John Elliott: local election – after match comment

The 2019 local elections are over. Many of the 65% who didn’t vote may hardly have known it was on.

Congratulations to Pippa Coom, our new councillor. She beat incumbent Mike Lee by only about 300 votes, closer than many had predicted. C&R candidate, Sarah Trotman, was a distant third in the council vote, but she did take a seat on the Waitemata Local Board.

Pippa Coom is delighted, but acknowledges the big job ahead of her. “I will focus on, and work for, everyone in the ward area,” she told us. “I have a lot to learn,” Pippa said, “but I will take a collaborative approach. City Vision are very clear what we stand for, and I’m pleased six of the seven new board members will be City Vision members.” Pippa also acknowledged Mike Lee’s contribution to Auckland over a long period of time, including his campaigns for public transport, and the acquisition of regional parks during Mike’s time on the Regional Council.

Coom will be a hard-working councillor, as she has been for the Waitemata Local Board for nine years, the last three as chair. It is a promotion she has earned, and so long as she does not get too close to unelected council bureaucrats, especially Auckland Transport, she will serve us well. Some people have thought her an unabashed cheer leader for cycling, but she is much more comprehensive in her policy beliefs than that. Still, she will need to articulate that to convince the doubters, many of whom voted for Lee.

Lee is disappointed, and will now take a well-earned retirement. As a member of the so-called B Team, often opposed to Mayor Goff, Lee championed democracy against the backdrop of unelected, secretive, CCOs. It may be that some of Mike Lee’s advocacy will come to pass.

Goff has promised a serious review of the CCOs, including Auckland Transport, and while he does still not propose to place a councillor on the board of AT, as his predecessor Len Brown did, he has muttered about a councillor sitting on the board to monitor AT’s board, but without a vote and without a double-dipping salary.

I once sat on the Northland Regional Council, as a government representative. I had a vote, but no remuneration or travel expenses to meetings. Goff’s plan could be similar. If that happens, Mike Lee can take some credit for his push for greater transparency during his council time.

I spoke to Mike Lee about his time as a local body representative and about his defeat. He felt he’d let himself and his supporters down by not campaigning hard enough. “It was tough for an old campaigner to lose an election battle,” he said. “I felt the blow in my chest and stomach, but I also have a feeling of relief. When I got off the bus on Waiheke, I found myself humming. That’s a good sign I thought. I haven’t done that for a long time.”

Lee’s vast experience will be missed and we at Ponsonby News wish him well in retirement, and hope that his valuable years of experience, and his wisdom, will be used by a range of community organisations and advocacy groups.

While I have centre-left leanings, and unashamedly admit that, I have for some time called for more balance on local boards. I do not like the idea of one party’s members (this time there will be only one other – Sarah Trotman) caucusing in advance of board meetings, thus making decisions on purely political grounds. After all, a footpath is a footpath is a footpath, and its maintenance and upkeep is neither left nor right politically, unless one has to keep way left to avoid an oncoming Lime scooter.

Congratulations to the successful candidates for the Waitemata Local Board, six City Vision plus C&R candidate Sarah Trotman, and commiserations to the couple of good independents who missed the bus.

I rate highly Richard Northey, who is vastly experienced, and Adriana Christie, a livewire local community advocate, who has made her mark in Waitemata in the last three years and will carry this experience forward in this next term.

Congratulations, too, to Alexandra Bonham, Kerrin Leoni, Graeme Gunthorp and Julie Sandilands on joining Christie and Northey.

Let’s hope the City Vision candidates’ promise to provide local communities with a voice, and their desire to encourage a fair, thriving and sustainable city, will be realised, including with the assistance of the lone C&R voice – Trotman. (JOHN ELLIOTT)

#ponsonbynews   #mikelee  #aucklandtransport  #waitemata board  #cityvision #waiheke  #pippacoom