Rodney First versus independents at candidates’ meets

Posted at 9:37am Tuesday 01 Oct, 2019

There were two candidates meetings for the Warkworth subdivision of the Rodney Local Board this month. They were attended by Beth Houlbrooke, Paul Manton and Ayla Walker on the Rodney First ticket, as well as independents Steven Garner and Tim Holdgate.

Much of the debate centred around the decisions of previous local boards and, as the only incumbent, Beth was left with a lot to answer for – especially regarding the transport targeted rate.

Tim said the targeted rate was nothing more than a glorified slush fund that Auckland Council was using on its ‘train set'. He said that as a valuer he was yet to see how the proposed park and ride to be funded by the rate would add any value to Warkworth.

But Paul Manton and Steven Garner were in agreement that rapid growth in the area meant that investment in transport infrastructure was needed. However, Steve said it should be funded by regular Council rates.

“We can't wait one more minute for carparks and park and rides because growth is inevitable. First it was Albany, then Millwater and now Milldale and pretty soon it will be ‘Pu-Worth',” Paul said.

Beth said that without the targeted rate, the bus between Wellsford and Warkworth would stop overnight, and pledged that if re-elected she would see the proposed park and ride built.

Predictably, the under-investment in Rodney roads was raised. Glen Ashton rightly pointed out that the roads in Ahuroa were substandard.

Beth defended her “deal” with Auckland Transport which was supposed to quadruple spending on Rodney roads, although the bulk of the spending was not scheduled for another six years.

Kathleen, of Tapora, asked on behalf of the Fight the Tip group, whether the candidates would advocate against the Dome Valley landfill.

Beth was pragmatic, saying she heard the community's concern loud and clear, but she would not publicly state her opinion because it could exclude her from submitting on the resource consent application on behalf of the Rodney Local Board because she could be said to have a “predetermined view.”

But her running mate, Paul spoke about a waste plant that could superheat garbage and produce low emissions while creating ash bricks that could be used to fix the roads.

Ayla said the last thing she wanted was to negatively impact papatuanuku (the earth).

“Thank you for action and passion, and for having a louder voice than us. Keep doing what you are doing,” she said.

The candidates were asked what they would do to get young people more involved with politics, which was a poignant point in a room filled with septuagenarians.

Beth pointed out that young people needed more relatable candidates closer to their age, such as Ayla, to get them interested.

Steven made the point that the much larger problem at work was that there were no young people in the area because they left at age 20.

This reporter would suggest that given the low turnout to the meetings, the even larger problem is getting anyone interested in local politics.

Peter Buckton, who was the only attendee at both meetings, asked the candidates to spend more money in Wellsford, to give its community their fair share.

Beth said the Wellsford community may feel hard done by because its Board member primarily advocates for roads, which the Local Board had little scope over.  She said, in fact, Wellsford was about to receive a new $1 million toilet block, in addition to a skate park, and a new plan for Centennial Park was being developed.

Paul Manton said the Board needed people to fill out consultation forms and it was up to Wellsford to tell them what it wanted.

A member of the Snells Beach crowd asked the candidates to explain what it meant to run as a ticket.

Beth said that when she started with the Local Board, it was difficult to put together a coherent plan, because independents favoured their pet projects, but that as a ticket, Rodney First had agreed upon priorities including walkways, water quality and safer roads.

“I want to be on a Board where people want to work together, that's why I have chosen running mates,” she said.

Steven said he was opposed to tickets in local government and said Rodney First voted as a bloc, effectively negating the votes of independents.

Beth pointed out that the Local Board had voted unanimously in the last term on all but three issues.

Paul Manton said he chose to run as part of a ticket because he heard the Local Board was like “cats in a room, scratching it out”.

“And, I'm yet to see anything about secret handshakes or documents signed behind closed doors in Rodney First,” he said.

by Jonathan Killick


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