Maungakiekie-Tamaki is a ward that's always on the edge of transition, but after years of planning and consultation, projects are cancelled and postponed, leaving residents wondering what has happened to representation in their area.

Projects such as town centre upgrades and library refurbishments have been constantly cut from Auckland City Council's budget and the 70,000 people who live between Glen Innes and Royal Oak will be wanting more for their rates under the new Auckland Council.

The contest for the sole Maungakiekie-Tamaki council spot is turning into a race between Labour and Citizens & Ratepayers.

Longtime Auckland City councillor Richard Northey wants to keep representing the ward, after being elected to the city council in 1998.

Newcomer to local politics Alfred Ngaro is standing on the C&R ticket. While both are campaigning for opposing factions, they are talking about the same issues within the ward they want to represent.

The only other well-known name on the candidate list is mayoral hopeful and actor Simon Prast, whose campaign for the top job is being overshadowed by the two main contenders, Len Brown and John Banks.

Probably the single biggest challenge for new councillors representing the ward will be the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (Ameti), a plan to improve transport from Pakuranga to Glen Innes.

The collaboration between Auckland City, Manukau City and Auckland Regional Council has been working for five years to find solutions to transport problems in East Auckland, where people do the rat-run between Pakuranga and Panmure to avoid using the Southern Motorway.

The first stage of the upgrade is supposed to start next year in Panmure. But residents and business owners say they have been consulted only on small parts of the plan and are being left out of the bigger discussions.

Mr Ngaro wants to see the community involved in the design process. "We need to move from consultation to active engagement. When we do consultation people talk about their concerns, but we need to be talking about their aspirations."

On the Maungakiekie side of the ward, Mr Northey wants to ensure the Onehunga rail line is developed well enough to serve residents.

The Regional Transport Authority has faced criticism that the Onehunga station's platforms are too short for the electric trains that will be used on the city's rail lines in 2013.

"The Onehunga railway line needs park-and-rides so the roads into the city are less congested," says Mr Northey.

The former Labour MP says there is a nervousness among constituents that the decisions will be made without their input.

"I'm campaigning that local boards will have the most power to make the decisions in their suburbs."

He points out that a lot of local projects, such as the Music and Art Glen Innes Centre, were ditched under a council controlled by C&R.

"They stopped a lot of projects in the ward that would have responded to the population growth, like the upgrade of the Glen Innes town centre, and they postponed the upgrade of the library while they resanded the beaches on the Waitemata."

Maungakiekie-Tamaki has traditionally been a home to a multicultural working class, and with a median income of nearly $27,000, the ward trails behind beachfront neighbour Orakei by nearly $10,000.

Tamaki is also the centre for the biggest urban renewal projects in the country, where groups of government agencies are fixing old state houses and setting up community programmes.

For Alfred Ngaro, the Tamaki Transformation Programme is a model that can work for low-income areas across the region.

"The community in Maungakiekie-Tamaki has traditionally been working class, and I'm concerned they will be marginalised and forgotten.

"Fifty-eight per cent of the houses in Tamaki are state houses. It's a transient community that is always changing."

Mr Ngaro says the project should bring pride back into Glen Innes, Panmure and Pt England.

"You can do 10 good things but all it takes is one bad thing to give a place a reputation," he says. "There are some kids going home to cold, overcrowded houses and we need to change that."

Before running for council, Mr Ngaro set up the Tamaki Community Development Trust and served on a number of regional advisory boards for the Auckland District Health Board and Auckland City Council.

The other contenders are Patrick Brown, who is standing on the Communist League ticket, and Walter Wi-Peri, who is standing as an independent.

PROFILE

Ethnicity: European 44.1 per cent, Maori 14 per cent, Pacific 27.1 per cent, Asian 19.9 per cent
Median personal income: $26,371
Birthplace: New Zealand-born 62.1 per cent
Overseas-born 37.9 per cent

CANDIDATES

1 SEAT

* Patrick Brown, Communist League
* Alfred Ngaro, Citizens & Ratepayers
* Richard Northey, Labour
* Simon Prast, Independent
* Walter Wi-Peri (no ticket stated)