Colin Beardon letter on our World Class Gulf

A “world-class” proposal :

Why does the Royal Commission into Auckland Governance leave me with a feeling of unreality? Perhaps it is true that if Joe and Joan Bloggs ask for a real say in the decisions that effect them, then the three wise commissioners will wave a magic wand and it will happen. But perhaps not.

Local Government Minister Mark Burton announced the Commission by saying, “The three Commissioners have a range of expertise and experience, including with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, making them ideally suited to carry out the work of the Royal Commission”.

In the Commission’s own ‘Outline of Issues’ they say that Auckland should become a “world-class city” which is “… one that is attractive to people and capital from overseas.” The real agenda aims to make it easier to sell parts of us off to overseas buyers, by lessening local control and weakening planning laws. That is the last thing we want.

Attack is the best form of defence and one strategy is to take the Commission’s key idea and subvert it to make it say what we want. So what is a “world-class city”? It can appear as a sinister plot to make the rich richer, but give it a twist and it can look very different. The Hauraki Gulf and its islands are already world-class. Its purity is being endangered precisely because of the current links with Auckland City who treat Waiheke as just another suburb, a destination for partygoers and speculative developers.

If the Royal Commission want “world-class” then let’s give it to them. A clear distinction can be drawn between the Hauraki Gulf and the mainland. Central to this is the vision of the Gulf and its islands as a potential World Heritage site requiring a form of management that protects it for posterity. That implies two very different structures: one for the mainland (about which very little needs to be said) and one for the Gulf.

The management of the Gulf and its islands (including Waiheke) requires a commitment by central government, backed up by Unesco recognition, that the natural environment of the Gulf is of international standing and requires special protection. It will require local management, but clearly constrained within this objective. And it will also require regional co-operation with all those other authorities who border on the Gulf.

It would not be achieved overnight, but there should be immediate action to place a moratorium on developments above a certain size, and to determine how the Resource Management and the Marine Park Acts can be enhanced to provide the legal framework for this protection.

This argument is too long to include in full here, but I am happy to provide a copy of my submission to anyone (email me at cbeardon@ihug.co.nz) and I can also send the necessary documents for you to make your own submission.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I think it important that submissions from Waiheke build upon the pride we all feel in our Island and the Gulf, and our belief that it is one of the most wonderful places in the world. Come on, it truly is “world-class”!

Colin Beardon, Palm Beach : april 10 2008

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