Viewpoint – The Hammerhead ­and other battles

It’s great to have community support on issues. The Hammerhead meeting, hosted by fellow Albany Ward Councillor John Watson and myself, had a big turnout with the flow-on effect of hundreds of submissions asking for an esplanade reserve to guarantee public access. The next battle will be at the hearing, presenting solid evidence and credible arguments. In this instance I can take a direct stand for the community against the position on the part of Council – Auckland Development or ‘Panuku’ – that is applying for subdivision consent without an esplanade reserve (or Queens Chain). The hearing is by independent commissioners, which excludes my participation, so instead, I’ll be fronting a well-prepared case alongside others. Getting alongside people in the community to bring about the right result is one of the most satisfying things for me on Council. In the case of the Hammerhead it’s a sustained effort over decades that will not end until public access is guaranteed by control through council.

Time and again there are choices on what stand to take. Council, Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) and Council Committees aren’t always right and nor do they always do the right thing by the community. The easy thing would be not to question and just go along with the prevailing view. So it was hard work successfully challenging and questioning the Stadium Strategy of CCO Regional Facilities Auckland that planned to turf out the Warriors, Speedway and Auckland Cricket respectively from Mount Smart, Western Springs and Eden Park No 2. These campaigns require persistence, collaboration, teamwork and most importantly that stakeholder and community support. There’s still work to be done to make sure these and other sporting codes get the recognition and support they deserve and the opportunity to invest with confidence in facilities that benefit them and Auckland. Auckland Cricket have plans for a boutique stadium on Eden Park No2 that will cater for themselves and also Rugby ­– providing a match for games where Eden Park No1 is too big and too expensive, while still making best use of the local transport improvements put in place for Eden Park as a whole.

The issue of intensification and ‘out of scope’ decisions on the Unitary Plan has gained a lot of publicity, especially the vote of the Governing Body (or full Council) that overturned the earlier committee decisions. Throughout the process – most of which was in confidential in the earlier committees – I challenged and voted against the Council’s ‘out of scope’ position where many thousands of people (entire communities), were not given the opportunity to submit on substantial intensification zoning affecting them directly. The Council’s own expert evidence showed that the extra intensification, which was above and beyond the publicly advertised Unitary Plan, was not necessary to meet Auckland’s population growth targets. It would have been unfair and unjust to vote this additional unnecessary intensification through. How would you like it if your neighbouring property received a significant increase in intensification that could substantially affect you without you having your say? There is always the opportunity to revisit the zoning plans at a later date, ideally with better neighbourhood participation and planning than has occurred in the Unitary Plan process to date. For example Vancouver in Canada has a city plan that was developed from the grassroots, achieved significant buy-in with very little opposition. Our aim should be to build better communities.