At a time we had all but given up on a Council whose majority clearly didn’t respect our community’s wishes, a new hope has emerged. Mayor Wayne Brown is seemingly championing our community’s clearly articulated concerns, echoing our doubts over the nefarious practices of Eke Panuku, and opposing the poor decisions of Councillors who voted for short term gain over local community concern. It’s certainly encouraging to see a Mayor focused on organisational performance and improving accountability, rather than pursuing short term options to strip communities of valued public assets, to maintain ongoing levels of bureaucracy and Council inefficiency.
During tougher times than many younger generations have ever seen, more uncertainty, increasing cases of mental illness and anxiety, and children’s health becoming more at risk – a decision to fly in the face of a local community’s wishes and sell off our valued park was at best tone-deaf, more aptly, downright deceitful.
As a quick recap, over 700 concerned local community residents took the time to oppose the revocation of reserve status at Fortyfoot Park (9R Fortyfoot Lane) – many being kids from the area, families who live or have returned to the area, and numerous long-term residents who have watched their families grow up enjoying the park – many over several generations. Once identified as an attractive piece of land to sell off for housing, the Council and Eke Panuku (working on behalf of Auckland Council) embarked on a farce of a process – including an intentionally weak initial public notification process, persuasion tactics by Eke Panuku to encourage concerned public to retract their submissions, and overbearing tactics and political rants by Mayor Goff and his conformist followers prior to ‘democratic’ committee voting.
The introduction of an independent committee was an interesting twist – a response to the clear bias of a Council which had already made up its mind. It seemed encouraging – finally the people had a chance to be heard! The gotcha – it would be revealed the independent commissioners had been given a mandate not to consider the overwhelming level of public concern, but to only assess Council’s plan to ‘dispose’ our reserve against a policy only ever intended for new acquisition of green space – never suitable to test whether an existing local community park should be sold out from under its residents’ feet. Needless to say, despite the Independent Commissioners ultimately recommending Council engage with our local community of concern for a mutually acceptable outcome, Auckland Council quickly ruled that possibility out.
So, here we are – time to see what our new Mayor and a new direction for Council will actually mean for a local Auckland community who made their voices clearly heard. If this small, but important decision can be overturned – it may be worth sticking around Auckland for a while, to see whether it is a sign of things to come, and if, just maybe, the legacy of a broken Council’s morals and priorities really can be fixed.
Jane Nixon of One News has been following our story, with her latest article here: https://www.1news.co.nz/2022/10/26/mayor-hits-pause-on-plan-to-sell-loved-east-auckland-reserve/