Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Super City elections 2013: Whau voters feel little in common

New Lynn residents are worried that 'poorer' Avondale may pull down house prices in their 'progressive' area

Shoppers in the Avondale town centre are well aware that they are part of the Whau ward. Photo / Dean Purcell
Shoppers in the Avondale town centre are well aware that they are part of the Whau ward. Photo / Dean Purcell

Four years since the creation of Whau - carved from areas previously managed by two different councils - residents still struggle to identify themselves as one ward.

Many in the New Lynn area said they had little in common with people in neighbouring Avondale, and did not wish to be linked to the "poorer" suburb.

"New Lynn is progressing, especially our town centre where we have new residential properties being developed and even a new weekly night market," said New Lynn resident Bobbyn Zhang. "Avondale, well there is no progress there, so if we say that we belong to the same area then it could pull down the property prices in New Lynn."

Six out of 10 people who spoke to the Herald outside the LynnMall shopping centre last week knew there was an election, but most did not know they were part of the Whau ward. It's a different story in Avondale, though, where most knew where they belonged and about the local elections - but nearly all couldn't name any of the candidates besides Noelene Raffills.

However, the slow progress in Avondale - in contrast to the fast and visible progress in former Waitakere City Council-managed New Lynn - is souring support for Mrs Raffills. Housewife Kim Tuivaiti, who shops at Avondale Sunday market, said she still harboured bitterness about Mrs Raffills playing a part in axing plans for a $10 million swimming pool in 2007.

"And look at what has happened in the last four years, absolutely nothing, and what's worse is that we are also going to lose our Sunday market," said Mrs Tuivaiti.

Mrs Raffills is being challenged in the single ward seat by Ross Clow, who is standing on a Labour ticket, and Community First's Duncan Macdonald.

Mr Macdonald was the chairman of the former Avondale Community Board and is the deputy chairman on the new Whau board and works as a retailer in the area.

He is promising to push the new Avondale Action Plan through, which would include establishing a new library, community and recreation centres and swimming pool in the area. "We [also] need to concentrate on better public transport, especially park and ride facilities."

Mr Clow, a former Waitakere New Lynn ward councillor, claims credit for the developments in New Lynn which he said "did not happen during the watch of any of my opponents".

"I support the Unitary Plan, and will push for similar developments, such as apartments in Avondale, to ensure affordable housing is available for both young and old in the ward."

The Auckland Council website says transport has always been a big issue in Whau.

The suburbs of New Lynn, Green Bay and Kelston, Rosebank, Avondale, New Windsor and Blockhouse Bay comprise the Whau Local Board area. Mrs Raffills acknowledged "bringing the community together" was one of the big challenges, given the diversity in ethnic make-up and income of those living in the area.

She has reconsidered a previous decision and now supports having a swimming pool in the ward and believes Avondale is in urgent need of a facilities upgrade.

"In 2007, I had to take a city councillor's view ... and that was my considered opinion then," she said.

Mrs Raffills said she was backing the council's strategic development plan for Avondale, which would see a community hub, apartments and retail and commercial buildings being developed on parts of the racecourse, Racecourse Parade and the Highbury Triangle. This also has the support of the Whau board and the Avondale Business Association, which Mr Macdonald chairs.

Other candidates are also promising a focus on Avondale, with Community Independents local board candidate Paul Davie accusing the current board of being fixated on the New Lynn plan "and the rest of the ward has suffered".

"I can see no stand-out improvements from the amalgamation, and the focus needs to be redirected from primarily on buildings and more so on to the residents and what they actually want and need."

Hagen Robertson, who is standing on the Mana ticket, said the biggest issue for Whau was the lack of consultation between the council and community. She would facilitate greater participation at community level if she was elected.

Labour's Chinese candidate Susan Zhu said she had been told by police that 9000 households in the ward were Chinese, and she wanted to be the voice for the ward's diverse communities. Ms Zhu believed the key tasks for the next council would be efficient transport options, affordable housing and more local jobs.

Whau profile

Ethnicity: European 44.3%, Asian 31.5%, Pacific 17.9%, Maori 9%
Median age: 34
Median household income: $52,315
Current councillor: Noelene Raffills

Ward candidates (1 seat)
Duncan Macdonald (Community First), Noelene Raffills (Independent), Ross Clow (Labour)

Local board candidates (7 seats)
John Anderson (Community Independents), Heidi Bale (Affordable Auckland), Derek Battersby (Progressive Independents), Ami Chand (Labour), Jia Jia Chen (Progressive Independents), Ross Clow (Labour), Kathryn Davie (Community Independents), Paul Davie (Community Independents), Catherine Farmer (Labour), Gordon Gibbons (Community First), Francis Lai (Community First), Judy Lawley (Totally Independent), Duncan Macdonald (Community First), Glenys MacDonald (Community First), Winnie Maeata'anoa (Community Independents), Ruby Manukia-Schaumkel (Labour), Simon Matafai (Labour), Raj Mitra (Community First), Thomas O'Rourke (Conservative), Anna Parsons (Independent), Manilal Patel (Community Independents), Hagen Robertson (Mana Movement), Reuben Shadbolt (Independent), Sandy Taylor (Progressive Independents), Allan John Thompson (Independent), Bernadette Thomsen (Community First), Mark Tulloch (Community Independents), Lawrence Watt (Independent), Jack Weir (Progressive Independents), Glen Wilkin-Holland (Community Independents), Howie Yin (Community First), Susan Zhu (Labour)

- NZ Herald

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