Richard Northey: Waitemata Local Board Chair

Covid-19 put a temporary halt to March’s Auckland Arts Festival, but it was able to resume and be a wonderful showcase for a great variety of Auckland’s artistic talent.

It was also notable for its commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Ponsonby-based Polynesian Panther Party. In 1971 this group of passionate young Pacific Islanders were granted an office space above the now ASB Bank in Three Lamps by Mayor Dove-Myer Robinson. They campaigned against unfair and racist government policies like the dawn raids on family homes, established a homework centre so children could study away from their overcrowded homes and, with their committed combination of effective community work and political campaigning, helped build the fairer multi-cultural society we have today. I had the privilege of working closely with them then when I was chair of the Citizens’ Association for Racial Equality (CARE) and lived in Albany Road. The Arts Festival honoured them with a mural on Gundry Street, an exhibition in Studio One and the unveiling of a special plaque on the pavement outside their former base at the corner of Ponsonby and Jervois Roads (see photo). Their former leader, Tigi Ness, (father of Che Fu) spoke movingly about the Panthers’ early experiences, made even more piquant by the death of his wife, much admired fellow Panthers leader Miriama, the previous day.

The Waitemata Local Board met on 16 March. We heard deputations from James Watson on a pilot plan for composting and community gardens; Justine McFarlane on the Merge Community and homelessness action; Brigid Rogers about Wynyard Quarter transport; and David Batten about a Great North Road Vision project. At Public Forum we heard from, among others, John Elliott about amenity values in relation to population intensification; Suzanne Kendrick about the West End Scout’s Hall lease; and Gael Baldock and Bill Gruar about mobility impairment for wheelchair users in West Lynn, Western Springs Park, and other locations. The meeting approved seeking a new operator for the Central Library cafe; made detailed comments on the Regional Parks Management Plan about providing regular bus transport to them and the farming there more regenerative; strongly supported Ng-ati P-aoa’s rahui or ban on the taking of key seafood species around Waiheke; and provided detailed feedback on the Climate Change Commission’s draft report to Government. We are seeking stronger and more comprehensive climate change action than is proposed, from Government, Auckland Council and in the Waitemata Board’s own work plan.

The Board is gratified to see the Ponsonby News’ rival, or complementary monthly publication, the K Road Chronicle, secure and thriving after the Waitemata Local Board made them a grant for their printing press. The upgraded play space at Home Street reserve has been reopened giving children of all ages, including basketballers, a long-planned recreation space in Arch Hill.

Following the Board’s adoption of a strategic plan for the Western Springs Park, the playground on the zoo side of the lake has been designed and rebuilt with a nature theme. It is reopening this month and will be a great experience for children and families. It is intended to reopen the forest on the eastern side of the park once the old pines are taken out and the regeneration of a native forest there is progressed.

On another issue, Ponsonby community and business members are meeting regularly to develop low-cost tactical improvements to Ponsonby Road as part of the Innovating Streets programme.

Thank you for all of you who gave feedback on the Auckland Council’s proposed Long-Term Plan and Budget. The Waitemata Local Board members and staff will be carefully reading the views and ideas coming from people and organisations in our area. We will then be reviewing our own budget and work programme, taking your views into account. Our next Board meeting will be on Tuesday 20th April held at the Board Office in Swanson Street, Covid willing. People can take part either in person or by skype. We will be considering our community grants among other matters. Alex Bonham will be succeeding Kerrin Leoni as our Deputy Chair at the end of this month.

I can be contacted at 021 534 546 or

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