Abridged

National party member Joseph Bergin and Labour's Richard Hills are two of Auckland's youngest politicians, for Devonport-Takapuna Local Board and Kaipatiki Local Board respectively, and now they go head-to-head on top North Shore and national issues for the North Shore Times.

What's the best part about being from the Shore?

05:00am 01 Aug 2013

Richard Hills and Joseph Bergin discuss the North Shore and what makes it great.

One of the best submissions I remember reading to the Draft Auckland Plan was put together by a group of people on the Shore who had all lived and worked here and been a large part thecommunity for a significant portion of their lives. The extremely considered 60 page submissionled with a quote on the front page which to me summed up exactly what the North Shore is. It dubbed the it "A jewel in the crown of Auckland".

The reasons why are patently obvious to anyone who has spent anytime over here. The singlebest aspect of the North Shore is it's community. I say this because although our buildings maybe no more grand, our grass may be no more greener and our beaches nor more pristine than anywhere else in the country, our people make the whole area come alive. Unlike many parts of Auckland, the Shore has retained it's sense of neighbourliness, both in the big ways and the smaller ways.

I live on one of those streets in Milford where I still know the person over the back-fence, where neighbours can come and ask us to keep an eye on their property while their away, where you can recognise the people on your running route and know who the car on the street with the window down belongs to. These are all little things that may not mean much to some but contribute more to a sense of security than any fence and more to belonging than the physical ownership of any property.

In a wider sense, we have a history on the Shore of standing up for others and really getting in behind our own. We have one of the biggest Rotary and Lions Clubs and extremely community focused business groups such as the North Harbour Club who pull together to support individuals and communities to achieve a greater potential. We also have community trusts and theatres, houses and galleries that run huge community projects for all ages and abilities despite minuscule funding from the Council.

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Should rail come to the Shore?

05:00am 02 Jul 2013

On the back of the announcement from the Government last week that they consider Auckland's major transport projects top priorities for funding, rail is front of mind. The city rail link has been identified as a key project in the Auckland Transport Integrated Transport Programme and the Auckland Plan. It's advantage for rail commuters in the west and south is considerable and strategically for them it makes sense. Bringing rail to the Shore however is not as clear.

As a regular bus commuter from the Shore to the city, thanks to the Northern Busway, I have a fast, efficient and affordable trip straight into the city. Not only do many bus services run through the feeder roads and then race down the busway at various stations, but the Northern Express runs at least every 15-30 minutes throughout the day. If rail was to be brought to the Shore then it is widely accepted that the Busway would be upgraded as a rail system up to Albany.

In the long-term this may make sense, however this would be far more substantial than just laying the track. Stations such as Sunnynook would need to better integrate the ability of feeder buses dropping passengers for instance and the dedicated lanes would need to be extended further given that the formal bus lanes end at the constellation station. There aren't accurate costings yet which show in current figures what that would amount to in addition to the rail tunnel required, but the cost to benefit ratio would have to be greater than anything that improvements to the busway and bus stock could produce.

With current and even projected public transport user figures it would also be difficult to see the justification for multi-carriage trains running as frequently as the Northern Express Bus Service at off peak times. Any reduction in that frequency would reduce the attractiveness a rapid public transport system considering that the ability to plan activities knowing another service is only 15 minutes away provides patrons much more freedom than nothing running for another hour or so. On the other hand if the frequency wasn't reduced, trains would be running half empty creating a major on-going deficit for the city.

Essentially "landing" and "bringing" rail to the Shore are two different concepts with the former simply requiring having a rail-proofed tunnel and the latter demanding an extensive network plan and budget. Until we see an extensive business case and sufficient population and transport trends data to support bringing rail to the Shore, we should not allow ourselves to mistakenly believe that rail projects in the inner-city are intended for the widespread benefit of the Shore people. But with where we are right now, the bigger priority is getting the tunnel done and agreed to and, (so long as it is not cost-prohibitive) future-proofed for rail.

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Who wants to be a politician anyway?

05:00am 21 Jun 2013

Ever since I was young I've had strong opinions. I always felt it was important to stand for something, stick up for others and change things for the better; whether it was at school, at work or in the various community organisations I have been a part of.  So I stood three years ago hoping to get a slightly younger voice out there and also encourage those around me who weren't engaged with local politics to vote and get involved.

The campaign experience was great, I felt like I got more people interested in local issues and even better that I was elected to the first Kaipatiki Local Board.

Getting elected felt strangely like the easy part, the real challenge was getting our heads around the new Auckland Council model, all staff and elected members were learning as we went along, on a model never seen before in New Zealand. We had to find the balance between protecting what we as a community wanted to keep the same, while recognising the new structure had to bring change and planning for the future.

Our board has a lot of passion, experience and different ideas and has been well led by first time chairwoman Lindsay Waugh. First time politicians Kay McIntyre and I had a lot of questions; luckily council staff are great at giving us information and advice fairly quickly.  Sometimes things can take a while to implement, other times things get done so fast and so easily it is weird to think we had a part in it.  I commonly hear gripes about council from people in the street or at a meeting, but often they've never complained or given feedback, after they do, many end up with a more positive view of council processes. Jill Nerheny and her Kaipatiki Community Facilities Trust team continues to be a great board partner and asset to get ideas, projects moving and to find out what's happening or changing within our community.

I have loved the past three years, engaging with our diverse and passionate community has been exciting and rewarding. I grew up here so I feel like I know many of the issues and am familiar with many in the community anyway, but it's so important we go and talk to community groups and the general public whenever we can, whether it's door knocking residents about an idea, supporting place making initiatives or taking out the consultation campervan to talk to hundreds of people about the Unitary Plan, where I got very detailed and reasoned views from many corners of our community, often very different to highly publicised voices in the media.

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Debunking Unitary Plan myths

05:00am 24 May 2013

By Joseph Bergin

Whether it's some people seeking to cause anarchy or genuine concern and misinformation, whenever plans are put out by Auckland Council for consultation the proverbial 'Rumour Mill' gets struck by a Kansas-styled tornado and we all end up somewhere down the yellow-brick-road. I have seen this happen again and again, but the Unitary Plan is the first time I've seen so much of this coming from the council itself.

Like many others, I have huge concerns over the direction of this document. Continuing with the analogy, there seems to be a whole lot of houses falling from the skies on some pages of the plan and plenty of those landing on top of each other. My own community is being told to take a whole lot more intensification than the infrastructure could possibly cope with, from Sunnynook and Milford, to Belmont and Bayswater. This isn't helped with the constant press releases and frankly untrue comments coming out of politicians' offices and the council machine.

For example, in response to outrage over proposed heights in Milford, the council turned around and said that the majority of housing in Auckland will be only two-stories... Typical blocking tactics. Some council politicians in all of this play the role of the scarecrow magnificently; running around claiming everyone else is wrong because of some piece of paper a fake wizard gave them which tells them they have a brain. So, while some are content to run around crying 'lions and tigers and bear' (oh my) I think we all need to realise that three myths in particular are standing between us and a future we can all buy into:

Myth #1: This is a Generational Issue.

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Youth and Auckland's future

05:00am 09 May 2013

By Richard Hills

The Unitary Plan (www.shapeauckland.co.nz), under Government legislation requires one district plan for Auckland's future, instead of the many plans from old council boundaries. It cannot make you demolish or sell your house it is a rulebook for growth in our community over the next 30 years, so it is obvious to me that young people and generations that come after us will be impacted by the plan and must have a stake in its development.

Those on the Kaipatiki Youth Board are smart and have great ideas for our future; I enjoy the feedback on community issues from children on our Children's Panels I helped introduce in our local schools. The hundreds of young people across Auckland I work with in my part time job giveme serious excitement and hope for our future. In all cases the common thread is about making sure young people have a voice on serious issues, allowing them to express what they want to see change, and what they see as important for our future.

Younger people tell me it's almost impossible to afford average house prices of $600,000+, rents are high and there are few available sections on the North Shore now. People are moving here, people are living longer, others are having more babies; the Unitary Plan gives options for people to build apartments or terraced housing and live around our town centres, more choice for younger couples, people living alone or those who want something smaller once the kids leave home. It might give a first step on the property ladder, allow people to live close to public transport hubs and walking distance to shops and restaurants, or to move from a large property with maintenance they don't have time for. It will give young people more choices to stay in communities they love, instead of having to move to the city fringe, with a lack of transport options and infrastructure. Also it should help keep younger kiwis here, instead of moving to cities overseas which already give them these options.

Urban sprawl takes up valuable farming and agricultural land and costs a lot to extend & maintain new roading, public transport and waste water infrastructure. Plus our highways are already clogged with people driving to work every day. The Unitary Plan still allows for 160,000 single dwellings (40 per cent) to be built outside the urban limits which seems more than enough, 93 per cent of all housing under new rules will still be two storeys or less with some at three, which is possible under most current rules. Around 6 per cent can be 4-6 storeys and less than 1 per cent can be more than 6 storeys. 

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