being done for “purely political reasons”.

 

A further $212,237 has been spent on around 15,827 panellists that the council use to “have their say on a wide range of council issues, activities and plans”.

You can read the rest over at the Herald site.

 

Seriously though is this all Cameron and candidate for mayorship Palino really think about at the moment?

While conducting polls is a vexed issue (and rightfully so), the People’s Panel to which I participate in is a straight forward exercise.

You sign up and periodically you get to fill out an electronic survey that comes into your email box. Where ever you can access the emails you can do the survey. And that means some days I might be filling one out at a lunch break in Town Hall. Most are short (although I did get a long one on parks and recreation) and relate to CORE service issues Council provide and the Right Wing blather on about.

The surveys I have done from the People’s Panel have included:

  • The Proposed Takanini Library (survey commissioned by the Local Board)
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Unitary Plan (had a few of those and a reason I was invited to the Civic Forums on the Unitary Plan)
  • Public Transport
  • The CBD

I seriously don’t see what the problem is with the People’s Panel (which do release summaries after the said survey). The surveys are designed to be quick, efficient and “portable” for when Council, the Local Boards, or even Auckland Transport are scoping out opinions.

Yes Desley (of Orakei) we can go to the Local Boards and the Local Boards can come to us. But, that can be slow and cumbersome when one needs a quick fire quantitative survey done on something. Heck even the Papakura Local Board engaged in a People’s Panel survey on the proposed Library.

I would assume my Local Board would then hold face to face or submission sessions on the Library if the survey results were in favour of the proposal.

 

So the People’s Panel has its use and I don’t mind giving my opinions to the Council in that format when they want to answer something particular. It can sure beat writing 105 page submissions and long blog posts to boot.

But, in their drive for “savings” and “core services” it would seem Brewer and Palino would cut off an actual “core service” – by denying an easy medium for Council to (you know Cameron seeming you go on about it) engage with the local or wider community.

Oh and if you wonder about the gauge of opinions, well I know the Panel would be diverse if my comments and Facebook friend Scott’s are anything to go by. Some days we would agree other days the Centre Left and Centre Right arguments (me being the “young Tory) will come out. And by looking at the Civic Forums the mix was reasonably balanced except on the geographic front where South Auckland was lacking in numbers BADLY!

 

Come on guys find better ways in getting our rates bill down – while not hobbling an engagement arm Council and running distractions on lack of hard policy…

Updates, Holiday, and C&R Playing Same Old Again

Will Be Away Next Week

 

I will be away next week from August 6 to the 10th in Tauranga on a nice mid year winter break. Looking at Council and Auckland Transport business next week there is nothing particularly heavy happening apart from the Transport Committee on the Wednesday. You can see my commentary on the upcoming meeting in the Transport Committee to Discuss Rail Patronage post.

In saying that and thanks (or a curse) to the Digital Age I will still be keeping an eye on things in Auckland if anything does crop up.

 

Act Honestly

Speaking of things cropping up it seems the Centre Right, more to the point C&R are back to their old politicking tricks again as the campaign draws on towards October.

I was aware there was the second and final Unitary Plan Mapping Workshop yesterday with the Councillors and the Local Boards. Looking at social media feeds at the timetable it was running from 9am until 1:45 with lunch about 12:10pm. And from the final remarks it seemed the workshop went well although I did pick up a comment on the planners being a tad hesitant on some proposed changes – it happens.

What caught my attention though was on Facebook was three Communities and Resident (C&R) incumbents (one councillor and two Local Board members) having a photo op and stating it was for preparation for the campaign. Out of curiosity I questioned Nigel Turnball the incumbent C&R Local Board member who planning to run alongside incumbent C&R Councillor Chris Fletcher for the Albert-Eden Ward seat (effectively trying to tip out Councillor Dr Cathy Casey) why they were not at the Unitary Plan Mapping Workshop.

I was told by Nigel that this was early morning session and that they did show up to the workshop yesterday. That was fine and I would have left it at that. However, literally by coincidence at the same time on Twitter I had Nigel’s Local Board counterpart’s mention that “they” (our photo op people) did not show up until lunch time (if that) and that the maps went away either then or not long after.

So I questioned Nigel again for clarification and I was told their photo op session was the day previous. A photo of a Unitary Plan map with pencil drawings was soon posted later. Now I would have left the whole affair at that and gone on to the next subject matter at hand at the time. But, when one gets alerted that your comments were deleted the suspicion alarms go up automatically. Sure enough the comment thread with my line of questions was removed. I would also suspect that the map photo would have come from the first Unitary Plan Mapping workshop rather than the second one if the maps were put away yesterday at the time they said they were.

Where am I going with this? C&R up to their old tricks again rather than being accountable as they keep harping to the Centre Left about.

What will get me at maximum suspicion automatically and very quickly is not the fact the comment line with the question line was deleted – although that does get suspicions up but, the fact that person strong in the “faith” and makes it publicly known either deleted or allowed someone to delete the questions rather than allowing the thread to stay put and others being the judge themselves.

Unfortunately I did not get a screenshot of the thread (although there were witnesses that saw my line of questioning) as I believed I would have no reason to do so – if the said person was acting with integrity. Obviously someone there was not and now the thread is gone.

My suspicions now? That these people who are critics of the Unitary Plan and rather vocal on it decided that a photo op was more important than working with their Local Board counterparts, their other Councillor, and the Planners in trying to get the maps more reflective of community feedback.

I have blasted Councillors Brewer and Coney for grandstanding at Auckland Plan Committee meetings on the Unitary Plan, and I let rip into Councillor Walker after his performance at the last committee while not at workshops.

I should be letting rip into these three Centre Right representatives for not being at a very critical mapping workshop. The last workshop where they can make changes to the maps before they come back out to the public in the formal notification process starting later this year.

Unacceptable from all three of them indeed and will not earn favourable light from this end any time soon.

There is a moral of the story here. Tell the truth for starters when questioned and don’t go deleting the comment thread on Facebook while one is paying attention as one was. Now one believes someone did have something to hide and was being dishonest about it. Otherwise the thread would have remained and most likely the person being a tad more truthful than what there were being in the first place.

It also does them no good when I am already naturally suspicious of the Centre Right and Right Wing and they go and decide to pull that stunt off. And it does not do anything better when I am also naturally suspicious of those who are more “conservative” in the Christian or Catholic faith and such person commits a rather shady act in the political realm.

 

I suppose those who are running for an elected position in Council can take the above as a warning. Act dishonestly and no favours will be earned in a hurry from here.

 

The voters are watching

Rates, Rates and oh the Rural Urban Boundary

Otherwise it is all about the rates

 

Do I really want to talk about the issue that has people frothing at the mouth most on a beautiful Sunday morning in Auckland. Yes I do. It is about those things we call Rates – you know, the money from us that funds Council activities.

As the Council year finished on June 30 we have the new cycle under way. This means the next round of rates instalments is on their way to your letterbox (in August). It also means the next round of rates rises or decreases are on their way as we hit the second year of the transition system (which includes the cap of 10% max rise and 5.56% max decrease).

Tomorrow morning there will be a briefing and a Q&A session on the next round of rates instalments. I will endeavour to have the report and commentary up later that night on the latest for the now current Council financial cycle.

Remembering from the 2013/14 Annual Plan discussions that rate rises were averaging 2.9% – below the 4.8% forecast in the 2012-21 Long Term Plan.

 

Rural Urban Boundary

As mentioned earlier in the week on Wednesday the Council and Local Boards will be discussing the Rural Urban Boundary at a Unitary Plan workshop (closed session). While I am not keeping up with state of play for the north and north-west RUB, I am definitely keeping up with state of play for the Southern RUB.

As mentioned in my “Pukekohe Area Plan Maps and Information” reblogged post earlier this week; Franklin Local Board has been working with their community and will be advancing their proposal for the RUB at the Wednesday workshop.

While the green-zone buffer has moved from Paerata to Drury, the “corridor” concept seems to have been stuck to and is what is being advanced. This is similar to what I believe most in Southern Auckland submitted on in general as a RUB option – including myself.

I do really hope as the most practical and “sustainable” of all the Southern RUB options that what FLB have proposed is what will be in the final Unitary Plan when it becomes operative. In saying that I can think of two spanners that can be thrown into the works that would screw the Southern RUB preferred option up:

  1. Dr Nick Smith and his Housing Accord – Special Housing Areas (unless they go inside the RUB preferred option)
  2. Karaka Collective if their option is left out and they decide to challenge it in the Environment Court

 

As the preferred RUB option proposed by FLB and Southern Auckland submitters staves off THAT bridge, there might be some pro-Weymouth/Karaka Bridge supports aggrieved by this situation. This will be a case of watch and see as the Southern RUB preferred option moves through the Unitary Plan processes.

Talking Auckland will be keeping a special eye on the Southern RUB as it does progress through the Unitary Plan.

 

 

 

Local Board Service Provisions Falter

Local Boards Starved of Needed Cash – So Another Way to Provide Local Services?

 

Just recently Manurewa Local Board Chair – Angela Dalton posted some rather sad pictures on the state of affairs in regards to maintenance to civic places like parks and berms in Manurewa. I’ll let the photos do the talking here:

 

Now after Angela had posted the photos, the Council contractor raced out with the mowers to err trim the grass – and leave it all behind (which would have made great hay for my chickens) (oh and miss the edges too). However as the Manurewa and Papakura Local Boards will attest to, service provisions for these Local Boards from the main Council and its contractors who look after civic places has basically fallen off a cliff. And these Local Board Service Provision stories I keep seeing on Facebook due to either Local Boards facing cuts in their budgets to fund provisions or services, or super city amalgamation being a catalyst to decrease in either services or quality of services are appearing time and time again.

 

So the question is ‘what on earth is going on here?’ Why are our Local Boards being hurt with inadequate service provisions and ratepayers/communities having to suffer from reduced service levels from Auckland Council. Last month I ran a post (AN INVESTIGATION) highlighting the discussion about rates and service provisions to our local communities.

I had basically said that we need to look at how we fund things, how we fund the Local Boards, and how the Local Boards should be properly resourced to provide adequate service provisions for their communities. An example of what I said was:

Just a refresher (just in case) Bulk Funding the Local Boards goes like this. Orakei currently pays $106m in rates to the “Council” yet “Council” only gives $10m (about 10%) back to Orakei to run its Local Board and services. The proposal I am running with is Orakei pays $106m to “Council” and Council gives back (and that is a must, no if’s buts or maybes) 25-33% (up to Local Board’s decision on level) back to Orakei so Orakei can run and maintain its Local Community Services, Events plus any CAPEX spending as it sees fit (of course with dialogue with its residents and businesses).

The Governing Body can not touch the 33% as it is ring fenced to Local Boards. This also includes the Governing Body unable to hike the rates beyond 1.6x the rate of inflation at max with all spending spelled out per the current Better Local Government MK II Bill/Act/Paper

You can read the rest of that post by clicking HERE.

 

After I posted the “An Investigation” post, Botany National MP – Jami-Lee Ross posted and kicked off this discussion with me about Local Board funding and service provisions”

 

Rates Due to Hike Again – So Time for An Investigation

Okay, some idiot in Council mentioned rates and rates rises again giving the hapless ratepayer a sour stomach as we approach Summer and the Silly Season (although for Council, it is always the Silly Season with the Ratepayer Credit Card). Here is a piece from Councillor Cameron Brewer via Facebook with all the comments below (I am pasting this to draw context on where I am going with this):

 

  • Andy Cawston likes this.
  • Jami-Lee Ross In my view, the simplest way to fund local services would be as follows:
    1) have a clear definition of what is local and what is regional
    2) everything regional is funded from a general rate set by governing body. They are accountable for it. 
    3) everything local is funded from a local services targeted rate, funded from within that ward and kept within that ward. Local board set this targeted rate and are accountable for it. No cross subsidisation on local projects. Complete control for local boards when it comes to local issues. High spending local boards can spend whatever they want. Frugal local boards can likewise do so and not see their savings going back into the general pool.

    This model would ring-fence local funding for local initiatives, but would still see regional infrastructures and services funded. It would empower local boards much more as well as demand greater accountability.
  • Ben Ross You and I are on the exact same page here Jami-Leein regards to your comment 😀:D Now then can we do such a thing or do we need you guys (Central Govt) to a legislation change?
  • Jami-Lee Ross Auckland can do that by itself. It would just require discipline and a willingness by the governing body.
  • Ben Ross Okay so in other words a great amount of difficulty then 😛:P if you know what I mean
  • Jami-Lee Ross Im not sure we are on the same page – bulk funding as you describe it would see the governing body still in control of the level of funding to local boards. I would suggest LBs decide themselves and be accountable for it. If LB-A wants to ramp local rates up by 25%, they should be able to, but have to fund that from within their own local board area. If LB-B wants to have a 25% cut in local rates, they should also be able to, but have to find the saving within their own area.
  • Ben Ross Okay a similar page then but none the less ideas that can be worked on. We are both wanting similar outcomes just at this point in time different ways in achieving it. Although I am sure we can flesh out points and build a solid idea/proposal/case
  • Jami-Lee Ross It’s all academic anyway. Chances of seeing the governing body give up some power is near zero.
  • Ben Ross Sadly yes

A good discussion of ideas there about Local Board funding and service provisions. And a (mature) discussion to be honest and frank we as a community and a city need to have.

I’ll tell you what, I will go look into these ideas some more and get back to you. However I am willing to run in my election to Papakura Local Board next year stating that; If elected to Papakura Local Board 2013, I will advocate and push for a full and frank discussion with the residents and businesses inside the Papakura Local Board area on Local Board Funding and Service Provision. Do you want the status quo as currently; or do you want something like bulk funding and increased “power” over your Local Board service provisions whether it be the method I suggest OR the method Jami-Lee Ross suggested. Which ever option you chose will be the option pushed to lobby the main Council/Governing Body!

Just a quick note though, the wheels of the governing body and bureaucracy turn slow. So even if and when the discussion began, it will take some time to push the governing body and bureaucracy to change and adopt the provisions you want for your community. Patience would be the key thing here, something even I need and have to persevere with as we go through the motions with the Manukau South Link.

 

Service provisions for our Local Boards funded or provided by the main Council is a sore point with local residents, businesses, communities and Local Boards. Alternatives are being searched for and once found should be presented to the local community/communities for their input and discussion. At the end of the day it is the local that gets stuck with how and what local service provisions are provided and funded for – whether it be from the main Council or via bulk funding. I am ready to have that robust discussion for a Better Papakura and Better Auckland – are you?