Crippling bureaucracy, inadequate infrastructure and inequity in rates paid versus services received were just a few of the frustrations raised when Auckland mayoral hopeful John Tamihere met with local business and community representatives last month.
Auckland Council and its offshoots were the subject of a raft of criticism at the meeting, which One Warkworth Business Association facilitated at the request of Mr Tamihere.
Representatives from Warkworth, Wellsford, Matakana and the eastern villages, Tapora and even Kumeu were present, raising concerns over the state of local roads, the draft Warkworth Structure Plan, Mahurangi River restoration funding, bureaucracy and how and where rates revenue was spent.
Mark Macky of One Warkworth said there was great concern over how the significant growth planned for Warkworth would be managed, and added that the new motorway would put huge pressure on the town.
“We believe Auckland Council are completely under-calculating the rate of growth,” he said. “Everything is very developer-led. It keeps us awake at night.”
Tapora resident Julie Cotton bemoaned a lack of rural rates spending, accusing Council of arrogance and a city-centric focus.
“Central Auckland is getting all the cream. Fifty five per cent of Auckland is still rural – that’s a shed-load of rates. We’re all putting that money in, but it’s going to a lot of glamorous stuff, and we’re not even getting basic infrastructure,” she said. “They have no idea where our communities are, and they are voting on stuff that affects us all.”
Matakana Community Group chair Simon Barclay said trying to get Council to work together with its council-controlled organisations (CCOs) such as Auckland Transport and Watercare was virtually impossible, and excessive regulations and red tape meant that it was difficult to get issues dealt with locally.
“We have amazing people and businesses who can all chip in to achieve things at a local level,” he said. “Council says there’s no money to do them, but they won’t let us go and do it ourselves, either.”
The Mahurangi River Restoration Trust’s Peter Thompson said the river and Warkworth could be a huge tourism asset if dredging could be funded, but little was forthcoming.
“We’re short of cash for everything, we’re the poor cousins up here,” he said. “We have to make a noise now, otherwise we’ll be fighting a rearguard action for years.”
Rodney Local Board member for Wellsford Colin Smith said the investment in and condition of rural roads had deteriorated as local administrative areas had expanded.
“Now everything is centralised, they’re leaving us with nothing,” he said. Tomarata farmer Brian Mason added: “We’re political orphans up here.”
John Tamihere said he was in favour of a per capita funding system that would be fairer, and said he was a great fan of devolution.
“We’ve got to have a model where rural areas are not discriminated against,” he said. “There are the same stories in the south east, around Clevedon, and so many stories on roading.”
He said the whole system needed a clean out and legislative and regulatory reset, with CCOs, in particular, needing to be better screened and accountable.
“You can’t have Auckland Transport running a different game to Auckland Council or you’re wasting money from the public purse,” he said. “You’ve got to open the books and cut waste. It’s about a culture change.
“The arrogance and entitlement of public servants; we need to change that.”
Mr Tamihere said that, if elected, he would not have an open cheque book. “But at least you’ll be heard, and we’ll be working through in a far more business-like way.”
One Warkworth stressed it would be extending the same opportunity for similar meetings with all mayoral candidates.