Last week Bernard Orsman wrote a long article looking at the upcoming Auckland Council elections. The article is behind a paywall, but I have pulled out a few important parts of it. As per usual, Orsman plays up the “A team”, “B team” narrative that he’s been pushing for the past few years – giving the impression that there are two quite separate voting blocs. I’ve always found this a strange narrative, given the Council unanimously passed its 10 year budget last year – the single most important decision it makes in its three-year term. On other key issues such as the final funding approval for City Rail Link, only Greg Sayers, Mike Lee and Christine Fletcher voted against.
But anyway, back to the article. It starts by outlining some of the ‘behind the scenes’ machinations going on to make Phil Goff’s life difficult in the even that he is re-elected mayor.
Away from the mayoral contest between Phil Goff and John Tamihere, the Weekend Herald can reveal a strategy loosely co-ordinated by councillor Daniel Newman targeting several wards to win office.
The strategy has four goals. Defeat “Team Goff” councillors in Whau, Tamaki-Maungakiekie and North Shore wards. Hold Waitemata and Gulf Ward, hold both seats in Howick, and win the Papakura-Manurewa ward seat vacated by John Walker.
Success will give the B team a majority on council, making life difficult for Goff if he is re-elected and butting heads with Tamihere should he win.
Newman, who represents the Papakura-Manurewa ward in South Auckland, is the de facto leader of the B team by virtue of his political skills, deep understanding of policy and the inner workings of council and ability to build relationships with colleagues snubbed by Goff.
So what might this group push for if they have the majority of Council seats? A pretty worrying future for Auckland that could put at risk much of the progress that has been made in recent years.
Profound changes will take place at council and CCOs if the B team get a majority on council. Goff or Tamihere, with one of 21 votes on council, will have little choice but to heed the wishes of the B team.
Newman says if every member of the B team brings one policy to the table a lot will change. As someone from South Auckland, home to a lot of big families, he wants to protect weekly rubbish collections and end plans for fortnightly collections.
He wants to see a “rebalancing” of transport spending so the 80 per cent of commuters in his ward who travel by car get better roads and footpaths.
“Auckland Transport and Auckland Council is massively over-extending on this romantic delusion that life in future exists on the back of a bicycle,” Newman says.
The B team want to have councillors sitting on the board of Auckland Transport again, and withdraw support for light rail to the airport in favour of heavy rail.
There probably is merit in having the right councillors on the AT Board and the the light-rail/heavy-rail debate is a bit irrelevant as that’s a Government-led project anyway, but the cycling comment really annoyed me. There is a weird perception that most of the transport budget is going on cycling and that cycle lanes are being introduced everywhere – if only this were true!
Unfortunately the reality is that cycling makes up barely 2% of the $28 billion ATAP programme. Furthermore, Auckland Transport are struggling to even implement this pathetic level of funding. Despite this pretty shocking lack of funding and delivery, cycling continues to grow, as the latest statistics show, with really strong growth in areas where there safe networks, like the NW Cycleway.
Furthermore, cycling investment shows really strong returns that other types of projects can usually only dream about.
Overall my message is that in the upcoming election it’s the balance of the Council that matters just as much (if not more) than who happens to be the Mayor. A lot is at stake if we are to continue with the progress that has been made – and perhaps even speed it up a bit!