Our Waitemata Ward Auckland Councillor, Mike Lee, had planned retirement, but has been persuaded to stand again for Council at this year’s local body elections in October.
His hesitance to commit to another term is typical of Mike Lee. He can appear tentative when articulating his opinions, but that reflects his deeply held value systems, his thoughtful ponderings on issues, and his considerable integrity. He would not want to outlive his usefulness.
So, Mike Lee is not a bully, he is not a brazen outspoken know all, over opinionated, ready to launch into an argument without careful consideration.
Yet he has strong opinions and values, particularly around public service, a fair go for everyone, and prudent financial management.
Despite Lee’s seniority, someone has noted, that his major opponent may not be a young up and comer, but ‘an old man in a hurry.’
Mike Lee’s strengths include proven leadership as ARC chairman where he presided over a harmonious, cohesive council, with a wide diversity of political opinion among colleagues, long time advocacy of public transport, and a keen desire to restore what he sees as lost democracy in the running of the council.
Just before the 2013 elections the NZ Herald wrote about Waitemata Ward candidates and said this about Mike Lee; "We have no hesitation in saying that there is not a single candidate running anywhere in Auckland who has done more to get public transport moving in our city than Mike Lee. Others have good slogans about public transport but Mike actually has a record."
“Half the job is done,” Lee says, “we need to push ahead with the City Rail Link which is a legacy project of the ARC, while watching like a hawk that the costs don’t blow out, tackle train fare evasion, progress plans for light rail, including serious consideration of the feasibility of a Ponsonby/Jervois tramway, eventually linked via the Wynyard waterfront to Britomart and linked at the K Road end to the planned Queen Street/Dominion Road tramway.”
Mike Lee would also support a lower speed limit, like the 40kph on Ponsonby Road, for Surrey Crescent and Richmond Road.
Mike Lee supported the battle against further reclamation of Waitemata Harbour, and is steadfastly opposed to the privatisation of Ports of Auckland which last year earned $48M for the ratepayers of Auckland. He points out the irrationality of those who call for the sale of the Port and at the same time call for its removal from Auckland, which would strip enormous value from the asset.
“New Zealand is a trading, island nation,” Lee explains. “We are a harbour city. The port is our highway to the world. We live and survive by the sea,” he argues.
While Mike Lee supports population intensification in Auckland city, he has always been a keen proponent of heritage protection of Auckland’s historic townscapes. He was a leader in the fight to overturn the recent council up zoning and is opposed to demolition or removal of historic villas.
One of the main reasons Mike Lee is standing again is his concern that much of the early promise of the Super City has been lost.
Lee is concerned at RMA decisions by non-elected bureaucrats, including so-called independent commissioners. He pointed out that these ‘independent contractors’ rely on bureaucrats for their next job. “Are they going to buck staff opinions?”
Ponsonby News reminded Lee of a comment he made in 2013 when he said, “We are poised - a great city is within our grasp.” What happened, we asked?
“The Super City itself is the problem,” maintains Lee. “The Auckland Council is failing under its sheer size and weak leadership.”
Auckland Council needs to be a more open democracy, with more decisions made ‘bottom up’, rather than ‘top down imposition.’ Council staff have a tendency to tell Aucklanders what they’ll get, rather than ask them what they want.
As part of his campaign Mike Lee will push for a wider community debate on structural and culture change inside Auckland Council, and a better balance of responsibility between councillors and staff.
“This election should be more than just who wins what seat - it’s apparent to me we need to change the council itself,” says Lee.
Mike Lee will be striving to give more power to local boards, and he is full of praise for the Waitemata Local Board, chaired by Shale Chambers, with whom he has struck up a very effective partnership.
Mike Lee is proud to serve Waitemata ward residents whom he considers are the most creative, liberal, progressive, generous, and go-ahead in New Zealand. (JOHN ELLIOTT)
Pictured above; Waitemata Local Board Councillor Mike Lee with James Duncan, tram operations manager for Development Auckland