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Another Council process – another disappointment for the residents

Another Council process – another disappointment for the residents

A truly disappointing outcome, especially after the amount of effort from Sharon and our community representatives, and the significant time and public cost incurred by today’s proceedings.


Despite compelling arguments from concerned citizens, Councillors appeared blind to reason – and stood their political ground rather than admitting to the value that one, small, individual park has to the people of the community. Not once did Council talk about selling the underperforming port rather than valuable greenspace, or that the open-space policy they base their decision on was discounted by independent commissioners as only fit for acquisition of more green space – never for supporting disposal.


Time has moved on from when the decision was made to sell Fortyfoot Park and other greenspaces  across Auckland – a poignant moment today was the question posed by Councillor Watson – whether the sale of Fortyfoot Park will make a marked difference to Council’s current financial state? To which the response was a clear ‘no’, it is in a totality of sales, and the indicated $2m-$3m one-off gain will not make a difference. However, whether it be due to political or personal motives, the Mayor and Councillors supporting the sale of parks and greenspaces from Auckland communities won – and once again, the people they serve lost out.


I think today reiterates the hypothesis that the current Council is dysfunctional and motivated by personal and political views; and while Council is not able to recognise true value to its constituents, is not fit to serve the people of Auckland City. Even more alarming is the presence of potential mayoral candidates who today voted against the public’s wishes – threatening people’s trust and confidence in Auckland Council may be unlikely to return.

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An unsatisfactory end to a more than unsatisfactory Auckland Council process

An unsatisfactory end to a more than unsatisfactory Auckland Council process

After a long hiatus and drawn out period of stress for the concerned residents of Sunnyhills, Thursday marked the meeting of the Auckland Council PACE Committee to finally confirm the fate of Sunnyhills Reserve.

Councillor Sharon Stewart and Councillor Paul Young fought hard to ensure the Committee were aware of the public concern and value of our reserve to the people, however despite other insightful Councillors also stating their dismay at the process and removal of valued public greenspace from local communities, strong opposition from the Chair managed to influence an 11-7 vote in favour of taking our reserve away.

Why do I say the Chair influenced the vote? Frankly, the Chair having his strong opinion known just before the Councillors were allowed to vote was unnecessary and un-democratic, seemingly veiled threats about how Councillors would be viewed if they stalled the process and didn’t vote with him. He kept referring to the ‘process’ of revocation as the only reason for a PACE Committee vote, a rubber-stamping exercise, discarding any Councillors’ opinions that the independent commissioners’ and our communities’ wishes should be followed.

The PACE committee meeting was as embarrassing for Council and Auckland as the rest of the process – a sham with only ever the intention to take the park away from the community; and when this was about to be tested by (seven) smart, strong Councillors, the Chair clearly didn’t like it. He made his mandate clearly known, from the time he made sure concerned residents weren’t allowed to talk at the meeting, to when Cr Stewart’s amendment to defer the decision until more community consultation was denied, to his eventual emotional speech directed squarely at anyone who opposed his view. All apparently due to ‘process’.

It’s election year, so who are the Councillors who voted to revoke our valued reserve, and inevitably will do the same to you against your community’s wishes?

  • Cr. Cathy Casey from Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa Ward
  • Cr. Fa’anana Efeso Collins from Manukau Ward
  • Cr. Alf Filipaina from Manukau Ward
  • Cr. Pippa Coom from Waitematā and Gulf Ward
  • Cr. Linda Cooper from Waitākere Ward
  • Cr. Angela Dalton from ​Manurewa-Papakura Ward
  • Cr. Chris Darby from North Shore Ward
  • Cr Shane Henderson from Waitākere Ward
  • Cr Bill Cashmore from ​Franklin Ward
  • IMSB Member Glenn Wilcox
  • and our Mayor, Phil Goff

https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/about-auckland-council/how-auckland-council-works/governing-body-wards-committees/wards/Pages/ward-councillors.aspx

Our last hope now rests with Minister of Conservation, Hon. Kiritapu Allan, and whether her priorities are with us, the people, or like our Council leader, will allow these travesties to take their course by choosing to justify their actions as ‘the process’.

Finance and Performance Committee acknowledge ‘Asset-Recycling’ budget will not be met this year

Finance and Performance Committee acknowledge ‘Asset-Recycling’ budget will not be met this year

Auckland Council Finance and Performance Committee minutes from their recent meeting state “the financial performance of the group up to 31 March 2021 has been considerably stronger than anticipated in the Emergency Budget” however Council continue to pursue their targets relating to asset-recycling, such as selling off community greenspaces. Council do however acknowledge that they don’t expect to hit their asset-recycling targets due to “significant delays” and “ongoing uncertainty”.

The response from our community in opposition to our reserve’s sale was impressive, however no update has been provided about next steps, or any opportunity to state our case to Council in person.

We will follow up with Council and keep everyone posted on anything we know.

Thank you again for everyone’s hard work and support!

From Finance and Performance Committee meeting minutes – 22 April 2021

More overwhelming public opposition at today’s Rotary Carnival

More overwhelming public opposition at today’s Rotary Carnival

More hard work from our volunteers today found overwhelming support for community green spaces at today’s Rotary Carnival, held at Bramley Drive Reserve.

Again the themes were similar – a real concern over Council’s lack of appreciation of how valuable our small reserves and green spaces are to our communities; the lack of consultation and awareness that people have of the Council’s process; and the true appreciation our communities have for the work that our volunteers are doing to change the outcome.

Thanks again to everyone who is helping our message be heard, and for giving people the opportunity to voice their concerns.

With another 109 written and signed oppositions, it is clear that the people are not happy with the decisions that Council is making on their behalf.

Great points from submissions so far

Great points from submissions so far

There are so many great viewpoints coming through from people who have talked to us directly or have sent their submissions through. While everyone has their own personal experiences, here is a selection of quotes / points made in feedback provided so far, which may resonate with you for your own submission:

These reserves are a vital part of our communities. They are beautiful green spaces where we enjoy playing with our children and families.

The reserves are a place for social engagement where interaction with neighbours, old and new is vital for our mental wellbeing.

We are lucky enough to have many native birds who live in the trees on the Forty Foot Lane reserve, the Council should be encouraging more planting of native trees and shrubs on the reserve instead of destroying them. 

The Council states that 9R Fortyfoot lane, our local park, is surplus to requirement, this comment is totally unjustified. This green space is a gift to the community and once sold will never be replaced.

Auckland Council cannot and should not be this shortsighted – selling off precious greenspace is not the answer.

These reserves are vital for the health, road safety and enjoyment of young families with children, grand children and pets, who cannot walk unsupervised along dangerous roads to distant parks or  play in busy parks such as Lloyd Elsmore,  where sporting activities make it too hazardous for very young children to run around freely.  

Obliterating these green areas will also destroy the pleasant rural atmosphere of Sunnyhills and Pakuranga, and turn it into a concrete jungle devoid of grass areas, shady trees for the elderly to sit under and areas for the very young to frolic safely without the danger of being hurt by sporting activities. 

No Greenspace means no trees or vegetation, no or little photosynthesis. Nothing to correct the CO2 and O2 generated by pollution and green house gases.

These reserves are a vital part of our communities. They are beautiful green spaces where we enjoy playing with our children and as a family.

The reserves are a place for social engagement where interaction with neighbours, old and new is vital for our mental wellbeing.

There is only a finite, and relatively small, amount of reserve land and the population will continue to increase far beyond that into the future, so it is not a sustainable long-term strategy, merely a short term, short sighted one.

Fantastic Response at the Howick Market

Fantastic Response at the Howick Market

Hard work really paid off with 227 individual oppositions received from Howick Market-goers. The need to keep our green spaces really resonated with the public, with some repeated themes coming through:

  1. All green spaces are important to people for various reasons, but those with children especially, who really worry about keeping the safety provided by pocket green spaces which are close to houses.
  2. The intensification of Auckland housing means that current green spaces are not enough, let alone losing more of them.
  3. While most generally understand the need for short term changes to generate funding – emotions ran high about Council’s current avenues of expenditure – with many voicing dissatisfaction over the number of high paid public servants across Council and Panuku, overly bureaucratic processes draining Council resources, and Council failing to address cost drains and opportunities such as floating the troubled Ports Of Auckland
  4. There was also a theme of general opposition and concern over the Council not having listened to the community and our Howick Local Board representatives. Many were appalled when they heard that only 4 of the 14 proposed reserves in this round of review had received opposition from Councillors, yet Council and the Mayor overruled them regardless. This was of serious concern to those who aren’t necessarily affected or near a reserve, but significantly affects the Council’s credibility and decision-making processes.

Thanks to those who went to the market this morning, for raising public awareness of the situation, and for gathering so much written support. With only 10 more days until submissions close, we need to keep spreading the word, and helping people put pen to paper before it’s too late.

Public Meeting held on Saturday 13th March

Public Meeting held on Saturday 13th March

Thank you to everyone who came and showed their support on Saturday – and for all those who let us know that although they couldn’t make it, they strongly support the cause.

While we know the timing wasn’t ideal, clashing with the America’s Cup racing, we only had a limited opportunity to have our local MP and Councillors join us – so thanks again to everyone for making the effort.

A surprise visit from a neighbourhood piper drummed up attention from the streets around – and while we know not everyone could be there, we had a great turnout and was a great chance to discuss the Council’s process, where submission numbers are currently at, the contents of some of the submissions, and what to do if people were still struggling to get their thoughts down on paper.

Public Meeting – 4.30pm Saturday 13th March 2021

Public Meeting – 4.30pm Saturday 13th March 2021

Please join the public meeting to be held at 9R Fortyfoot Lane Reserve at 4.30pm on Saturday 13th March 2021.

Please take the opportunity to show your opposition to the sale of the Reserve, and help our local MP and Councillors show the Minister how much our reserve means to our community.

Our Auckland – The health benefits of green spaces

Our Auckland – The health benefits of green spaces

There are some key points in Council’s own article shown below; it reminds that we need to create options to help get through the short term so we can move together to our shared long-term strategy. Council don’t appear to disagree with needing greenspace, but they need more money right now. A point so important right now is the need for more trees to help stem climate change – maybe we offer to help plant another 50 trees around the ForthFoot Lane Reserve boundary to help the Mayor’s One Million Trees programme goal?…

From the below article, “The research analysed the activities of 12,500 New Zealanders, including 2500 Aucklanders, and found they were less likely to be overweight or suffer from obesity if they lived close to a park.”

https://ourauckland.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/articles/news/2019/05/human-nature-part-1/


The health benefits of green spaces

Published: 1 May 2019

An increasing body of evidence suggests that a closer connection to nature is good for our heads, our hearts and our lungs. But as Auckland grows, our precious green spaces and trees are increasingly under threat. In the first part of a three-part series for OurAuckland, Elly Strang looks at the many benefits green spaces bring to the health of our people and our city.

Humans have long believed that being in or around nature has healing properties. But the idea was previously more intuitive than evidential – a warm glow rather than hard science. Now, with large-scale public-health problems such as obesity and depression being linked to a rise in technology, a disconnect from the outdoors and more time spent inside, researchers are showing renewed interest in the topic, and studies from around the world are finding that those who live close to green spaces enjoy positive impacts on both their physical and mental wellbeing.

The science behind green wellbeing

A new Danish study has found that when children grow up with green space around them, they have 55 per cent less risk of developing a range of mental-health problems later in life. Researchers from Aarhus University found that the more greenery a person is exposed to up to the age of 10, the lower the risk of 16 mental disorders, including anxiety and depression, even when controlling for factors such as socio-economics and urbanisation.

“Our findings affirm that integrating natural environments into urban planning is a promising approach to improve mental health and reduce the rising global burden of psychiatric disorders,” the study’s authors say.

Closer to home, a team led by University of Canterbury professor Simon Kingham has studied the effects of public and private green spaces on physical health. The research analysed the activities of 12,500 New Zealanders, including 2500 Aucklanders, and found they were less likely to be overweight or suffer from obesity if they lived close to a park.

“Globally, nearly every study I’ve read says the more green space you’ve got near where you live, the better your health is,” Kingham says. “Park creation and planting in existing public spaces may serve as low-cost disease prevention options.”

In its 10-year budget released last year, Auckland Council boosted funding for parks, open spaces and community facilities to $3.7 billion, with $1.4 billion set aside for acquiring and developing public open spaces and parks. This was ahead of infrastructure as the single biggest increase within the budget.

Improving equity of access to green space

Kingham says another finding of his team’s study was that people in lower socioeconomic areas tended to have less access to good-quality green spaces. “All green space is not the same.”

This is why Auckland Council’s Urban Ngahere (Forest) Strategy is vital to the health of the city. It aims to address the unequal distribution of trees across the region and increase the benefits of a green city for all.

Find out more about the Urban Ngahere Strategy

It also aims to undo some of the damage done by urbanisation, rising inequality and climate change. The plan is to increase Auckland’s average tree-canopy cover from 18 to 30 per cent, while targeting areas where cover is scarce, such as parts of south Auckland, so that all local board areas have at least 15 per cent cover.

Councillor Penny Hulse, chair of the council’s Environment and Community Committee, says Auckland’s rapid urban growth has swallowed up native bush and open spaces.

“It hasn’t always been the norm to replant trees in areas that have been developed since the 1980s,” she says. “With higher-density housing we’ve lost a lot of urban trees, as people haven’t always valued them as much as they should.”

Hulse says so-called “leafy suburbs” have fantastic tree cover, but the urban canopy is not evenly distributed across Auckland. In some neighbourhoods, streetscape planting – where trees are planted along the roadside – is also lacking.

“The amalgamation of Auckland’s former councils means we get to look across the whole region to see where those gaps are,” she says. “Among the lowest on the canopy cover statistics are places like Ōtara and Papatoetoe. We’d like to make them as leafy as the suburbs in Waitematā, not just because it’s beautiful, but because it’s better for communities.”

‘Knowing, growing and protecting’

The Urban Ngahere Strategy is underpinned by a three-pillar framework: knowing, growing and protecting. This involves tracking the size, health, condition and distribution of trees around Auckland and increasing the number to boost the benefits and address inequity, while also protecting existing trees.

Hulse says local boards are organising planting in areas that have been degraded, and Mayor Phil Goff’s Million Trees programme is a great example of a planting project making big strides. Under the scheme, 648,000 trees were planted around Auckland in the first two planting seasons, and the millionth tree is being planted in Tōtara Park on 14 June. Auckland Council collaborates with a range of groups on the plantings, from schools, to community groups, to prison inmates.

“We’re getting huge numbers of volunteers for planting,” Goff says. “They’re not as fast as the professionals we use, but they’re there and ready. It’s all about what you want to leave as a legacy. I went and planted 50 native trees, and I’m going to take my grandkids back there and show them the trees when they’re 30, 40, 50 metres high. People get a thrill out of that and know we’re undoing some of the damage done; they see it as a way they can make a difference.”

Hulse says planting more trees now is crucial to combat growing inequity as the climate gets warmer.

“Climate change is talked about as an inequity magnifier. In other words, the people most vulnerable to climate change are those at the challenging end of the social scale, and if you look at where the least tree cover is, it’s the vulnerable areas. Internationally, it’s been shown that communities who live in areas where there are lots of trees are able to adapt to warmth more easily, so let’s address those two things together.”

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