The herald today has pulled the veil back on some of the key opponents battling Skypath in the Environment court and how they’re not at all representative of the views of the communities they claim to serve.
But three associations were not cheering – two based in the northern landing at Northcote Point and a third at the southern landing at Herne Bay – and appealed against the consent in the Environment Court.
With two groups from one neighbourhood opposing the project, as an outsider you would be forgiven for believing the Northcote Residents Association (NRA) and the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society represented the views of a community with genuine concerns about the project.
However, of the 382 submissions from Northcote, 29.8 per cent were opposed.
From what I’ve seen over the years, resident associations tend to be best understood the hobby horses for one or two individuals to pretend they have legitimacy to force their views on the wider community. They’re usually run as the personal fiefdoms with those in charge and are often very protective of who can join so they can retain control of the narrative. Take the Northcote Residents Association (NRA) as an example. The association say they cover the following area which is home to about 10,000 people.
And their rules state that anyone from within that area can join
4.1 The number of members of the Association is unlimited and any person who is a resident or ratepayer of Northcote is eligible for membership and shall be admitted as a full member on
(i) payment of the subscription specified by the Executive;
(ii) completion of a membership 2 form; and
(iii) agreeing to abide by the Rules of the Association;
(iv) approval of the Executive in accordance with Rule 4.3 below.
But rule 4.3 is the kicker
4.3 A majority of two thirds or more of the members of the Executive, by resolution, may determine that any person’s application for membership be declined. The Executive shall not be obliged to provide any reasons for its decision.
So effectively the executive can kick out anyone who doesn’t agree with them, or in the case most rational people, they’ll leave once they realise they aren’t being represented and those in charge are using the association to further their own personal aims, not those of the wider community. And that’s exactly what has happened.
NRA chairman Kevin Clarke said there were no longer any members in the association who supported the SkyPath because they had all left.
“Thank God for that. They provided nothing. They did nothing. They were there to destroy and they damn near achieved it. They didn’t do anything positive. They didn’t do anything constructive.
“They didn’t do anything useful and they didn’t do anything to engage their mind in any of the problems that were blatantly presented by SkyPath’s hopelessly ill-resolved proposal.”
A quick search shows almost all of the ten executive members live on Northcote Point itself, living south of Stafford Rd/Rodney Rd.
The herald article highlights two former executive members who tried to have the NRA find out the actual views of the community but were shut down. This is something I first heard about at the time the Skypath submissions were under way. I also understand the executive had taken an official position of not supporting or opposing the project but then at the very last minute a core group submitted one anyway.
It’s also worth highlighting another issue raised
Mr Barfoot said having multiple societies set up made “it seem like there’s a grassroots movement against the SkyPath which is simply not the case”.
He’s referring to the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society which was set up in December 2014 during the submission period for Skypath. Many of the founding members are also on the NRA executive.
Of course these Northcote groups aren’t unique and there are plenty of others in various areas that will be similar. And there’s nothing wrong with associations supporting or opposing any project or plan. The issue comes when they claim to represent a community who most within that community probably don’t even know they even exist. Particularly on big discussions and especially RMA processes, perhaps these associations should be required to show the demographics of their members, the demographics of who within the community they’ve consulted and as a comparison to the demographics of the community they claim to represent.
To be fair, addressing the consultation problem is something we’ve talked about before and it extends much further than just residents associations. It applies equally to council’s and the government.