Brick­bats – and a big bou­quet

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

No not-so-su­per coun­cil­lors really ex­pected a flush of Christ­mas cards from grate­ful tax­pay­ers in their let­ter boxes in the next few weeks, did they?

So they won’t really be dis­ap­pointed when no flash cards ar­rive.

Just as an ad­mit­tedly sim­ple sur­vey of this col­umn’s read­ers shows that none of them are ex­pect­ing a cracker from Len’s Lot dat­es­tamped from the town hall. Among the re­sponses: ‘‘Read your ar­ti­cle on Len Brown’s new won­der city and thought to share my ex­pe­ri­ence. Re­tired at 71 this April, af­ter work­ing since turn­ing 15, with what I con­sid­ered a com­fort­able nest egg.

‘‘Rates went up 50 per cent so I rang ask­ing about the re­bate for superannuitants. Oh no they said, taken on last year’s in­come, so no re­lief this year. I now have to dip into what I thought would be re­tire­ment/travel money to pay the rates. I also won­der what ex­tras I get for my $3200 com­pared to some­one in Manukau or wher­ever they pay less than $1000?’’ – Name pro­vided

‘‘Although it’s nice that Auck­land is listed as a top ‘ tourist town’, this really only ben­e­fits the com­mer­cial en­ter­prises that gain their in­come from said tourists – a very small per­cent­age of our pop­u­la­tion.

‘‘As far as or­di­nary ci­ti­zens – the ones who pay for coun­cil dreams – are con­cerned, we seem to have gained very lit­tle from the amal­ga­ma­tion. We were promised sav­ings through the re­moval of du­pli­cated func­tions when one greater coun­cil took over. In fact, we have suf­fered se­verely from the grandiose schemes and mis­guided pri­ori­tis­ing of ex­pen­di­ture. The crunch is the rates bill. With the ‘in­ef­fi­cient’ sep­a­rate coun­cils, my rates over the pe­riod 1998 to 2010 rose an av­er­age of 4.8 per cent per year, and our ser­vices were per­fectly ad­e­quate.

‘‘In the last year – the sec­ond year of the su­per-ef­fi­cient su­per-city when all should have set­tled down – my rates for this year have risen 27 per cent – a to­tally in­ex­cus­able amount, es­pe­cially when one con­sid­ers the ever-in­creas­ing cuts in ser­vices.’’ – Ross Muir

‘‘Mine’s a very short re­ply, what has Len’s Lot done ex­cept raise the cost for the ma­jor­ity of Auck­lan­ders? They have done ab­so­lutely noth­ing, zilch, zero.

‘‘Of course he will try and pick up on any­thing, he likes noth­ing bet­ter than pat­ting him­self on the back. When there are tough is­sues he is nowhere to be seen. Tell the peo­ple to check their water rates also as I be­lieve that when go­ing to monthly billing there was an in­crease of a min­i­mum of 16 per cent. I bet a lot of peo­ple are un­aware of this!’’ – Dennis Lang, Paku­ranga

‘‘I un­der­stand that Dr Lester Levy now has a third big job – as well as chair­ing Auck­land and Waitem­ata health boards, he’s now run­ning Auck­land Trans­port.

‘‘I hope he’s able to make a quick di­ag­no­sis and an­swer a ques­tion that wor­ries me and hun­dreds of thou­sands of su­per-city tax­pay­ers.

‘‘Our ques­tion: Have the peo­ple be­hind a sys­tem of one ticket travel by – train, bus and fer­ries – taken us for a ride? That sys­tem never gets any closer and is prob­a­bly cost­ing mil­lions more than bud­geted for.’’ – Name pro­vided

Amid the brick­bats, a big bou­quet:

‘‘I have a dif­fer­ent take on the Auck­land Coun­cil’s first two years. As a ratepayer hit with a 30 per cent rise and which will come into force over the next few years, I could have cause for com­plaint.

‘‘But as some­one who has worked in sys­tems im­ple­men­ta­tion and busi­ness process re­design here and overseas within large or­gan­i­sa­tions over the past 25 years I’d rather give the coun­cil bou­quets not brick­bats. They have seem­ingly pulled off an enor­mous feat of in­te­gra­tion, peo­ple, pro­cesses, po­lices and tech­nolo­gies, with the min­i­mum of mis­takes. Sure there have been moans and there have been win­ners and losers but over­all I’m as­tounded there haven’t been more Novo­pay dis­as­ters.

‘‘There is in­creased con­sis­tency in rates, water charges, reg­u­la­tory ser­vices such as dog con­trol across the whole area now and more to come with waste col­lec­tion and street verge care. It makes sense. So what have I got for my sub­stan­tial rates in­crease? Fi­nally, a coun­cil who will bite the bul­let and make the big in­vest­ments in Auck­land in­fra­struc­ture, es­pe­cially trans­port?

‘‘I lived 33 of my 47 years in Auck­land and, ex­cept when I was a stu­dent, have never used pub­lic trans­port un­til the last two years. And Auck­lan­ders have moaned about that for ev­ery one of those 33 years that I can re­mem­ber.

‘‘Now I can walk up the road know­ing a bus will come along ev­ery 10 min­utes to take me to work. I can live with be­ing the gen­er­a­tion who is sad­dled with paying for train in­fra­struc­ture.

‘‘Some­one has to be. I do have my fin­gers crossed though that this coun­cil will out­live the Na­tional Government and have its re­quests for cen­tral as­sis­tance heard by some more favourable com­bi­na­tion of Green/Labour/Maori/Mana.

‘‘And as for a ‘re­newed sense of pas­sion’, well I wouldn’t have cho­sen those words but yes, I’m more ex­cited now about liv­ing in Auck­land than I’ve ever been.

‘‘I’ve joined up to the ‘peo­ple’s panel’ and ac­tu­ally feel as though I’ve had a say on Auck­land poli­cies and strate­gic plans. No-one ever asked my opin­ion be­fore. I’m en­joy­ing the new space at Wyn­yard Quar­ter (thanks, coun­cil, for the reg­u­lar cool events down there for both adults and kids) and the re­newed spa­ces around Brit­o­mart, Aotea Cen­tre/Town Hall/Li­brary, Eden Park. Skate park for Kings­land; bike tracks for Arch Hill and off Sy­monds St.

‘‘One­hunga is get­ting its fore­shore and beach back and now has a train line! Manukau has a trans­port hub. I like what I see in the plans about Quay and Cus­toms streets and the tram link to the East­ern Bays. A de­ci­sion about Do­min­ion Rd and re­newed in­vest­ment in the ‘vil­lages’ that are found along it.

‘‘Come on, Pat. Be fair. There has been an enor­mous amount of ‘in­te­gra­tion’ work be­hind the scenes and there is loads of ac­tiv­ity about town as well if only you’d open your eyes and ears to it.’’ – Anne Wil­liams, Auck­land

‘‘Len’s Lot have achieved a lot in two years – gen­er­ously sup­ported just about ev­ery pro­fes­sional sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion within sight with con­sid­er­able ben­e­fit to shop­keep­ers, restau­rants and mo­tels but not the rest of us. Early days yet, though.

‘‘Re­lieved down­town con­ges­tion by di­vert­ing Ports of Auck­land’s trade to Tau­ranga by clev­erly not in­ter­ven­ing in the re­cent labour dis­pute. Al­lowed un­elected Maori Statu­tory Board mem­bers a vote in the city’s fi­nan­cial af­fairs – a rev­o­lu­tion­ary twist in the demo­cratic process.

‘‘Freed their bu­reau­crats and or­gan­i­sa­tions like ATEED (Auck­land Tourism, Events and Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment) from med­dle­some coun­cil­lors in­ter­fer­ence. And all this done with­out trou­bling the ratepay­ers who wouldn’t un­der­stand any­way.

‘‘Re­mem­ber Un­cle Len knows best. Tut, like many un­cles, he seems to have over­stayed his wel­come.’’ – Name sup­plied

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