The Ross Report – April 2005
Ross – Manukau City Councillor
Public Pressure Keeps Rates Down:
At the end of last month, the Manukau City Council adopted its Draft Annual Plan for the 2005-2008 period. As the Plan was going through its initial stages, there was much controversy over the projected rates increase which, at one point, was going to be almost 6%. Some Council members, in all their wisdom, thought it convenient to give ratepayers a huge rates increase in 2005 in the hope that they would forget by the 2007 election.
The community reaction to this was exactly as expected and the Manukau City ratepayers weren’t going to have a bar of it. In protest to the originally projected rates increase, I launched the Lower Rates Petition calling on Councillors to stick to their 2004 election promises and cap any future rates increases at the rate of inflation. With the help of many people, hours were spent canvassing the streets of Manukau City and over 2000 signatures were collected in just 4 weeks. As well as the petition, many people wrote into the local newspapers which had extensive coverage of the rating situation being played out.
When it came to adopting the Draft Annual Plan, the mounting public pressure was certainly heating up and wasn’t something that could be ignored. It was decided at the March Council meeting that $4.8million of a special dividend from the Auckland International Airport should be used to offset the 2005 rates increase. This effectively passes the benefits of the city’s airport shareholding back to ratepayers to enjoy.
Ideally the best way to keep rates increases down is to reduce wasteful expenditure, but unfortunately the majority of Councillors are unwilling to do that. This move by the Council will see that more money is left in the pockets of Manukau City ratepayers and it is pleasing to see that happen. Having moved in this direction, Manukau City ratepayers will now enjoy the benefits of the lowest local body rates increase in the whole Auckland Region. Every person who was involved with, or signed the Lower Rates Petition should be proud of their efforts.
Racially Divisive Policies On The Agenda:
Distressing times lie ahead for Manukau City residents as the Council considers a possible new race-based representation model. In July 2004, before the elections, the Council opened the door to proposals giving special preference to groups, based on their race, by retracting a policy that disallowed any references to race or colour. In a workshop held to discuss Maori participation in decision making processes, several ideas were recently canvassed between Councillors and Officers that would introduce additional privileges for Maori groups in Manukau City .
Discussions held in the workshop aren’t permitted to be reported on, but a briefing paper presented to Councillors has been made available through the Official Information Act. The paper goes into a lot of detail about Maori wards, committees, community board representation, and how they could all be implemented in Manukau City to provide “opportunity for Maori to participate and make contributions to Council’s decision making at governance level”.
The content of this briefing paper and the future discussions to be held about race-based privileges should be very alarming for ratepayers as they highlight the politically correct path the Manukau City Council is heading down. Instead of treating all people fairly and equally, the introduction of Maori wards would give one racial group special privileges over other ethnicities in the City. Manukau has over 160 different ethnic groups residing in the city which must surely mean that equal treatment, regardless of race, is of an even greater priority. The only way to celebrate diversity is to allow every ethnic group to flourish on a level playing field.
The issue of non-elected people making Councillors’ decisions also arises as the briefing paper covers the possibility of Maori being co-opted onto Council committees. 18 individuals are elected to the Manukau City Council every 3 years and it should only be those people, with the consent of the city’s electors, who should be making any significant Council decisions. All NZ citizens who are registered to vote can stand as candidates in local body elections, and Maori have every opportunity to test their capability through this electoral process.
The implementation of special Maori representation by the Council would put the development of Manukau City back by decades. The only route towards Maori and non-Maori living in harmony is to promote fairness and equality in everything the Council does. As a Councillor who can trace back a line of Maori descendents, I find the suggestion that Maori need special representation offensive. Every democratic opportunity to be heard and considered is available to Maori because they are New Zealanders. If more influence in decision making processes is sought, all anybody needs to do is stand up and be counted with the rest of us.
Council Brothel Bylaw Ineffective:
The Council Community Safety Committee recently undertook a preliminary review of the Brothel Control Bylaw 2004 which was adopted less than a year ago. One of the key objectives of the bylaw was to limit adverse effects of prostitution in residential areas, which has not happened. The review showed significant deficiencies in the bylaw and the limitations of its enforcement, particularly when it came to controlling brothels and their location within the community.
The main issue with the bylaw centres on home enterprise brothels which are not supposed to be within 250 metres of schools, community facilities or places of worship. Brothels are theoretically restricted by the bylaw, however the review has revealed that it is very difficult to enforce brothel locations and any complaints received cannot be responded to. To date, 6 complaints have been lodged with the Council, none of which has been resolved.
Confidence in the Council’s bylaw dropped to an all time low last week when the Howick and Pakuranga Times investigated reports of prostitution occurring within metres of Elm Park School in Pakuranga. An undercover reporter was sent to a massage parlour to follow up on complaints from concerned parents that turned out to be well justified. The reporter was offered sexual services at the brothel, despite these being prohibited by local regulations.
It’s often easy to point the finger at Council Officers in situations like this, but the reality is that they are carrying out their duties to the best of their ability. The problem isn’t that they’re not doing their job; it is that the Manukau City Council bylaw is ineffective and Council has not given its officers the tools to enforce it. Prostitution is a ghastly practice that has no place in residential areas and Manukau City residents have every right to expect their Council to ensure their safety. Nobody wants their children exposed to the dangers of prostitution and it is up to Councillors to take a hard line against these brothels by revising the deficient Council bylaw.
Star Of The Sea To Undergo Renovations:
The Star of the Sea in Howick is about to be given a new lease of life with a recent partnership agreement formed between the Manukau City Council and the Polish Heritage Trust. The Star of The Sea convent building in Granger Road was bought by the Council several years ago and has been sitting idle ever since. Several projects to restore the building have been attempted over the years, but none has been successful thus far. Most recently the Howick and Districts Historical Society were interested in restoring Star of the Sea themselves, but have now decided to take a backseat role due to the scale of work required.
When visiting the Star of the Sea it is very clear to see that the old convent previously used by the Catholic Church isn’t in the best condition. With disintegrating brickwork, holes in the roof and walls, as well as many a broken window, repair and redevelopment of this distinguished heritage site is long overdue. The Polish Heritage Trust has approached the Council with the vision of fitting out Star of the Sea as a cultural heritage facility for Howick and Manukau residents to enjoy, and their assistance on this project is very welcome.
Whether or not people agree with Council’s involvement with Star of the Sea over the years, the fact of the matter now is that Council owns the building and has to find a suitable community use for it. The Polish Heritage Trust has been generous enough to provide $250,000 towards the cost of renovations and $150,000 towards the operational costs of the facility on an ongoing basis. Council, in previous years, has set aside $500,000 for Star of the Sea renovations.
Star of the Sea will always have a special place in the Howick Ward and most residents and ratepayers will be expecting their Council to take a lead role in restoring the old convent to a positive state. Retaining historically significant buildings has always rated highly in the Howick community and all will be waiting in anticipation as the future of Star of the Sea rests on the shoulders of the Polish Heritage Trust. Our best wishes for their endeavours.
Council News In Brief…
• Mayor Curtis sues Council over neighbour’s development
• Growth intensification no longer considered for Howick
• Council swimming pools grossly understaffed
• Cr David Collings nominated chair of Eastern Corridor Steering Group
• Pacific Island Advisory Committee Demands Increase in Meeting Fees
• Community Safety delegation to meet with Police Minister
• Appointment Panel set up to select new City Manager
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