Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Auckland's parks a legacy for everyone

The 26 regional parks are the inheritance of every Aucklander.
Photo / Richard Robinson
The 26 regional parks are the inheritance of every Aucklander. Photo / Richard Robinson

Kauri trees in Waitakere Ranges Regional Park are not the only things out west suffering from die-back disease. The local board's rash claim to "decision-making" powers and "oversight" of the park seems to be also dying a rapid death.

Since I wrote about it last week, the Waitakere board and their neighbours on the Hibiscus Coast, who made a copycat bid for control of Shakespear and Long Bay Regional Parks, have backed off.

The chairwoman of the Waitakere board, Denise Yates, issued a statement saying "there is no plan to dismember the regional park network and there is no criticism of the professionalism of those who manage the ranges".

This is a very different tune from the recent resolution passed by her board demanding that "decision-making and oversight" of the regional park within her board's boundaries be allocated to it "as this would better promote the well-being of the communities that live within the regional park ..."

Similarly, Hibiscus and Bays Local Board chairwoman Julia Parfitt says its attempted land grab was a misunderstanding based on clumsy wording.

She said the board didn't want to control the parks at all, just wanted the local board to be consulted and have an active part in the decision-making process. Yet the wording of the resolution doesn't seem confused or clumsy at all. The Hibiscus board didn't just want control of its regional parks, it voted to encourage other boards to do the same.

"Regional Parks that are within a local board area should be classed as local activities and decision-making and funding should reside with the relevant board."

With the local boards left all but powerless under the legislation, they've latched on to the feel-good term "co-governance" in a bid to imply they have more power than they do.

Denise Yates' statement in response to my column was a classic example.

"The discussion about the management and governance of Auckland's regional parks is a great example of how the co-governance model is not widely understood," she declared.

But the reason it's not widely understood is because there is no such thing as a "co-governance" model outlined in the Super City founding legislation. There is talk of shared governance, as in sharing out the spoils between the centre and the local boards, with power lying either at one place or the other.

Having created the myth of "co-governance", these local politicians are now acting as though it exists.

For instance, Ms Yates states that "the Waitakere Ranges Local Board sees that co-governance best promotes the well-being of communities within the ranges and the well-being of the ranges themselves". She adds that "the board is determined to continue the dialogue about co-governance with the governing body".

In that statement she seems to concede the true state of affairs that the earlier resolutions don't, acknowledging the reality of a "governing body" which isn't her board.

As John Edgar, president of the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society, said in a joint letter with his frequent foe, property owners advocate John Newick, to the Herald yesterday, local board input is vital, "but should local boards have control? Absolutely not. Should there be a co-governance model? No again."

The reason is obvious. The 26 regional parks are not "local" parks, even if they are in local board areas. Indeed the pioneering Waitakere Ranges Park, parts more than 100 years old, exists because of the farsightedness of generations of Auckland city councillors and individual benefactors, who were dedicated to preserving green lungs for future Aucklanders.

The integrated park system was developed for the benefit of all future Aucklanders, acquiring future park land to keep a step ahead of population expansion. The people who now live in and around these green lungs are right to value them and embrace them. But they have no right to demand governance rights. They're the inheritance of every Aucklander.

The regional parks system is one of the great legacies of times past. If the recent government-imposed amalgamations had one aim, it was to bring to other spheres of civic life the efficiencies and benefits of working together that we all admired in the regional parks service.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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