I hope that everyone is having a good summer and making the most of this beautiful part of the world that we are so fortunate to live in. I know it’s often said but it’s still worth repeating – we are very blessed with our natural environment here on the Coast. Recently researchers in Scotland analysed responses from 21,294 urban residents in 34 European nations and found compelling evidence that the mental health gulf that divides those in wealth and poverty is 40 percent narrower for people reporting good access to green space. Simply put, living near a nice park drastically reduces the well-being gap between rich and poor (throw in beaches/regional parks, such as we enjoy, and the well-being quotient presumably improves even further).
That’s why preserving our open spaces and unique environment should always be a top priority. A strong, united front needs to be presented against interests, council or otherwise, that seek to compromise public open spaces acquired over generations – places like the Hammerhead, for instance, which additionally serves vital boating and public transport functions.
Something definitely not worth preserving, however, was the nonsensical Stadium Strategy that was quietly ditched just before Christmas. It had been widely opposed by the sporting codes themselves and the general public. By contrast most councillors and the mayor had gone along with it unquestioningly, dismissive of the public opposition and unwilling to scrutinise the detail of what was proposed. Cr Wayne Walker and myself took an active interest in this Stadium Strategy and worked with the affected codes, such as the Warriors, to expose its glaring shortcomings and unnecessary expense. In this respect the common sense and businesslike approach of the people running rugby league, cricket and speedway made for a telling contrast with those in council supporting this strategy.
Unfortunately the stadiums have been but one of a number of significant issues where vested or corporate interests are put ahead of those of the Auckland public. That’s why this back down represents a real victory for the sporting codes and their fans.
On other matters, it was disappointing to see that Penlink wasn’t one of the transport projects announced by the Prime Minister recently (after much speculation that it would be included). I would have thought Penlink’s estimated $400 million price tag would have compared more than favourably with the $1.25–1.85 billion for the East-West connection for instance, on a cost-benefit analysis. Still the route has recently been redesignated and remains in Auckland Transport’s plans for the future, albeit too distant for most people’s liking.
There is good news on the Hibiscus Coast transport front, however, and that is the significant improvements to the network that are in the pipeline for this year. This includes enhanced peak-hour traffic flow along Whangaparaoa Road from Red Beach lights to the highway, further extension of the Silverdale park and ride and major improvements to the Gulf Harbour ferry service – more details on all three to come later in Hibiscus Matters.