Franklin reluctant bride in forced marriage

By Isaac Davison

Candidates Dianne Glenn and Des Morrison. Photos / Supplied
Candidates Dianne Glenn and Des Morrison. Photos / Supplied

Franklin has been dragged kicking and screaming into the Super City, with many residents doubtful whether their voice will make it up the Southern Motorway and into council chambers.

Like the northernmost ward in the new council, Rodney, Franklin residents appealed to the Government to exclude their district from the new council.

The appeal failed, and resentment remains. Some communities are still concerned that Auckland's politics will overshadow the region's needs.

Others were less sceptical. Some traditional farming areas, such as Waiuku, have a long-standing connection with Auckland.

Nevertheless, candidates seeking the single seat in the new ward will have to convince Franklin voters that their rural concerns will be heard amid the urban majority in Queen St.

The two front-runners, Franklin District councillor Des Morrison and Auckland regional councillor Dianne Glenn, are keen to preserve Franklin's rural character and productivity while grabbing the new opportunities of being part of a larger body.

Franklin's predominantly white, older-than-average population lives on roughly 80 per cent rural land, with a main centre in Pukekohe and smaller centres in Waiuku, Karaka, Beachlands, Clevedon and Whitford.

The new ward is home to eight regional parks and New Zealand's largest steel mill.

In recent years wealthy Aucklanders have established lifestyle blocks in the district. Its growing affluence was illustrated in 2005 by the sale of a house and land for $14 million.

But the ward also has the poorest Pakeha in the Auckland region.

Franklin's economy largely depends on its greenness - market gardens, dairy, sheep and cattle farming and forestry all thrive on the rich volcanic soil.

Mr Morrison, who is of Ngapuhi descent, said he became involved in local politics because he saw those green spaces being swallowed up.

"There was rampant and uncontrolled urbanisation sweeping down the Southern Motorway. Our role in this region is as the food bowl, and we saw that slipping away."

After two terms as a councillor, he said, one of his greatest achievements was preserving the district's precious soil, and ensuring that growth was restricted to townships - Pukekohe, Waiuku, Tuakau, and, on asmaller scale, Kingseat and Pokeno.

Mr Morrison said the new council had to strike a fine balance. Business opportunities had to be encouraged, but not at the expense of rural productivity.

He suggested that "large footprint industries" which were in metropolitan areas could move into spaces allocated by Franklin's council around the town centres - 2000ha has already been cleared for new businesses around Pukekohe.

He felt the main issue of this election was continuity - allowing the plans of the last council to flow into the next term without a hitch. He was also keen to ensure that Franklin got a fair share of the rates pie and did not pick up the bill for urban areas.

The son of a dairy farmer, Mr Morrison became head boy of Pukekohe High School before a 32-year career with NZ Steel and a short stint in farming.

He has the endorsement of outgoing Franklin Mayor Mark Ball, a longtime friend, and the potential advantage of a political ticket - he has joined Citizens & Ratepayers so that he can align with a large party in the Super City.

Ms Glenn grew up on a poultry farm in Tuakau, and after stints in teaching and running a small business, she has established herself as a politician with a strong mandate.

In 2007 she won the ARC seat in the Franklin-Papakura constituency with 10,000 votes, twice as many as the second-placed candidate.

As the chairwoman of the environmental management committee, she has had to make some tough calls, fining farmers and loggers - the same farmers she relies on to be re-elected - for polluting waterways.

She sees herself as a tireless worker, who often clocked up 80-hour weeks and met community boards three times a week.

Her eagerness to attend every council meeting meant she commuted every day from Pukekohe, and at one point spent $1600 a month on petrol.

It was on the 45-minute drive to Queen St that one of her most important policies was formed. She was responsible for the 0800 SMOKEY campaign to reduce diesel in fuel, and start fuel emission testing in WOF/COF, to clean up Auckland's air pollution.

"I was driving in from Pukekohe every day and getting asthma."

Another major achievement was securing trains for her district. When the service from Hamilton to Auckland was cancelled, she lobbied for the Papakura train to make an extra stop to pick up a handful of Pukekohe commuters. That service has now expanded to 20 trains a day.

Ms Glenn now wants to push through a Park-and-Ride on the western side of the railway line.

She told the Herald Franklin would not suffer by being included in the new council, because it depended on its urban neighbours for management and exports,

As well as representing the rural vote, she said she would fight to keep rates down. Franklin did not get as many amenities and facilities as the rest of Auckland, she said, and its rates should reflect that.

FRANKLIN WARD

Ethnicity: European 77 per cent, Maori 13 per cent, Asian 5 per cent, Pacific Island 3 per cent
Median income: $66,391
Median age: 37.2 years

Candidates:

* Dianne Glenn, Independent
* Des Morrison, Citizens & Ratepayers - Team Franklin
* Herman Smeets, Independent

THE SERIES

Monday: Albany
Tuesday: Manukau
Yesterday: Whau
Today: Franklin
Tomorrow: Waitakere

- NZ Herald

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