Waiheke Island gains more say

Waiheke Local Board could soon get more power.
Rose Davis

Waiheke Local Board could soon get more power.

Waiheke Local Board's pleas for more power to do things the island way are finally getting heard.

Auckland Council is finalising plans for a Waiheke pilot project, which will see the local board gain more power to make decisions on island issues.

Local board chairperson Paul Walden said the pilot is expected to allow the board to make headway on building a community swimming pool.

​The council's regional policies place a Waiheke pool as a medium priority, meaning the island would have to wait 10 years or more for a pool.

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In contrast, the council's report on the Waiheke pilot project outlines numerous ways the council could support the local board to make a pool on the island a reality.

At its meeting last week that considered the pilot, the board asked for the power to set its own rates to fund new services or facilities, such as a pool.

An important aspect of the pilot would be having an operational manager based on Waiheke, Walden said.

The local manager would address issues such as the dire state of Crescent Road East extension and ongoing problems with people living in boats on beaches.

"There has been a lot of frustration and not a lot of outcomes in some areas," Walden said.

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"It has been clear for quite some time that things need to be done differently here and this is a strong signal from the council that they recognise that.

"Being able to deal with things locally is really important."

The pilot will include investigations into a visitor levy and implementing a strategic plan for council-owned land at Matiatia.

The local board has asked to have more say on Auckland Transport works and road design on the island.

The council report acknowledges both Auckland Transport and the council have been slow to stop private landowners encroaching onto council reserves.

More than 100 encroachments onto island reserves have been recorded.

The pilot could involve making a stocktake of encroachments and investigating the best way to manage them.

Walden said the pilot project might never have surfaced if it had not been for local board member, John Meeuwsen, forming Our Waiheke and applying to break away from Auckland Council.

The pilot is expected to begin next month and continue for three years and could inform changes to all local boards in the region.

Final decisions on the Waiheke pilot will be made by the council's governing body at a meeting on September 28.





 - Stuff

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