Rural ratepayers’ rough ride
You’re just one of thousands of victims if you’re in despair over Auckland not-so-super-city policies and faults.
Desperate Rodney rural ratepayers tried to convince the council’s full finance and performance committee of their forgotten needs in March. The committee is chaired by former Rodney mayor Penny Webster.
But three days before that meeting – after its content was previewed to concerned ratepayers – the submission was taken off the agenda without explanation.
The suppressed document is the most strongly worded item I’ve read in decades of involvement in local bodies and as a member of seven elected boards and councils at various times.
Someone with convincing credentials was to present it – Brian Mason, chairman of the Landowners and Contractors Protection Association and a member of the Auckland Council’s own rural advisory panel.
A year ago, Lyndon Seabourne, whose Rodney company runs school buses among its services, wrote to Auckland Transport, the council transport arm.
He cited ‘‘ roads in the worst state in recent memory ... corrugated, potholed, lacking metal, in some cases the base has simply disappeared, we are driving on clay’’.
His letter was not even acknowledged, much less acted on. A year later, he believes roads have deteriorated even further.
In his unread submission, Mason says: ‘‘ Auckland Council has lost its way . . . failed in its duty of care to provide thousands of its citizens with basic core services – namely roading.
‘‘Central government handed a clear mandate to local government to get back to ‘ core business’. Rodney – and in particular northern Rodney – has 78 per cent or 568km of Auckland city’s unsealed roads.
‘‘These atrocious figures are a sad indictment of a modern city and need addressing urgently.
‘‘It’s certainly not the ‘world’s most liveable city’ to many thousands of us.
‘‘For many, roads are the only council service we receive for our rates.
‘‘We provide our own water, sewage and rubbish disposal. Many pay 10 times or more the rates of your average ‘council dependent’ property.
‘‘The super-city hasn’t seen one square inch of tarseal laid in Rodney . . . and the current budget of $13 million (an insulting sum) over 10 years will see our most urgent and pressing needs not addressed for 175 years. (Over 10 years, northern Rodney ratepayers will surrender more than $400m in rates.)
‘‘Northern Rodney resentment has morphed into a breakaway council movement currently before the local government commission from voters showing contempt and dissatisfaction towards Auckland Council.
priorit- ised before our basic services only serve to insult many thousands of us who’ve been left to flounder for decades.
‘‘We no longer wish to be the faceless and nameless ‘cashcows’ of Auckland.’’
The unread submission lists ‘‘vehicle maintenance problems on unsealed roads, risks of dust and allergens in homes accelerating asthmatic problems, contaminated water off roofs caked with dust, lime and carcinogenics ... virtually single-lanes carrying school buses and milk tankers, plus risks to unsuspecting and inexperienced tourists on unforgiving roads.
‘‘If you don’t live or work on these roads you fail to have the credentials to fully comprehend the woes and financial hardship they create for our daily lives.’’
Grey Sayers, a Rodney Local Board member who covered 180km of them in a survey, describes them as ‘‘deplorable, Third World’’.
How dangerous are these roads? Too perilous for council officers it seems.
In 2012, ratepayers questioned council extravagantly spending $20,000 of ratepayer money on hired four-wheel-drives to assess significant natural areas on private property in northern Rodney.
Chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley responded.
Hired 4WDs ‘‘addressed the safety concerns of employees while driving on unsealed roads’’.
Now, people who live there – without 4WDs – demand the same safety for themselves. And school buses.
Road appeal: Finance and performance committee chairwoman Penny Webster.