Viewpoint – The rural divide

Cleisthenes, an ancient Athenian philosopher, invented the term “democracy” in the 5th century, moving from an aristocratic system (ruling by the elite) to ruling by the people. The term is still used today to give people the impression that they have a say in how their rates are spent … but do they really? Wellsford has been subject to the Supercity for 12 years, but still struggles to get roading and drainage up to standard.

On the plus side, Wellsford township has been serviced by the Rodney Local Board community services team. The town is starting to look good, with new public toilets, footpath upgrades, a toilet block at Te Hana and an upgrade to the Te Hana play facilities. The team is looking forward to doing more on their reserves.

It is time for Auckland Council to support new development in Wellsford, with housing and business innovation. This in turn, will create work and job opportunities.

On the negative side, Council does not want to recognise there is a problem surrounding our rural roads and road drainage network. There are 50,000 vehicle movements on our Rodney rural roads daily. I have worked with Auckland Transport for the last six years and have helped develop the Unsealed Road Improvement Programme. Auckland Transport has lifted the level of service but is facing big problems with lack of funding to seal the good work they
have done.

Herein lies the issue of democracy; how can you have a balanced Rodney Local Board when only three of nine members are independent, while the remainder have joined together (The Rodney First group) in a cartel which commands most of any vote. I find this frustrating when the use of a targeted rate was proposed to improve rural roading, lifting the expectations of the rural community. The Rodney First group instead, against the wishes of the rural community, decided to move the money to buses, car parks and footpaths.

The rest of Auckland receives these services without a targeted rate. The vast majority of Rodney ratepayer funding has been spent on concrete busways, cycleways and public transport. This has no tangible benefit to the rural ratepayers.

Lastly, we must address rural drainage issues. Council seems to think that by blocking up our overland flow paths with plants, we are going to achieve good water quality. Now the drainage is blocked with silt and the flooding water has become a nuisance. The Drainage Act was introduced so that all overland paths had to be clear of all obstruction and flooding could not become a nuisance. Why is rural paying for drainage in their normal rates, paying an environmental targeted rate and now, a third targeted rate?
Democracy for all? You decide.

Viewpoint - Rodney Local Board