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Jami-Lee Ross Speech To Howich RRA

Jami-Lee Ross

19 September 2004 – Pre-prepared Speech to: Howick Ratepayer and Resident’s Association

Manukau City has been good to me. I was born here and raised here by my grandmother. Now I want to continue living and working here and someday I will raise a family here. This city has been good to me, but I want to help make it better for the future.

In this years election I am the youngest candidate in the Auckland Region. I’m telling you this because in Manukau City, 43 percent of the population is the under the age of 25 and that’s one of the reasons why I believe there needs to be someone younger and different sitting around the Council table.

It’s time for some fresh new faces and some new blood to be injected into the Manukau City Council. For some time now this city has been moving in the wrong direction and residents and ratepayers are crying out for a change of leadership from top to bottom. Manukau City Council has lost focus and has forgotten the main reason why they exist.

We often hear the words “Core Services” used by a range of different politicians and would-be Councillors. Whether or not we can all agree on what core services actually are, the people who champion the need for this Council to cut back spending and refocus on the needs of ratepayers are absolutely right.

The Manukau City Council should not be about who can build the biggest empire. It should be about providing high quality services to ratepayers and doing that efficiently.

I have 5 commitments that I am going to make to you today. They are what I believe in, they are what I am standing for, and they are what I believe will make Manukau City a better place for everybody.

No. 1 – I am committed to bringing transparency and accountability to this Council.

Closed door meetings where millions of dollars of ratepayer’s money is spent are not acceptable. I don’t care about the fancy term “Commercial Sensitivity” – that’s just Council’s way of saying “we don’t want you to know”. As far as I’m concerned, if something is good enough to spend ratepayer’s money on, then it is good enough to be open and honest about it.

The same goes for the annual plan and annual reports. You shouldn’t need a financial degree to be able to read them and they should be easily understood by every person that wants to know exactly where their hard-earned money is going.

To keep this Council accountable I will push for more performance reviews across all aspects of Council’s operations on a monthly basis. Councillors mustn’t sit back and watch the city run on autopilot – they need to be actively reviewing and second guessing the actions of council staff because that’s what they’re there for and that is their job.

No. 2 – I am committed to sound and prudent financial management.

This Council’s spending is out of control, public debt is climbing year after year and so are rates. This is a serious issue and it must be addressed. Manukau City is in millions of dollars of debt and according to Council’s own predictions, it will peak at $270 million over the next 10 years. Our counterparts in Auckland City are debt free!

This Council loves to fund glamorous big projects which we don’t need and we can’t afford. The current Mayor and the current Councillors are simply building monuments as their own lasting legacy and proof of this is can be seen on the Great South Road.

Both the Flat Bush Town Centre and Barry Curtis Park developments need to be postponed and reviewed as soon as possible and absolutely no more money should be to given to the Pacific Events Centre. I want to put an end to this Council’s questionable and unnecessary expenditure, and I want to see this city’s public debt significantly reduced by the next election.

No. 3 – I am committed to bringing real democracy to Manukau City

Despite all the talk from this City’s cheerleaders, public consultation does not happen. In 1998 Barry Curtis promised you that the Pacific Events Centre would not cost ratepayers one cent. In 2002, 62 percent of Manukau People said that they did not want any ratepayer funds to be spent on this centre. I can assure you however, that so far the Telstra-Clear Pacific Events Centre has cost you, the ratepayer, over $30 million dollars.

The Manukau City Council has not listened to the ratepayers at all and has spent $30 million dollars against your wishes. I will make it my mission over the next three years to bring real democracy to Manukau City and to implement a policy allowing Binding Citizen Initiated Referendums for making major city decisions.

Binding Citizen Initiated Referendums will give residents and ratepayers a real say on how their city is operated and where their money is spent. It is the most direct form of democracy and it will allow justice to prevail for the 62 percent of ratepayers that opposed the Pacific Events Centre.

I trust the collective wisdom of 200,000 Manukau voters to make sensible decision far more than I trust the collective wisdom of 20 elected dictators.

No. 4 – I am committed to completing the Eastern Transport Corridor

The Auckland Region has a second rate transport system and any person that has travelled the Auckland Motorway during daylight hours will agree. More and more cars are put onto our roads every day and they’re beyond their capacity.

Something needs to be done for Auckland’s traffic problems and I believe the Eastern Corridor will greatly reduce the travelling times for people in this City. From the latest recommended route we know where it’s going to go and how much it will cost – now we just need to get the job done.

Building more roads is only part of the solution and the Auckland Region also needs to concentrate on getting people out of cars and into public transport. Making it easier and more desirable for people to use Buses, trains and ferries is the second step to getting Auckland moving again.

No. 5 – I am committed to building a clean, safe and secure environment.

It’s all fine and well to want to solve financial problems and transport issues within Council, but we also have to think about the environment which people live in. New Zealand is a beautiful country but graffiti, vandalism and street prostitution are just some of the problems that Manukau residents shouldn’t have to put up with.

Public safety is a key concern of many people and this Council needs to be demanding more police for our city. Statistics prove that Police numbers over the last two years have dropped by 10 percent in Manukau City and that is only going to open the door to more criminals.

The continuation and increased funding of Council’s Community Safety Committee is an important step towards attacking crime in this city. It is a vital link between Council, the police, and the community itself and the work of this Committee is very valuable. Priorities for the future must be to strengthen penalties for offending and to provide more crime reduction measures around local town centres.

Finally, I want to say to you that I am committed to getting this Council back on track, and back to the basics of Local Government. I am committed to giving Howick a real voice in Council decision making and I will be serving this community on a full-time basis.

Manukau City has had 21 years of Barry Curtis and Council’s “let’s build an events centre” approach. It’s time for change and it’s time for some new blood to be injected into the Manukau City Council. I am the only new candidate in front of you that has never stood before and I am the only candidate that can bring a fresh new face to Council.

I may be young, but I have been pounding the pavements for the last 3 months talking to and listening to the people of Howick. If I can listen to residents and ratepayers to find out what is important to them and how they want their city to be, then I can make just as good a representative as someone who is 2 or 3 times my age – and even better.

I will not try to build my own Manukau empire and I will concentrate on providing high quality services to ratepayer and providing them efficiently. Don’t judge me by my age; judge me by my commitments to you and by my commitment to bettering Howick’s future.

Jami-Lee Ross

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