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Seven Ways to Put Auckland Back on Track

GEORGE WOOD is a North Shore ward councillor on the new Auckland Council. The former three-term mayor of North Shore City lives in Forrest Hill with wife Myra.

I have been looking closely at the areas where Auckland Council must concentrate during this last nine months of the life of this first council. Listing priorities is important and therefore I decided to come up with a list of my top seven issues for 2013.

1. Providing affordable council services: In this day and age local government occupies a privileged position in being able to strike rates to guarantee a regular source of income. It is therefore very important that every dollar collected by Auckland Council is justified and council is highly disciplined in how money is spent. The mayor and councillors play an important role in listening to the concerns of the community as to what is requested in the way of council services. Currently Auckland Council is gaining substantial savings when new contracts are let to provide services due to the economies the larger size of the contracts can achieve. Driving even further savings out of the overall operation must be upmost in the priorities of our council.

2. Strong leadership in the community: The last 15 years were a time when huge progress was made by the former North Shore Council in providing good services and infrastructure for our local community. It is interesting that locally on the Shore services like community development, arts and culture were provided by local trusts and groups who ran very lean organisations. I would certainly like to see the North Shore model for community development mirrored in other parts of Auckland. Relying on council to deliver services is all well and good up to a point but allowing communities to improve their own destiny is also very important.

3. Realistic Planning with Long Term Focus: Auckland Council must perform its role as the regional planning agency well. The approach must be evidence based and balanced and also reflecting the wishes of local communities. The council must ensure that the natural environment is preserved and enhanced. Auckland is a relatively young city but in our 170 years we have gained considerable heritage and culture which reflects the yesteryears. We must ensure that this history is maintained for future generations. It is essential that council is able to process planning applications expeditiously, in a manner that shows the highest levels of integrity. Auckland Council must ensure that major infrastructure like water/waste-water and road/transport improvements are provided for in a timely manner.

4.    Improvements in Transport Services: We need to have a more balanced approach to the provision of transport, especially public transport. Auckland must have a better relationship with Government in Wellington. Currently the Government and Auckland Council seem to be talking past each other. It is essential this relationship is enhanced. Timing of some large projects,
like the Central Rail Link, need to be prioritised correctly or we will break
the bank.

5. Economic Development and Job Creation: I agree that Auckland Council does not have a direct responsibility to actually create jobs. The council does have a major role in ensuring that an economic climate exists where business sees a positive future in setting up or expanding in the Auckland region. Young people being provided with decent jobs are our future, especially with our currently aging population. Council must zone suitable land for business and break the belief that too much “red tape” exists.

6. Providing Good Quality Parks and Environment: There is no doubting that the Auckland region has some of the best parks and beaches. Creating a culture of respect in relation to this beautiful natural environment is so important. This will require a well balanced approach by Auckland Council ensuring robust maintenance programmes that reflect community needs wishes and requirements. North Shore in particular has a number of beautiful bush and wilderness areas. I would like to see more effort placed on the prevention of erosion through better storm water management. Controlling the weed problems in Auckland Council parks must be addressed positively. We need an improvement strategy for out sports field and sports facilities.

7. Providing for Arts and Culture: The real standout cities worldwide have a huge focus on providing for arts and culture. Auckland is developing its own signature and branding with our strong blend of European, Maori, Pacific Island and Asian cultures. Music and drama are also playing a stronger influence in defining our future. Whilst we have a great selection of big central city theatres and galleries it is important that we continue to strongly support the community groups that provide grass root services. If ever Auckland Council gets value-for-money it is the work done by the art galleries and centres on the North Shore. This concept needs to be
reflected elsewhere.

by George Wood