It's now less than 90 days until Christmas – let that sink in. It's also, undoubtedly
more importantly, less than a fortnight until local body election voting closes on
As New Zealand gears up to decide who will make up their city, town or district's local government, Aucklanders, in particular, have been witnessing a rather thrilling and controversial mayoral race.
This year's election in our Super City has attracted a fair amount of attention - and
while there are 21 candidates vying for the top seat, it's been heavily weighted on
two candidates - the incumbent, Phil Goff, and the challenger, John Tamihere.
I MC'd Newmarket's mayoral debate with both Phil Goff and John Tamihere, and a
controversial issue that took centre stage, was begging in our central city precincts.
Both candidates agreed it shouldn't be happening. Notwithstanding my comments in the debate that some beggars appear to be connected to organised crime
syndicates, the issue needs to be addressed.
There are hundreds of people on our streets experiencing mental health issues and financial hardship, who need care and attention, and it goes without saying that they should get it.
Many people now accept that begging is simply a fact of life, and frankly, I find that perplexing at best, and galling at worst.
New Zealand is a first world country, with a highly sophisticated welfare system designed to protect society's most vulnerable - so how has begging become so normalised that we've simply got used to it?
There are hundreds of people on our streets experiencing mental health issues and financial hardship, who need care and attention, and it goes without saying that they should get it. That's the entire point of having a welfare state - to look after our most vulnerable.
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Unfortunately, successive governments have abdicated responsibility of this issue to local councils. If our Ministry of Social Development isn't capable of dealing with our most in-need citizens, who on earth are they helping?
Frankly, people should be outraged that this has become acceptable. While I acknowledge it's a complex issue and no single answer will fix things, I'd suggest the next Mayor of Auckland should invite the Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, to visit Newmarket, Karangahape Rd and Queen St and see first-hand who her department needs to help.
Having considered running for Auckland's mayoralty myself, I've thought long and hard about the changes I believe this city requires and the issues that need to be addressed in order for it to succeed in the coming years.
Auckland has had it pretty rough lately - from the housing crisis, to transport disruptions and inadequate infrastructure – and it's no secret that this city has fallen behind in many of these key areas.
And there's no doubt the mayoralty is a tough gig, so the next Mayor of Auckland will have a pretty long to-do list to ensure that the needs of all Aucklanders are met.
In my view, and notwithstanding the begging crisis, these are the top 10 issues the
next Mayor of Auckland needs to deliver on to safeguard the future of our city.
1. Ensure ongoing public transport targets are met, by working closely with Council-Controlled Organisations (especially Auckland Transport) to improve the reliability of the network and ensure further improvements are a key focus.
2. Be a change champion and celebrate change - be visible, be inspirational, be the cheerleader Auckland needs.
3. Clean our waters and make our beaches swimmable again.
4. Review the council headcount, including full-time permanent staff, contractors, consultants and temporary staff and conduct a line-by-line budget review of all council group expenses.
5. Have a customer-centric approach in everything and take Aucklanders on a journey, without leaving anyone behind.
6. Make contributions of 1-2 per cent of project value mandatory for any resource consent to assist with development response for businesses – across both public and private developments, and measure the impact on existing businesses.
7. Have elected representation on CCO boards.
8. Develop a comprehensive plan to assist the most vulnerable in our community and ensure that people are getting the help they need from central government.
9. Homelessness and rough sleeping needs to be addressed head on, so that as Auckland grows, our at-risk communities receive the support they're entitled to, and which they desperately need. Local government will need to work more closely with central government and the Ministry of Social Development to achieve a viable, sustainable solution.
10. Allow special consents for some major civil works to operate 24/7 to speed up infrastructure developments, all-the-while minimising disruption to local businesses.
An outright ban on freedom camping in areas where there are inadequate, or no, toilet facilities such as some city parks - and sort out the stadium debacle.
Regardless of who you choose, make sure you cast your vote before October 12 so
your voice is heard.
• Mark Knoff-Thomas is the chief executive officer of the Newmarket Business Association.