Water storage dams, which form a key source of municipal water supply, are at an historic low. This should not be news to anyone, and if the education campaign is working, you’re beginning to value your water as being more precious than ever before.
Auckland’s population is estimated to grow by 720,000 by 2048, so we need to be putting in place a range of strategies that address this water crises. One such strategy is making it more permissive to install rainwater tanks in urban and rural parts of Auckland, as well as in areas with special character overlay. Being able to water the vege garden to support household food resilience should be a given, but if you're in the same boat as me, the only people rejoicing at the shriveled up silver beet are the kids. I need water.
On 25 June the Governing Body agreed in principle to remove unnecessary restrictions on the installation of rainwater tanks through a change to the Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP). The Governing Body also requested staff investigate how rainwater tanks be made mandatory in a number of situations including the construction of new dwellings.
One of the problems with the AUP is that it unintentionally discourages the use of rainwater tanks because it defines tanks over 1m in height as a building. This means installation of rainwater tanks must follow development standards which limit where a tank can be placed on a site. In space-constrained sites, there are side and rear boundary rules that require a 1m distance for where a tank is placed, and if this is breached, a resource consent is then required. Another issue is building coverage. A rainwater tank counts towards the building footprint and if that goes over a certain percentage, a resource consent is once again needed.
Whilst there has always been the option to underground tanks, this requires excavation and earthworks and makes it difficult to identify future leaks. This means its more costly and challenging.
Auckland Council is now asking for your feedback on this proposed change. Please note however, if you intend to connect a tank to household plumbing, this will likely still need a building consent.
FILL IN YOUR FEEDBACK HERE (Closes 23 September).
Whenever I bump into people I know, the first question I get asked is, ‘How’s the Local Board going?’ My answer is always a bit cagey, because being on the Local Board is a huge privilege and something I really enjoy, but it’s also a massive frustration. As elected members we’re given the opportunity to enable amazing things to happen for the people in our community, but when the concept of ‘amazing things’ differs from person to person that sit at the table, my idea of a good opportunity can pretty quickly slip through my fingers, and I hate to say it, but the older set are the ones that get what they want more than us “younger ones” (read middle-aged & in the thick of the family stage).
The August Local Board Business Meeting, for me, was a great example of this. It was a good representation of how proper process and advice can be ignored, resulting in poor decision making. Who loses out? You. Me. Our neighbours. Our friends. Our community.
In this month’s meeting our job was to approve the annual work programme: it’s all the work budgeted to be achieved in our area for this financial year. As a Local Board we workshop the programme (multiple times), juggle the numbers, and receive guidance and insights by various subject matter experts who know what’s happening on the ground. Weirdly though, in this business meeting, all that previous work, all those meetings and expert guidance got thrown out the window as members of our Local Board dropped three environment and family-focused activities in favour of stuff that we were clearly told were an unnecessary spend of our rate payer dollar.
Of the 21 Local Boards ours spends the least amount of budget on environmental initiatives. Through public consultation we heard loud and clear that the community wants to see this change. At the beginning of the term the new Board stood united in their intention to respond to this issue. We were presented with some fantastic options that included a Bike Hub feasibility study, that would soon pave the way for a hub in our area, and an Eco-neighbourhoods project that would aim to support community resilience and low-carbon lifestyles. Along with Movies in the Park (another family appropriate and much-loved event) these new projects were ditched at the eleventh hour.
To fill you in on the details, there are 3 Bike Hubs in Auckland: Henderson, Massey and New Lynn and each hub has had on average 4250 people making use of the service each year. The intention is to get more kids on bikes, more people in the community with skills to maintain their bikes, and more bikes diverted from landfill. Bike hubs give those less privileged in the community access to super cheap serviced bikes (about 10% are gifted to those that need them), and mechanical skills are gained in an easy-going and inclusive environment. It provides opportunities for inter-generational connection as older volunteers support the operation by servicing the bikes and teaching important skills to young children. Funding the feasibility study was important for us to start the ball rolling, because we all know good things take time. It was only $10,000. Sadly however, it’s now dead in the water.
The eco-neighbourhoods programme is a fantastic initiative that encourages community connection and resilience. It’s been running for 5 years in the Albert-Eden local board area with 93% of participants expressing a desire to continue it beyond the programme. Eco-neighbourhoods bring like-minded neighbours together to learn new sustainable skills and share resources with one another. Examples of success can be found in neighbourhood food swaps, neighbourhood chicken coops, communal vege gardens, neighbourhood pollinator pathways, and loads more. In a time where neighbourhood connection and food resilience is important, this proposed project would have been widely taken up. Cost was $30,000. Sadly however, it’s now dead in the water.
The last intended activity that had been included in our work programme was Milford’s Movie’s in the Park which too, got the chop. ($15,000 event delivery cost).
So with the $55,000 budget clawed back, where did it go?
It went to topping up the hours of Takapuna Library to its current level of service. All libraries across Auckland are funded to be opened 56 hours each. The DTLB has historically topped up those hours by adding an additional 2 to Devonport Library and 4 to Takapuna to create a late-night Thursday. We are one of the few Local Boards that do this, and we are the one that invests the most in those additional hours. When we workshopped this, the Head of Community Libraries provided us with the hard data that those late-night hours simply weren’t being used in a valuable way. Visitation dropped from an average of 49 visitors per half an hour to 18, and at the cost of approximately $10,000 per hour per annum, this was not an effective spend of taxpayer dollar. Instead in our workshop we had in theory agreed to 2 additional hours in Devonport and 1.5 in Takapuna and 8 x 3hour study nights for students when exam time rolls in. This would have saved $30k to put to other projects, like the environmental ones that would meet the needs of more people in our community.
The other place where money was topped up was in our resilience planning for Civil Defence. Following what has been a challenging year it became apparent that the Local Board needs a clearer road map to respond to our community in times of crises. When we’re locked down, there are many vulnerable and isolated people in our community who need to be considered and responded to in a more localized way. Our support staff had scoped a programme that would complete a resilience plan. It would be the first step and the investigation would include a summary of next steps. It was going to cost $4000. Some of our members felt this wasn’t enough money, despite being informed it was. Attaching additional budget is a poor decision unless we’re given clarity on what that money will achieve – what are the deliverables, and who is doing the delivery? The advice we received was that “no further LDI operational funding is required for this project. If additional funds were allocated at this phase of the work programme process, they will unlikely get spent.” And yet, four members of the LB voted to increase the $4,000 to $30,000.
Now, you may think the Local Board had to make some hard decisions, pitting one priority against the next. You’ll hear members say that budgets are so tight not everything can be achieved. This is a red herring. You see, in our limited budget we have also set aside $249,000 for contestable grants. Grants are an important part of the budget because they allow community groups to deliver fantastic events and programmes for their community. I know its value, because I’ve been a recipient of those grants for the Devonport Arts Festival in the past. But our grants budget is big. It’s 20% of our Locally Driven Initiative budget and is far in excess of other Local Boards. (ie. Henderson-Massey, a local board with double our population allocates 7%). It was possible for our Local Board to keep all these projects in the work programme, top up the library hours, throw more money at Civil Defence resilience and still have a massive $194,000 in grants. So, when you hear members decry that there wasn’t enough money to do it all, don’t be misled. There was, there is. They simply decided that these projects were not valuable enough to them to have delivered in our Local Board area.
But when your voice is a minority at the table, it counts for nothing. I’m sad that we’ve lost those projects. That, to me, was a missed opportunity and I believe it’s time to question whether decisions being made are primarily to ensure the status quo, or are actually responding to the demand for change?
Is there a local sports ground or playground that you and your family use over and again? Do you care about how it's maintained and made use of?
We are now asking park and reserve users for feedback to support a new parks management plan in our Local Board area. There are currently 130 parks and reserves from Devonport up to Castor Bay and only 65 of them have plans; many of which are dated, such as the Bryan Byrnes Reserve 1983, or the Devonport Domain Reserve Plan 1993.
The new omnibus Devonport-Takapuna parks management plan will guide the management of local parks and reserves within the area, and current users of each reserve will be in a position to support the Council in identifying what’s important to each reserve.
The level of detail in the omnibus Local Parks Management Plan will be customised, according to the unique geographic, cultural, heritage, social and sporting values each park has. The content will be supported by bringing forward key information from the existing plans, and fleshing out details that speak to current use.
For instance, key parks such as Sylvan park are likely to have far more information and management direction than a standard pocket park, so whilst it’s an omnibus plan, each park will be treated differently and this will be reflected through the document.
One of the benefits of having a reserve management plan is that leases can be provided for (or contemplated) in the plan. If a lease is contemplated and is in conformity with an existing management plan, then this lease does not need to be publicly notified, meaning there is a cost and time saving. Individual plans can be easily amended and adapted, according to current use or newly identified values, as time goes on - so in essence, it will be a living document.
The online consultation is easy and quite fun. You can cruise across an interactive map dropping suggestions and comments at various locations, telling us what you love, what you want us to consider, what assets need to be included in the plan, and what conditions lease holders should have.
Alternatively you can join an online drop in session on August 4th 6-7pm.
Find out more here.
LEARN MORE & HAVE YOUR SAY HERE
One of the first things the new Devonport-Takapuna Local Board (DTLB) has progressed, with the hard work and support of our amazing Council staff, is the new Local Board Plan (LBP) 2020-2023. This is a high-level guiding document that sets the direction on where and how we invest in our area. The draft plan is now open for review and your feedback.
The draft LBP is the result of multiple workshops and a lot of stakeholder engagement, and I know many of you were a part of that process. This LBP is, I believe, a fantastic improvement on previous plans. Our section on transport shows a shift in thinking and states our intention to focus on environmental transport outcomes; projects that lead to a stronger take-up of active modes and asks for better-connected, affordable and efficient public transport. We want to see the progression of the Francis-Esmonde pathway which is the missing link in the Green Route from Devonport all the way to Esmonde Road. We want to see the Patuone path upgrade continue, connecting cyclists and pedestrians to Takapuna Metro Centre.
We state our intention to push hard on water quality to ensure our beaches are swimmable 365 days a year, and we’re committed to investing in projects that restore and enhance our natural habitats and grow our native biodiversity.
Most significantly, I believe, is that for the first time ever, we’re placing Māori Values as one of our 6 primary outcomes, recognizing how much this leads to better social, environmental and cultural outcomes for mana whenua, mātāwaka and all other members of the community.
So my friends, now is your opportunity to really shout loud about the things captured in this plan that are most meaningful to you – if cash is limited (and it is) where would you like to see it spent first? The plan doesn’t get into the detail of every single project, proposed or possible – so if there’s something you absolutely want us to push forward, then please note it.
The outcome areas are below, but if there’s a single thing you want to make sure we get done over the next three years, then be sure to comment on it in the space made available for comments.
It’s likely that the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board will have voluntarily let go of the $47mill funding packet to improve traveler throughput on Lake Road, pushing the project out for at least 10 years. Let that sink in.
Why? Because 4 out of the 6 members voted in last week’s business meeting against the proposed improvement plan that has been engineered, modeled and rigorously consulted upon for the last 3 years. The body of work produced by the engineers at BECA and the Auckland Transport (AT) project team cost ratepayers just on two million dollars. When we hear the old cry of ‘more for the shore’ and ‘where are all our rates going’ I can’t help but point the finger because we seem to have a habit of stopping things in our neighbourhood, despite the battle cry for greater investment.
The primary criticism of the 4 members on the proposal was that it doesn’t “fix” Lake Road. Fixing Lake Road means easing traffic congestion. They felt that the proposed design doesn't do this. And it's true, for some people nothing will change, but for many others it will make a massive difference.
So what does Auckland Transport's 2020 Lake Road Improvement proposal do?
Let’s just hope AT doesn’t give up on us just because 4 of my fellow DTLB members gave it the thumbs down. It is time for a fresh approach to Lake Road – let's get it done!
Documents & Links:
1. Recommended feedback on Lake Road_Aidan & Toni
2. Resolved feedback on Lake Road_4 Board Members.
3. Lake Road Improvement Plan info
4. 2020 Public feedback
5. Indicative Business Case
In a recent Local Board Business meeting I was proud to vote in favour of the new Takapuna Town Square design which is due to begin construction from mid-2021 onwards. Towards the end of June the public will be able to have their say on the design, as well as give an indication of whether they’d like to see the ANZAC cenotaph, currently located at The Strand, relocated there for our annual ANZAC commemoration.
It’s been a bit of a journey to get here with some strong public opposition to selling the carpark to make way for the development. Three of our Local Board members spearheaded this opposition and so it makes sense that they voted against the design. I still found this to be disappointing though, because it sends a signal that they didn’t think much of the design. I argue we couldn’t have asked for more. It’s also worth remembering that the decision to move forward with the development was approved by Auckland Council's Planning Committee and is going ahead regardless of Local Board views. To my line of thinking we need to put old battles behind us and do what we can to push for the best outcomes and work in a positive and productive way to support its success. This is actually one of the reasons why I stood for Local Board, as I didn’t think these views were being reflected by our former local board; Aidan and I always said we would stand for the silent majority.
Auckland’s Unitary Plan identifies Takapuna as one of 10 metropolitan centres to experience strong future growth. We can already see evidence of this as new apartment complexes such as The Maison, Alba and Sargeson have cropped up, bringing more people into the area, and creating a demand for a better-functioning urban realm that’s connected to the Lake and glorious Takapuna beach.
Panuku, AC’s development arm, has been working hard with stakeholders to propose something quite awesome for Takapuna. So awesome in fact, they were awarded a Green Star Communities rating for exceptional master planning. Takapuna is finally getting the investment it needs and I know how much people will love it. The new town square design has been workshopped with the Local Board and there has been extensive mana whenua input into how looks and feels, as well as its overarching Kaupapa.
In its current state Takapuna seems built around a large carpark that only experiences life on a Sunday morning when the much-loved Takapuna Markets commandeer the area. The new proposal will see about a 6000sqm area sold for commercial and residential developments in order to fund a fantastic 3200sqm town centre. This new town centre will offer easy access to the Takapuna Beach Reserve via Hurstmere Green, it will front onto the major bus terminus and connect to Shore City Shopping centre. It will be the absolute beating heart of Takapuna. It will be a beautifully designed open space that offers interesting event configurations to enable a range of activations, events, gatherings and purposes 7 days a week; not just on a Sunday morning.
The town centre concepts have been created by integrated design group Isthmus. Conceptually the design is inspired by ‘Whiria te tanga’ – weaving the people together. It will be a place where people gather, learn, play, create, connect and be inspired. The design itself speaks strongly to the coastal township, and material used will reflect the lava flows of Pupuke with the inclusion of basalt paving, seating that appears like coastal scoria flows, and a water feature in the sunniest spot and dining precinct (so parents can have a life too!) that reflect the ‘puna’ (spring) of Takapuna. Cutting through the area, creating an axis to the sea, will be pou, a line of cultural markers that lead the eye to Rangitoto. Close to the play area in Potters Park will be a new ‘whare wānanga’ – tree house structure for play and learning. Planting will offer shade in summer, colour, texture and cooling, to offset against the new buildings, and with links to Hurstmere Green and Potters Park there will be an abundance of green.
The existing market can continue to operate, taking the newly formed centre, the area at 38 Hustmere Road and spill across into Hurstmere Green. This will create better synergy with the existing retailers in the area and will inspire new opportunities for how we use the space. It must be noted, however that any market stalls that require a car, will not be able to be on the new town centre and may instead be relocated to Hurstmere Road. If utilized as an event venue, the area can accommodate 1600 people.
So as to provide a balanced report on what the design means for those that intend to use the space, some of the following concerns are ones that I’ve heard often, and so I thought I’d answer them as best I can with images below for clarity:
So, taking the above points into consideration, I have zero fear for this project. I only have great optimism and am proud to be in a position to back it. My kids and all their mates who will grow up in this area will be the ones that love it most. We’re creating a fantastic, vibrant, metro centre where job opportunities are abundant and we can all enjoy a better connection to our beach and reserves. We’re creating more opportunity for people to live in arguably one of the best areas in Auckland, and with it will come a town centre that will weave us all together. Whiria te tangata. Bring it on, I say.
I’m learning a lot about the shortage as well as potential solutions, so thought I’d share my learnings with you. Why, exactly, are we short of water? It starts with this – a drought. More accurately, a drought and a growing city. The first four months of 2020 have been the driest since record keeping began. Since November 2019 and mid-May, we have enjoyed less than half the normal rainfall. This is considerable. Our water storage is currently 45% full (today, 8 June). This is down from its usual 76% at this time of the year, and with less than average rainfall forecast over winter, it’s growing to be nail-biting stuff.
So where does our water come from? The Waikato River provides 34.8%, our Waitakere and Hunua dams provide 61% and the Onehunga Aquifer provides 4.3%. With a growing population the city’s water demand is not set to abate, and so the question remains, where do we get extra water from?
A resource consent application to draw more water from the Waikato which was logged in 2013 has been sitting idle for some time, waiting to get to the front of the queue. That Watercare application is for an additional 200 million litres of water per day above the 150 million litres it already takes. The application is 111th of a 441 applications waiting to be worked through.
Whilst on the surface this is frustrating as there’s a clear supply to be tapped into. But when you consider that droughts will grow more frequent with our ever changing climate, is drawing more water from the Waikato ultimately another bandaid to the real problems? Chairperson of Waikato-Tainui makes it clear that the river is under stress and that they must advocate for the wellbeing of that body of water.
So what does a resilient water supply look like for our large city accustomed to an abundance of water? Without water there is no life, so firstly, let’s value it more. Our MO should be about saving water at all times, rather than waiting for restrictions to be put in place. We should be turning our heads to recycled waste water – a closed-loop system. On the surface it might seem undesirable, but it’s a system that’s been working to good effect in 35 cities around the world. A good example of this is in Perth where 14 billion litres of recycled water is added to their aquifers each year.
For now Healthy Waters and Watercare are identifying potential sources for taking non-potable (non -drinking) water supplies from ponds, lakes, aquifers and capped wells around the region. This water will support construction partners and enable economic and business continuity in that sector. Some of these sources will require a notice under s330 of the RMA to establish an urgent supply. For our local area the nearest supplies are Lake Pupuke and the Chelsea Ponds. When these supplies are established it will help to reduce the demand on our potable supply. But once again, we can’t afford to make this the norm. What we need to be asking for as we move forward is a resilient closed-loop system that responds to the pressures of population growth and extreme weather conditions and future droughts. We also all need to play our part and place greater value on our water.
You’ve probably already heard about the half billion dollar gaping hole in Council revenue. Just as we were priming up to deliver big in the next financial year, the nation-wide lock down has hit us in the coffers and things are gonna bite.
There’s a misunderstanding that our rates pay for all that council does. This is not so. Council gains revenue from all manner of things; public transport, parking revenue, Airport shares, ticket sales, leisure centres etc. These various revenue streams make up 60% of council spending. With a dried up revenue stream through lock down and no ‘back to normal’ in sight, this cash flow will be a slow dribble over the next 18 months compared to what it was.
Any major infrastructure and transport projects, significant events and great local initiatives will be put on hold, unless they’re already committed. Local Board budgets will experience cuts and our council services too will be given a bit of a shave. The Governing Body has worked closely with Local Board chairs to discuss what the economic outlook is and listened closely to what each local board can or cannot tolerate in terms of cuts.
To set ourselves on a path to recovery, there are four ‘levers’ we can pull in order to strike a balance, get out of debt and be financially resilient in the event that any other surprises come our way in the future. Those levers are:
So this emergency budget is asking homeowners how they want to move forward. Two options are being proposed regarding our annual rates increase. We were due for a 3.5% for the next financial year, but with more people out of work, this could be a big ask for some. So Auckland Council is asking about whether your preference is for 2.5% or 3.5%. Built into the proposition is a 12 month rate postponement for those that need it. The difference in real terms for the average householder is $1.35 per week vs $1.82 per week. However the changes to services based on these two amounts is quite enormous – so whilst I totally understand the heat we may be experiencing, my personal preference is that we go for the 3.5% as originally planned. A higher rates increase means less council debt, and a faster recovery of our core services.
It’s a tough time right now, and I guess my feeling is that if we continue tackling these big issues with the same resolve that we employed to tackle the pandemic itself, then we will recover faster. That said, I would hate to be tone deaf and knowing that many took the rates relief, I know that an increase in rates will be making some stomachs flip - so whatever you do, be true to you, but most importantly have your say.
Click here to have your say.
No one is operating from a ‘business as usual’ model anymore. Bedrooms have been converted to offices by day, and businesses have quickly adopted new systems in order to be agile during this incredibly surreal time. Many, many have lost jobs, and the economy is taking a hit. Whilst some small businesses may weather this storm and open their doors again, they may not endure the following months as spending is influenced by tighter personal budgets and decreased household incomes. It’s truly a scary and uncertain time for many, and when things are uncertain, there are lots of questions that are being asked. Ultimately though, we’re wondering what will our future bring?
In preparation for a post-COVID economic stimulus, and in the pursuit of job-creation, Auckland Council’s Governing Body, along with Central Government are assessing what are called ‘shovel ready projects’ to launch into once we’re out of lock down. There was some debate around how we best prioritise these potential projects, with some Councillor’s leaning on job opportunity as the primary driver, whilst others counter they should respond to the environment and be designed for the future, not be projects designed for yesterday or today, but for tomorrow. The final set of criteria to assist project rating was resolved by the Emergency Committee as below:
In addition we supported the inclusion of two regional programmes for consideration as ‘shovel-ready’: a programme of sports field development and a local tracks programme.
It has long been held that ‘disruption’ leads to innovation. We saw it following the Christchurch Earthquakes where a horrendous natural disaster created opportunity for communities to strengthen, for urban design to flourish, be experimental and future-focused, where gaps were filled and neglected areas were beautified and activated. What has emerged in Christchurch is a far more dynamic city, home to incredibly empowered and engaged communities that have taken the opportunity to collaboratively redesign what they want to see in their neighbourhoods. Without disruption the landscape for reinvention would simply not have been there.
So too in our city (and the rest of NZ) will we see the opportunity to prepare our place for the future. Things don’t happen quickly, this is widely understood, but our decisions now, more than ever, must consider what we want our place to look like for future generations. Our decisions need to honour the environment and respond to the climate emergency, we must create a more equitable and liveable city where urban design is in harmony with the natural environment, rather than in opposition to it.
We need to be encouraging more active modes of transport; literally leaving the car behind in preference of connected cycleways, wider footpaths that are safe and accessible and can accommodate micro-mobility, strollers and wheelchairs (and our new need for greater personal space!). Public transport needs to be electric and clean, integrated and efficient. We need to be pushing for a sustainable city model where we grow up, not out, where commercial areas are pedestrianized and localized, so more of us can live and work in the same part of the city. Future buildings should employ regenerative design principals, not focusing solely on sustainability (or nothing at all – our BAU model!); we should see a large uptake on the incorporation of green roofs and skins, thermal efficiency and what should eventuate are inspiring places for work and education.
Town centres need civic squares that offer opportunity to connect, engage and be creative; and the design of civic space should reflect our cultural narratives and uniqueness, as well as meet our need for art creation and appreciation. Town centres and transport infrastructure should be well-lit and safe for use and barriers to access should be removed.
Let’s be leaders in this space, just as we were in our response to this pandemic, and take it as an opportunity to build a city that stands the test of time.
Two lock down birthdays (me 39, Sid 4), two failed attempts at bread making (both me), three nights of back to back Tiger King and three new family members, this is the van Tonder family lock down. With 3 kids, 1 husband, 1 schnoodle and now 3 chickens (Sylvie, Baxter and Slide who were, as it turns out, deemed ‘essential’), like everyone else we’ve been staying and struggling in our bubble, and whilst I may not have learned a new skill, read a million books, or become a fitter, faster version of myself; I have done a lot of thinking. So in the words of the DTLB Chair, I’ve been thinking…
Elected member of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board for the 2019-2022 Election Term.