Oh Waiheke

The final breakdown of elections results confirmed I won in Waitematā (city centre and central suburbs) but unfortunately it was a very different picture on Waiheke.  I wrote the following for the Waiheke Gulf News (published on 1 December 2022) to set the record straight on a number of the election issues.   It is also an opportunity to give thanks for the privilege of serving the Gulf Islands for the 2019-2022 term

It was a privilege to represent Waitematā and Gulf for a term as Councillor.  I’ve appreciated the relationships I was able to develop in the community even though covid restrictions limited the amount of time I’d like to have spent on Waiheke over the last three years. There are so many people doing great things to support the well-being and resilience of the island (and make it a fun place too!).

It was also a pleasure to work with your local board to progress a range of issues including ferry fare equity, restoration of the Hauraki Gulf and stopping the proliferation of heli-pads. Another term just wasn’t to be unfortunately. But that is the reality of politics and the result of a very low turnout in local government elections.

However, I would like to take this opportunity to set the record on a number of claims that were made during the election campaign that were not correct and may have misled locals (the quotes are from Mike Lee’s election material) .

  • There have never been “plans to hand over control of the Hauraki Gulf to a non- elected ‘co-governed’ authority or similar non-democratic entity” this is a complete misrepresentation of the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s advocacy position adopted in March 2022. The Forum’s goal is to be the lead advocate for the Gulf to help turnaround its decline.
  • There were also no “related plans to break up our regional park network”.   There have never been plans to break up regional parks or transfer control away from Auckland Council. The final Regional Parks Management Plan signed off in September 2022 was welcomed for strengthening collaboration between regional parks and the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

  • Another often repeated claim was that “council spending and debt is out of control”.  Since the election council’s budget hole has widened from what was projected as a result of the ongoing impact from rising inflation and interest rates, which is leading to costs rising faster than revenues. Last term Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson, led the finance committee ensuring  the budget was managed prudently and responsibly to retain an AA credit rating.

There will no doubt need to be difficult choices council has to make on the options available to respond to the budget situation.  Wayne Brown has put public transport sceptic and former Minister Maurice Williamson in charge of the “razor gang” – the new Expenditure Control and Procurement Committee. Under the old Auckland City Council a razor gang sold off pensioner housing and airport shares and cut services in response to a claimed “fiscal emergency” so close scrutiny will be needed of the Mayor’s proposed budget for 23/24 when it is announced in December.

Another concern is what happens to the Hauraki Gulf Forum when it meets for the first time in February.  Under co-governance leadership the Forum has been able to achieve a great deal over the last 2 years including expanding marine protected areas and working with community groups on planting waterways. Anti co-governance aligned groups who attacked me over a sustained period will be seeking to reverse the progress made with the help of the reactionary councillors re-appointed to the Forum.

Regardless,  I remain hopeful as I think the local government election 2022 will end up being a turning point that actually ends up strengthening the Hauraki Gulf Forum (especially the debate for co-governance) and the Super City in the best interests of Waiheke and Tāmaki Makaurau.

I plan to remain close to the Gulf Islands as my role may have changed but the work for the community and the environment continues.

A few photos from my time serving Waiheke Island 2019- 2022

Thanks to Sue for sending me this letter which unfortunately the editor of the Gulf News wouldn’t publish in full.   Posted here with permission.

Editor Gulf News

3rd December 2022

Kia ora Editor,

I would like to thank Pippa Coom, the previous Gulf Councillor, for her work and her responsiveness to island concerns and her unprecedented attendance at island events (biking from her home to the ferry and back again) including evening events.  I, also, applaud her letter in last week’s Gulf News.  I was bitterly disappointed by the campaign of Trumpian style misinformation about the Gulf Forum promulgated by certain island public figures.  I have followed the Gulf Forum for many years and when the independent review (contracted to the Environmental Defence Society) re the governance of the Forum, written by Raewyn Peart and Brooke Cox, was publicly released in February 2019 I read it carefully.  Part of the review looked into why the Forum seemed to have no teeth to stop the health decline of the Gulf (Tikapa moana).  Their clear recommendations helped the succeeding Board and co-chairs of the Forum to create a more efficient and effective body.  Pippa has set the record straight.  I did send a copy of the Peart and Cox review to the Gulf News following the publishing of misinformation but this email and its attachment was never acknowledged.   This disappoints me.

ngā mihi,

Sue Fitchett