It's nearly March! Really? Are we that far into the year? We seem to have leapt forward at pace and sadly it’s taken this long to write my first blog post and update those who enjoy reading them on how Local Board life is going.
As a glass half full kinda person, I’ve decided to frame the last 12 months as a ‘joyful challenge’. I say joyful because of two good reasons; the range of fantastic capital projects that were successfully delivered last year that will make a measurable difference to local lives, and joyful because of the committed Council staff I get to work alongside who are smart and passionate and keen to collaborate and find ways to progress projects and matters of importance to the community.
Starting with capital projects, there have been a plethora of improvements from Devonport to Castor Bay; including (but not limited to) the new Milford Beach toilets and changing facilities (they’re stunning!), the opening of the Sunnynook play space, new toilets at Lake Town Green in Hauraki, new playgrounds at Melrose Reserve Devonport, Lansdowne Reserve Bayswater, Nile Reserve Milford, and a new playground renewal starting at Montgomery Avenue Belmont. We renewed the band rotunda at Windsor Reserve in Devonport (electrics and pathways still to be completed) and the seawalls at Narrow Neck Beach and Lansdowne Reserve are now getting repaired. We’ve renewed the stairs at Rāhopara Pā in Castor Bay and have been replacing and improving the boardwalk in Patuone Reserve so that there’s an off-road connection between Esmonde Road and Auburn Street in Takapuna. If, all going to plan, we are able to use the proceeds from the sale of 2 Strand in Takapuna, we’ll be able to deliver the walking/cycling connection from Francis to Esmonde Road, thus completing the green route from Devonport to Takapuna.
We managed to keep the funds to progress the Lake Road improvement project after some significant advocacy that included a heartfelt plea to the Chair of the AT Board during the dawn ceremony of Toka Puia car park (I was a bit of an opportunist, I admit) followed by letters sent in our individual capacity as Local Board members to the CEO of AT pretty much begging to keep the funds online. Coupled with the advocacy by our Councillors, we were all relieved to learn that we didn’t lose this vital project when it was very much in jeopardy.
One of the most exciting improvements completed last year was the Hurstmere Road upgrade. It was a painful upgrade for local businesses that took way longer than anticipated thanks to Level 4 lockdowns, but this investment has seen a more open, pedestrian-centred street-scape with welcoming street furniture, bi-directional cycle lanes, native planting & rain gardens, and importantly the replacement of ageing infrastructure below ground. It’s been more than 30 years since Takapuna has seen this sort of investment. There’s more to come as Eke Panuku started construction of Wawharariki Anzac Square, the new town centre for Takapuna in January.
All this achieved in our area, and way more when you consider Library services, the progression of strategic documents and plans, waste minimization, funding for our environment, community groups and Business Associations, public transport delivery, road and footpath renewals. So much still accomplished given Council’s COVID-slashed budget.
The second joy I get out of the gig is working with Council staff. Such smart, passionate people who really work hard to please the community and help meet their aspirations. Council doesn’t have a bottomless bucket of cash (especially right now) and projects do take time to lift off the ground, but overall, these people understand the parameters and they work hard to deliver the absolute best outcomes. In our Local Board office we have wonderful staff who I deeply enjoy working alongside. I don’t think they get the appreciation they actually deserve and the truth is, they’re the ones really getting things moving. I am grateful that they are there to make the city a better, more livable place.
I’ll admit there have been plenty of times where I have felt like banging my head against a wall, times when things haven’t gone as I’d like them to at the decision-making table. I’ve come to understand that this is “democracy in action” but am convinced that if more people paid attention to local decision-making, and made their views heard, we’d get some different decisions being made. Not being on the 'inner circle' of the Chair means Aidan and I often end up blindsided by the resolutions that get passed. This too has been a genuine challenge.
It’s election year this year which means it’s a great time to take a critical look at your elected members and perhaps back some of the newbies who put their hands up. It’s not an easy gig to muscle your way in to and if there are new leaders out there prepared to raise their head above the parapet, then I think we owe them our consideration.
At this stage Aidan and I are seriously discussing running again and we have some excellent people who are keen to run alongside us (will share more when we’re ready). There are a few things we want to see progress still and we’re keen to see local leadership turn a new page. We all deserve a board we can be proud of. So, here’s to 2022. Things seem a bit rocky right now, but I have faith it’ll all come right in the end.
Elected member of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board for the 2019-2022 Election Term.