Mahurangi Matters – Readers Letters

Rodney first, community last

I read with dismay the article about Rodney First and the Local Board (MM January 17). When Rodney was forced into Auckland it was the first thing that we negotiated with the Auckland Transition Agency that Rodney would have four subdivisions representing the very different communities and their needs. The subdivisions were Wellsford (1 member), Warkworth (3 members), Dairy Flat (1 member) and Kumeu/ Helensville (4 members). The East and West Coasts each have unique issues and we wanted to be sure that Local Board members would act independently for the benefit of their community. Obviously when approaching Auckland Council for funding or Unitary Plan issues, it is important to work together and have one voice. But when debating issues such as raising fees for community halls, what should happen in local parks or funding community projects, the individual board members must vote for their communities. One of the issues that forced the amalgamation was that Auckland City ran very much on central government lines. Pre-meeting caucusing was done for each agenda and the voting was always the same. This meant that the tough decisions on spending on infrastructure were often delayed and why they are now in catch-up mode. To say 14 of the Local Boards have one political group running it is also a legacy of Auckland City. Those Boards do not have the geographical spread or the diversity that we have in Rodney. The issues they are dealing with are quite different from ours. Ms Houlbrooke stated that while this [having a dominant political group] was new in Rodney, it was the norm for the rest of Auckland for years. I can assure her that it was not the norm in the Legacy Councils of Franklin, Manukau, Waitakere, Pukekohe or the North Shore, it was only [the norm] in Auckland City. Nor is it the “norm” anywhere else in local government in New Zealand. The negative effect of block voting outweighs the positive. It is the community that suffers in the end.

Penny Webster, former Rodney District Mayor and Auckland Councillor