It was Groucho Marks who once said “politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies”.
This view certainly applies to the recent Arkles Bay set netting fiasco. It was an absolute ‘shocker’ and one that raises some serious questions about decision making in the Auckland Council.
In instances such as this it’s common for people to blame, “The Council”, but that’s not quite right. It’s actually specific individuals. In this case the councillors who voted against the wishes of the local community were Calum Penrose (Papakura), George Wood (North Shore), Linda Cooper (Waitakere), Bill Cashmore (Franklin), Alf Filipaina (Manukau) and Denise Krum (Tamaki). None of them actually visited Arkles Bay, nor did they bother to speak to any locals. The chair, Calum Penrose, declined an invitation to come up to Arkles Bay to talk with local residents prior to the meeting.
If they had visited, they would have quickly realised the reason for the intensity and unanimity of local feeling. It’s based on five long years of swimmers (including children) being entangled in nets, dolphins killed, local people abused and intimidated by a quasi-commercial gang of netters, up to five 60 metre long nets operating 4–5 times a week throughout the whole year, commandeering the bay, plundering fish stocks and presenting a hazard to kayakers, boaties, windsurfers and dogs.
They might also have learnt that with the introduction of a year round ban in 2007 that all these problems disappeared overnight. Instead, their rather arrogant and dismissive attitude merely parroted the view of the bureaucrats who seek to impose conformity across Auckland, no matter how inappropriate. For them there is no accountability, political or otherwise.
Local representatives Neil Henson and Jillian Warman presented overwhelming and compelling evidence of the threat to public safety and general nuisance, as did the local board representatives. Most tellingly of all, however, of the 667 public submissions presented to the council in little over a week, 666 supported keeping the year round ban, a staggering 99.85 percent support – the highest support rate of any bylaw brought to council!
Unfortunately Arkles Bay is not the first community to be disregarded in such a manner. There are plenty of councillors who talk a good game out in the public arena but who aren’t nearly so brave when they get to the town hall. There, it’s keeping in with the main power brokers that matters, doing what you’re told and towing the ‘party’ line.
And in light of recent announcements, if there’s one ‘party’ in Council whose numbers do definitely need building up, irrespective of so-called political affiliation, it’s the one composed of people willing to put the local voice to the front of the queue, not the back. When that happens, everyone across Auckland will be a whole lot better off.
As for Arkles Bay, the Coast has a proud tradition of standing up for what’s right and what’s fair. So this is not over – not by a long shot.
In the meantime, all the very best to everyone on the Hibiscus Coast for Christmas and the New Year. Thank you for all your help and support.