Super City elections 2013: Challenger out to unseat Northey

By Mathew Dearnaley

Pair battling over rising rates and high-rise development proposals in politically charged campaign

The Unitary Plan intensification blueprint proposes allowing six-storey housing around the Onehunga town centre, an issue that divides the Super City council local candidates. Photo / Natalie Slade
The Unitary Plan intensification blueprint proposes allowing six-storey housing around the Onehunga town centre, an issue that divides the Super City council local candidates. Photo / Natalie Slade

Spiralling rates and views blocked by high-rise developments may seem First World problems to the poorest residents of the back-door Auckland isthmus ward of Maungakiekie-Tamaki.

Their more immediate fears of losing homes in redevelopments of state housing around Glen Innes have drawn Yvonne Dainty and Patrick O'Meara into an eight-way contest for the four Labour-held seats in the Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board's Tamaki subdivision.

Board members such as Alan Verrall complain of being shut out of decisions by Wellington but hope for greater involvement through the new joint government and council-owned Tamaki Redevelopment Company to "contain our community of interest" in a future mix of state and private housing supported by skills training amid high joblessness juxtaposed with industries employing 12 per cent of Aucklanders through a ward accounting for just 5 per cent of the region's population.

But rates and intensification concerns among those struggling to pay off homes elsewhere in the ward - where the median household income of $56,800 in 2006 was $6500 below the regional average - are key issues in a politically charged two-horse race for its single seat on the Super City council, in which Communities and Residents candidate Denise Krum is going hard out to unsaddle veteran Labour councillor Richard Northey.

Unlike in 2010, when he led a five-strong field to a 1700-vote victory over C&R candidate and current National list MP Alfred Ngaro, Ms Krum is now his only challenger.

By contrast, all's quiet in the local board's Maungakiekie subdivision, in which the three members of Maungakiekie Team were re-elected unopposed although keeping billboards up to remind voters who's representing them.

But Ms Krum, who managed Mr Ngaro's campaign and was president of United Future before joining National in 2009 and becoming its deputy Auckland regional chairwoman, jests about forming a "10 per cent club" among many she finds paying the council's maximum capped rates increase.

In her latest of three election pamphlets, in which she labels her rival a "career politician" of more than 25 years' standing, the 42-year-old businesswoman and mother of two also lambasts the council's Unitary Plan intensification blueprint with its proposed allowances of six-storey housing around the town centres of Onehunga, Royal Oak and Panmure - and eight storeys in Glen Innes - as too intense.

An outwardly unflappable Mr Northey, aged 68 but training for the Onehunga Bay half-marathon in 10 days and portraying courage under fire despite being out-gunned almost two to one by Ms Krum's campaign billboards, says he has worked hard with local board chairman Simon Randall and deputy Bridget Graham to keep intensification from character areas such as Grotto St and Normans Hill Rd in older parts of Onehunga.

Calling Ms Krum's efforts "very much a National Party campaign", he blames the Government's insistence on a unified rating system for a wide variation in rates from the regional average of 2.7 per cent.

As for intensification proposals, which could allow developments of up to four storeys across much of the ward and six storeys around town centres and railway stations such as Onehunga's, he says:

"That's the only way people are going to be able to afford to buy in there."

He rejects a right-wing blogger's portrayal of him as a "tired old war-horse", insisting he is fighting fit and asking what's wrong with a battle-hardened politician who has campaigned successfully for facilities such as the new Oranga community centre and a music and arts centre going up soon in Glen Innes.

"It's funny that nobody seems to mind career teachers or policemen - they usually get better as they learn more and get more experience and I think I've drawn on that to help solve some of the more complex problems facing the Super City," says Mr Northey, who chairs the council's accountability and performance committee.

Ms Krum, ranked 69 in the last general election as a National list candidate, acknowledges having tried three times to win selection by the party as an electorate MP but says she is now focused on becoming a councillor and "having a great term", short of making a career of it.

Although her first pamphlet was delivered to 23,000 homes in an afternoon, she denies relying on party resources, thanking more than 100 volunteers befriended through her community work as head of a local charity and chairwoman of Ellerslie School's board of trustees.

Although the local board will remain a C&R-free zone, she believes her wide community connections will ensure she is not stranded on the council without grass-roots support.

Maungakiekie-Tamaki profile

Ethnicity: European 44%, Pacific 27%, Asian 20%, Maori 5%
Median age: 32.3 years
Median household income: $56,837
Current councillor: Richard Northey

Ward candidates (1 seat)
Denise Krum (C&R), Richard Northey (Labour)

Local Board candidates

Tamaki subdivision (4 seats)
Josephine Bartley (Labour), Jocelyn Calvert (Independent), Yvonne Dainty (Independent), Chris Makoare (Labour), Makelesi Ngata (Independent), Patrick O'Meara (Independent), Obed Unasa (Labour), Alan Verrall (Labour)

Maungakiekie subdivision (3 seats)
Brett Clark (Maungakiekie Team), Bridget Graham (Maungakiekie Team), Simon Randall (Maungakiekie Team)

- NZ Herald

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