Russell Hoban: Letter to the Editor

I have noted a disturbing trend in our local politicians, exemplified by our councillor Pippa Coom and MP for Auckland Chlöe Swarbrick's latest writings in Ponsonby News.

Its the disease of safe political strategising; sticking to safe topics and avoiding confrontation, opposition, controversy and conflict. Unfortunately, by doing so, they are not part of the solution but the problem. It is an ideology that avoids getting entangled in vote-losing divisive political issues or biting the hand that feeds you. But leadership does require a foray into messy Auckland realities, now more than ever.

It's also a fundamental requirement of the job; to represent us at the highest levels and be our independent voice at the table critiquing, reviewing, commenting and at times criticising power with its deceptions, inefficiencies and failures. It is a massive job requiring the distillation of complex issues into a form that allows citizens to access the issues and feel part of their city's truth and governance. 'Blue-sky' generalisations with a few statistics and references to unreadable plans don't cut it.

Don't get me wrong; I am an avid bike rider and agree wholeheartedly with Pippa Coom's promotion of the Cycling and Micro mobility Network. Likewise: Food as a human right, the national strategy on waste, the emissions reductions plan, and the Hansard records of Parliamentary debates, as Chlöe Swarbrick presents, form critical scaffolding of our nations governance. But as frameworks passed over, it was reduced to political posturing and became meaningless.

Chlöe, under article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Aotearoa-New Zealand is a signatory, food is already a human right. Do you really expect readers to look back at December 2021 hansard records of parliamentary debates to update ourselves on supplementary order papers? You appeared AWOL from pandemic Auckland in 2021 and completely ignored how tertiary students and Auckland businesses fell through the pandemic economic support net, and continue to do so. Are those hansard debate records more to prove where you were in 2021?

As representatives of our city, locally and nationally, we expect our local and national political representatives to battle for us on critical issues affecting our city. This is done because you have voted-in authority to ask hard, sometimes uncomfortable questions and represent us in the messy world of effective governance.
I was horrified by Chlöe's naive statement, "planning rules do not force anyone to do anything with their properties." What happens when you have someone's kitchen looking into your bedroom, or when you lose the light on your property and look at a concrete wall instead of the vista you had. In Ponsonby everyone has been digging car parking into their properties, because of developments without car parking.

Reading both our councillor and MP's comforting missals, you could forget we are in a pandemic, that our inner city streets are deserted unsafe places to walk at night, and that we are experiencing unprecedented gun violence and ram raids in our city. You might forget that half of the central city feels like a builder's site and the other half a threatening empty cavernous wasteland.

While we all wait for another billion dollar bailout for the rail tunnel that never finishes, we have empty shops, a crisis in the cost of living and shameful numbers still living on the streets with addiction, mental health and other issues. Where is their voice on the light rail fiasco, the empty buses, and the amateurish Ports of Auckland's $65 million failed software write-off. Where is the challenge to the council on behalf of us all for the lack of graffiti removal? Is graffiti removal part of cost-cutting for the almost one billion in recent lost council revenue?

Have you tried to get a response out of Auckland Transport lately? Last year, Auckland's tree coalition asserted one thousand trees are felled in urban Auckland every week, with only 2000 Auckland trees listed as "notable." Where is their stand on this? From my readings, sixty per cent of our city's trees currently remain unprotected on private land. Where does the threat of those trees removal sit within the perfect storm of rampant urban development heading our way and our cities climate change targets?

While it feels like our current mayor retired three years ago, Sir Dove-Myer Robinson as our longest-serving mayor of 18 years, remains one of our most effective and inspiration Auckland politicians Sculpturer Tobias Twiss deplicted him, "with a fist in the air and coat slung casually over left arm. Both hands are clenched… this man means business." He was a politician of the citizens, not the system with Twiss capturing that in the atmosphere of Mayor Robbie holding his fist up to the previous Auckland City Council building.

Russell Hoban, Brown Street, Ponsonby

#ponsonbynews #iloveponsonby #ponsonby #auckland #aucklandshippestrip #onlyponsonby #ponsonbyroad #Greylynn #freemansbay #westmere #ponsonby #hernebay #stmarysbay #archhill #coxsbay #westernsprings