Tears and laughter as Waitakere bows out

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Bob Harvey. Photo / Greg Bowker
Bob Harvey. Photo / Greg Bowker

Soft singing, sad smiles and a lot of tears signalled the end of Waitakere -the city - and the beginning of something different.

More than 100 people and councillors gathered in West Auckland last night for the last Waitakere City Council meeting.

Among them was former Waitemata City mayor Tim Shadbolt, who is now mayor of Invercargill.

After a short council meeting, each councillor was given the chance to give a valedictory speech - many of which proved to be deeply emotional.

A similar theme came out in all the speeches, acknowledging Mayor Bob
Harvey's work and encouraging the people of Waitakere to continue to represent where they come from.

Mr Harvey stood up with a sigh when it was his turn to speak.

He acknowledged the hard work of all the councillors and council staff, as well as the support of his wife Barbara and their children, before thanking the community.

Sensing a sombre mood, as the audience grew silent, Mayor Harvey
burst into story.

Pointing at Mr Shadbolt - who infamously lost the gold mayoral
chains at a party during his reign in the 80s he revealed he had had his chains copied in case he ever did the same. The audience roared with laughter.

"I'm terrified of losing them. I put them in the most impossible places. I'm scared if I leave them in the car it'll get knocked off.

"I had them cast in a bit of wax, so if I ever lost them, I could run and get the cast and the councillors would never know,'' Mr Harvey said, laughing.

Decked out in his gold and emerald robes, he walked to the centre of the room, looked at his golden mayoral chains and slowly took them off.

Laying them gently on a table, he said: "This is the last time I will ever wear the chains."

Then, pulling one arm and then the other out of his robes, he lay them, too, on the table and said: "And this is the last time I will wear the robes.

"People will look at them in the future and say, `I wonder who wore those?' I have been honoured to wear those."

Everyone stood quietly as the city's crest was ceremoniously taken down, to the haunting but beautiful sounds of two men playing the koauau (Maori flute).

The Treaty of Waitangi was also taken down and officially gifted to the new Super City.

One of the last pieces of council business brought up at the meeting last night, was a vote to take out a $1.2 million loan in order to fund local board accommodation requirements set out by the Auckland Transition Agency for the Super City.

Many councillors were upset that their votes against the idea would, in
the end, not matter given it was a must for each of the Auckland councils.

The council also voted to honour one of its leaders, by naming a street
after him.

Former chief executive Harry O'Rourke will have a street in either Henderson or Te Atatu named in his honour.

Manukau City Council also made a similar move, announcing last week
that it would honour its current chief executive - Leigh Auton - for his work in council for the past 32 years.

- NZ Herald

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