After three years of trying to fit in with a fast city set, rural communities to Auckland's north are weighing up the worth of being under the Super City umbrella. In the Rodney ward, attention is on local needs which are basic yet unsatisfied.
In Warkworth, which is designated a satellite town to relieve city growth pressure, locals would love an all-year swimming facility for the large number of retirees.
Dairy Flat School has a parking problem and wants 1km of footpath so students can be dropped off at the community hall car park and form a walking school bus.
The big money earmarked for central Auckland's infrastructure catch-up has renewed efforts by the Northern Action Group to form a breakaway unitary council for 15,000 to 20,000 residents from Puhoi to Pakiri.
At election meetings across the 83km between Kumeu and Wellsford, residents are asking their representatives for "more".
Penny Webster, a former Rodney District Council mayor and Act MP, says she has won extra money for infrastructure - despite the budget savings drive - during her term as the Rodney Ward councillor.
"I think I've done reasonably well in a difficult time ... I have the ear of the staff and get on well with Mayor Len Brown and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse and I've put Rodney's case really well."
Mrs Webster, who was appointed to chair the influential strategy and finance committee, said she was able to look at a big-city perspective while understanding rural issues like Rodney's - roading, subdivision and economic development.
Joining the Super City had had advantages. Helensville's wastewater treatment plant was in such poor condition by the 2010 merger that new connections were put on hold. However, house building has resumed after council-controlled agency Watercare Services began a $5 million upgrade.
"I look at Helensville and the millions that Watercare is going to spend there. We, as Rodney District Council, could never have done that."
Her sole challenger for another term is Rodney Local Board deputy chairman Steve Garner, sales manager for the Summerset Retirement Village in Warkworth and a member of the Mahurangi College board of trustees.
He believes Rodney is not being heard strongly enough at the council's governing body level, and that its geographic and demographic make-up is different from other council wards and local boards.
Covering 46 per cent of the Auckland area, it had rural and coastal communities with poor road links - 650km of its roads were still unsealed. "It takes me 1hr and 25 min to get from Warkworth to a meeting in Muriwai."
The local board has pushed for the $760 million motorway extension state highway from Puhoi to Wellsford as relief for congestion and a boost for economic development on the eastern side of Rodney.
Present Rodney Local Board chairman Bob Howard is standing again in the board's Kumeu subdivision.
He expects "a big three years" ahead because of the effects of the Unitary Plan, under which Auckland's rural north and northwest may have to provide for 35,000 houses and jobs for 18,000 over 30 years.
"The new board will have to deal with area plans and structure plans to meet the demand for development in our areas. That will involve intensive community consultation not only on physical plans but also changing priorities of the long-term plan.
"We'll need to make sure the existing communities are not disadvantaged by pressure on facilities and have their local links - footpaths and roading - brought in line with new developments."
In the Dairy Flat subdivision, board member John McLean said he was concerned the rural area gave $4.5 million a year in rates yet locals went without sealed roads and provided their own water and waste treatment.
The average rural rates for a Dairy Flat property were about $4000. "We are a catchment for rates for Auckland but we get very little back in return."
A contest in the Warkworth subdivision has arisen because present live-wire board member Tracey Martin has retired after becoming a NZ First MP.
Her mother, Anne, is seeking to replace her; so is Bruce Manson, a resource management consultant who co-chairs the Warkworth Area Liaison Group and Bruce Scoggins, chairman of Mahurangi East Ratepayers Association.
"I see Warkworth at risk of becoming irrelevant in the wider Auckland region and its need for infrastructure and communications facilities being overshadowed by the current focus on major central Auckland projects," said Mr Manson.
One of three seeking to represent the Wellsford subdivision, Tony Sowden has organised the town's last six Santa parades and wants to represent it in the best light.
"Big changes are coming our way, with the SH1 diversion mooted to go fast-track affecting us all. I want to protect existing businesses and lifestyle and take advantage of it for us."
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Local body basics
There are three main contests:
1. Mayoral election
2. 20 councillors from 13 wards
3. 21 local boards
September 20-25: Postal voting papers delivered
October 12: Election day
Tomorrow: Waitemata and Gulf
Ward profile: Rodney
Ethnicity: European 80.7 per cent, Maori 10 per cent, Asian 2.4 per cent, Pasifika 2.3 per cent
Median age: 39 years
Median personal income: $26,924
Median household income: $59,124
Sitting councillor:Penny Webster
Ward candidates (1 seat)
Rodney local board candidates
Kumeu subdivision (4 seats)
*Paula Daye (Independent)
*Vivien Dostine (Independent)
*Warren Flaunty (Independent)
*Thomas Grace (Independent)
*Morgan Hancock (Independent)
*Phelan Pirrie (Independent)
*Oliver Vitali (Conservative)
Warkworth subdivision (3 seats)
*Nathaniel Heslop (Conservative)
*Beth Houlbrooke (Independent)
*Regan Monahan (Conservative)
*Bruce Scoggins (Independent)
*June Turner (Action with Results)
Wellsford subdivision (1 seat)
*Thomas De Thierry (Independent)
*Thomas O'Rourke (Conservative)
For more on the candidates in your local area see voteauckland.co.nz