Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Super City elections 2013: Merits of Super City under fire

Local board member claims North Shore is 'being used as a cash cow for Mayoral Drive's extravagances'

Much of the rates paid by North Shore residents have gone on repaying council debt. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Much of the rates paid by North Shore residents have gone on repaying council debt. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The talk is of big money and benefits of the Super City but it's hard work for the hopeful politicians to impress their audience of 60 Milford residents that their lot has changed.

They are meeting at the Milford Bowling Club - raised from a gully waste land by voluntary work 30 years ago - and on their laps is a newsletter from the Milford Residents Association saying it needs to raise $25,000 in a hurry for a court case.

It's the next round in a long, well organised fight by a community against a developer's plan for high-rise apartments above the local shopping mall.

The association wants to hire its own experts to argue the locals' case, because it fears Auckland Council can come to any deal it wants on height limits with the developer.

"What's your stand?" a resident asks Chris Darby, one of the six candidates standing for the North Shore ward of Auckland Council.

Mr Darby is chairman of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board.

"I said I would stand with the Milford Residents Association, Milford Forum and business association against the private plan change of Retail Property Group," he replies.

He says he has made sure that the council will continue to work with the residents in opposing the appeal on the plan change.

Mr Darby says he wants to "bring some real grunt" to the council table.

To get there, he is taking on George Wood, who was North Shore mayor for nine years and for the first 34 months of the new council has represented the ward along with Ann Hartley.

The chairwoman of one of the council's top committees, she endorses Mr Darby as "your second vote", while Mr Wood has teamed up with Joseph Bergin, a 21-year-old in his first term on the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board, who boasts that his enthusiasm and "new age" thinking complements Mr Wood's experience.

But adding to the campaign mix is Grant Gillon, a Kaipatiki Local Board member, who led the strategy and finance committee of the last North Shore City council and who, like Mrs Hartley, is a former MP.

Issues for voters in this ward straddling the Northern Motorway range from rates increases to public transport costs and services and the effects of the Unitary Plan.

At the Super City merger in 2010, Mrs Hartley said residents feared they would lose what they held dear: their environment, sport and recreation. However, the reality was neither change to services and scheduled projects like the Glenfield Rd upgrade, went ahead.

The new council had found an extra $10 million to provide for Kennedy Park land, new sports fields, walking and cycling paths, upgrading Devonport's wharf, cleaning up the Onepoto Pond, a new footbridge in Glenfield and the Beach Haven ferry service.

Mrs Hartley looked forward to the next three years bringing improved bus services, development of the Northern Busway and better east-west bus links, improved Bayswater Ferry services and a cycleway and walkway on the harbour bridge.

She was satisfied the Unitary Plan allowed a reasonable level of development in town centres, while protecting suburban living by limits on building density.

Mr Wood, however, hoped the election would bring a more influential number of centre-right colleagues to "give more spine" for tightening council borrowing, spending and cutting the costs of running council-controlled organisations.

Although he is chairman of the council community safety forum, which introduced a new liquor sales policy, he has criticised spending on "a host of activities".

He identified $104 million of savings in the council long-term budget but they were not taken up by Mayor Len Brown. "So we ended up with the situation where 37 per cent of the ratepayers on this side of the harbour are paying rates increases of between 5 and 7 per cent."

Mr Gillon said the North Shore had been hit hard by rising rates and was "being used as a cash cow for Mayoral Drive's extravagances".

Much of the rates went to repaying council debt which had mounted from $1875 per resident in 2010 to $4830 and was rising. Mrs Hartley said council figures for the past three years showed average residential rates in the ward went up by 3.9 per cent, 4 per cent and 4 per cent.

Herald inquiries found that during the three years of the Super City, a Bayswater home's rates had increased from $2061 to $2493 though for the past two years it was limited by the council's 10 per cent rates cap.

North Shore profile

Ethnicity: European 65.2%, Asian 19.8%, Maori 17.3%, Pasifika 4.3%.
Median age: 35 years
Median household income: $65,811
Current councillors: Ann Hartley and George Wood

Ward candidates (2 seats)
Joseph Bergin (Fair Deal for Shore), Chris Darby (Taking The Shore Forward), Grant Gillon (Team of Independents), Ann Hartley, Calum Macpherson, George Wood (Fair Deal for Shore)

Local board candidates

Kaipatiki (8 seats)
Nerida Ashcroft, Edward Benson-Cooper (Independent), Mary-Anne Benson-Cooper (Independent), Peter Burn (Better Rates Return for Kaipatiki), Mike Crawshaw (Independent), Ivan Dunn (Independent), Elaine Ford (Conservative), Bob Gentil (Independent), Grant Gillon (Team of Independents), John Gillon (Team of Independents), Danielle Grant (Kaipatiki Voice), Ann Hartley (Kaipatiki Voice), Richard Hills (Kaipatiki Voice), Nick Kearney, Martin Lawes (Ratepayer's Choice), Calum Macpherson (Independent), Chris Marshall (Transport Action), Kay McIntyre (Kaipatiki Voice), Lorene Pigg (Team of Independents), Bill Plunket (Independent), Ben Rogers (Kaipatiki Voice), Gary Stephen Thornton (Team of Independents), Lindsay Waugh (Kaipatiki Voice)

Devonport-Takapuna (6 seats)
Aidan Bennett (Shore Future), Mary-Anne Benson-Cooper (Independent), Joseph Bergin (Fair Deal for Shore), Kevin Brett (Independent), Mike Cohen (Community Before Council), Chris Darby (Shore Future), Dave Donaldson (Shore Future), Deborah Dougherty (Conservative), Grant Gillon (Team of Independents), Dianne Hale (Shore Future), Craig Hans Jensen (Conservative), Jan O'Connor (Team of Independents), Bill Rayner (Shore Community-Shore Seniors), Allison Roe (Shore Future), Michael Sheehy (Independent), Tracy Talbot (Shore Future), David Thornton (NoMoreRates), Anthony Wareham (Independent)

- NZ Herald

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