Ru­ral ratepay­ers’ rough ride

Central Leader - - OPINION -

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.

‘‘Ex­trav­a­gant wish

lists

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.

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