Letter to Manukau - 30 May 2008
Letter to Manukau
From the Office of the Mayor of Manukau
Friday 30 May 2008
In this update
* Charity Ball
* Wastewater Charges
* Singing Mayor
"It is not the mountains we conquer but ourselves" - Sir Edmund Hillary.
Last year, within two days of my becoming mayor of Manukau, Shan and I decided we would attempt a major fundraising effort to benefit childrens' health in our community. We agreed a ball would be a great idea. Others decided it would be the Mayoress' Charity Gala Ball. Fortunately Shan agreed to this!! We gathered a great group of supporters including representatives from local Rotary organisations and the South Auckland Health Foundation - with the latter to be the recipient of the funds raised. I especially want to note the contributions of Alan Davies of Rotary and Pam Tregonning of the foundation.
Organising the ball was a huge task which was brilliantly handled by a superb team. With the generous support of 66 firms as well as groups and organisations from our community, every table at the ball was sold. On Saturday night there were 87 tables with 10 people seated at each inside the Sir Woolf Fisher Arena at the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre.
It was a fabulous night. But everyone arrived at the same time and there was a queue out to the Great South Rd while we greeted guests. The weather was fine which was a good omen for what turned out to be a great evening.
People got up and danced from the get-go. There was great entertainment from Malford - the rock stars from Botany Downs Secondary College - as well as Marilyn, local singing legend Lapi Mariner and dancing sensations Shane Cortese and Nerida Jantti. The balance of the music came from Tuxedo Swing - a brilliant 13 piece string band with two singers.
Shan and I were a little apprehensive as to how the charity auctions would go. But from the opening of the doors, the silent auction area was crowded with people. In the seven live auctions, the hands were flying up all around the hall.
It was a wonderful occasion and a statement from our community that we are proud of who we are, where we have come from and where we are going to. We raised $290,000 towards a brilliant cause, namely paediatric spaces in the new Intensive Care Unit at Middlemore Hospital. Shan and I are hugely appreciative of those who gave up their time for early morning meetings to bring this all together and support us in our cause.
With reference to Sir Ed's words above, this was a huge effort by so many people, who should all feel a real sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction at what was achieved.
This week the council determined its position on wastewater charging. This had been a part of our annual plan considerations. The charges have been a matter of debate in our city for several years, especially since the Manukau Water Ltd council controlled organisation was set up.
It has been one of the most keenly debated and difficult issues I have seen in all my years on the council. On the one hand there are households which use very little water. Some of these people feel aggrieved at paying the same fixed wastewater charge as everyone else. But those on low incomes can apply for a rates rebate. Water and wastewater charges count in the rebate calculation for Manukau residents after a council decision to this effect last year.
But I have also been acutely aware of the impact on families of going for a part fixed charge, part volumetric charge regime. Many families use a lot of water so would have had to pay much more under this option.
A fixed charge means we can moderate the impact of wastewater charges on families, while doing everything possible to assist small households and people on fixed incomes with as wide an application of the rebate as possible.
I am aware that there will be some elderly people in our community who would have wanted us to make a different decision. Over the next 12 months our councillors, council staff and I will do all we can to ensure more people eligible for a rebate can access one.
The significant increase in Manukau Water Ltd's wastewater charge for residential customers is mainly due to a proposed 17 percent price increase from Watercare. I am working towards a reduction in this increase.
We have also corrected a long-standing disparity between the residential and the business/community group sectors. This will be remedied over four years but will contribute to wastewater price rises for households. As a business-friendly city, we must do everything we can to ensure the viability and sustainability of the businesses which employ so many of our people.
In the short time I have been mayor, I have displayed my Irish heritage on many occasions by finishing my speeches with a song or waiata. I have been labelled the singing mayor of Manukau.
I go to many events, functions and occasions where our people are celebrating and there is every reason to have a good song.
Many people around the city know that my father has a fine singing voice. He is still singing in choirs and in solo performances in retirement villages. I haven't inherited his formidable singing capability but that hasn't held me back. My singing at events helps lighten the atmosphere and gets most people smiling, even if it is out of sympathy.
Recently at Howick Primary School, I was entertaining the youngsters with stories about my own children and decided to conclude with a song.
I started to sing Edelweiss from the Sound of Music. A young fellow in the front row started giggling. The mirth spread around the rows of year one and two students. By the time I had finished, my song was being drowned out by the laughter of the five, six and seven year olds in the front of the assembly.
I was assured by the principal that this was because they weren't used to visitors singing. But I suspect it may have been for other reasons a little less complimentary.
Mayor of Manukau