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Residents' groups join forces

LIZ WILLIS AND KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012

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Intensive housing fears and rising rates are key concerns of a new lobby group formed from ratepayer groups across Auckland.

About 20 ratepayer groups were represented at the meeting in Parnell on November 17, which created the Auckland Region Ratepayers Group as a new voice for residents.

Auckland residents feel they haven't got a voice under the new super-city and the group plans to lobby council on their behalf, Laurie Slee of Cockle Bay Residents and Ratepayers says.

Mr Slee, who co-chaired the regional ratepayers meeting, says people feel frustrated council is "ticking the boxes" during consultation but not listening.

He hopes a powerful regional ratepayer group will have "more clout".

Auckland Council's intensification proposals under its Unitary Plan and big rates rises were the top concerns of those at the meeting.

Fears about the impact of infill on already strained infrastructure and over-intensification of town centres and suburbs were raised.

Ellerslie Residents Association chairman Bryan Johnson says a survey conducted in May reveals the main concern for Ellerslie residents is that traffic congestion and safety issues will become more of a problem following the completion of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative.

"There is a lack of pedestrian crossings, even pulling out of your driveway safely is difficult because there is just so much through traffic in Ellerslie.

"We believe the solution lies in the formation of an Eastern Highway."

Ellerslie ratepayers are also worried about rates increases. What the lobby group needs to do is find a consensus on where council can reduce spending, Mr Johnson says.

The Mission Bay-Kohimarama Residents Association president Adriana Gunder wasn't able to attend the meeting but put forward several issues for discussion.

High rates and the lack of transport options are among the biggest concerns for people living in the area, she says.

She plans to attend future meetings and encourages other residents' association members to get involved.

Ms Gunder says it's important to make sure the discussion is kept to common concerns rather than area-specific issues.

"I think if common ground is found, this group will be ideal. The more associations that become involved, the more power it will give us," she says.

Colin Andrews also attended. He plans to revive the North Shore Residents and Ratepayers group that fought the Shore's controversial district plan in the 1990s.

He is pleased to see a regional group forming and says it will help raise awareness about the Unitary Plan and importance of making submissions in March.

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"The primary concern is the public don't know what is going on."

Mr Andrews says he's also concerned at increasing rates and Watercare bills that are forcing some older residents from their homes

David Thornton of No More Rates says many ratepayers are concerned that amalgamation of councils leads to new structures more concerned with sheer size than democratic governance.

The Auckland Region Ratepayers Group hopes to meet again in the new year and appoint a chairperson and expects more groups will join.

Email David Thornton at david@nomorerates. com if your residents' association is interested in joining the new group.

- East And Bays Courier

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