Newbie faces big workload

By Mathew Dearnaley

Denise Krum supports the $2.86 billion underground city rail link if debt can be contained to acceptable levels. Photo / Natalie Slade
Denise Krum supports the $2.86 billion underground city rail link if debt can be contained to acceptable levels. Photo / Natalie Slade

Newly elected Auckland Council member Denise Krum is gearing up for a hefty workload after taking calls from Maungakiekie-Tamaki residents expecting prompt action on local issues.

Although she is a fortnight from being sworn into office, she says she is already being asked for help on a range of headaches, from berm-mowing to blocked drains and illegal car-parking.

That should have been no surprise to Ms Krum, a Communities and Residents candidate who unseated veteran Labour councillor Richard Northey by almost 900 votes, as she is a daughter of former National Government minister and co-founder of the 1990s-era Christian Democrats Party, Graeme Lee.

In fact, the first duty she took on as a councillor-elect was to stand beside busy Onehunga and Panmure roads during the Monday evening traffic peak with a hand-made sign thanking the public for their votes.

That followed a vigorous campaign in which her relative youth, at 42, was contrasted with Mr Northey's superannuitant "war-horse" status after a political career which began for him in 1979 and included service as an MP and 20 years as a city councillor.

Mr Northey, aged 68, says he was victim of several "unfortunate fibs", including an exaggerated assessment by Ms Krum of how much of the Maungakiekie-Tamaki ward could become dominated by higher buildings and an alleged claim on her Facebook page that he was 73.

But he accepted that the public had voted for change. And although "not pleased to leave after three very satisfying years" on the Super City's inaugural governing body, he said he intended calling it quits and not standing in future elections.

Ms Krum said she did not know of any such reference to Mr Northey's age on her Facebook page, and she believed she had given voters a legitimate reading of a wide potential for multi-storey buildings in an early draft of the council's Unitary Plan.

Her campaign included hiring a cherry-picker to illustrate that potential, although the street she picked for the stunt turned out to be part of a heritage precinct which Mr Northey and local board leaders had persuaded city planners to exclude from high-rise coverage.

She dismissed any suggestion her election could cause a stalemate between right and left-wing factions on the council, describing herself as a "fiscally conservative but socially liberal" centrist whose style would be collaborative and progressive, in line with a community-service charity she had founded in Ellerslie.

"I'm here to do my bit to create a really dynamic, interesting, progressive, innovative city, so grid-locking and pulling things down just for the sake of unfettered ideology is not my style," she told the Herald.

"I guess my role is going to be like that of everyone else around that [council] table, looking at the books, understanding where there is wastage of ratepayers' money, and working really hard to put it back where it belongs." But that did not mean undermining core services, such as mowing grass berms.

"When you allot your hard-earned precious funds, you expect a service back, you expect value for money from an investment ..."

She said she supported Mayor Len Brown's pet transport project, the $2.86 billion underground city rail link, but only if Auckland's 50 per cent share could be provided for without pushing debt to unacceptable levels.

- NZ Herald

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