NZ’s best street spot

The revamped Aotea Square was jumping with activity on Saturday as part of the opening festivities. The sun was shining on a beautiful  space full of people enjoying the free entertainment. The City Vision team was also there spreading the word to vote. One visitor, however was very unimpressed with the number of skateboarders checking out the new surfaces. He complained very forcefully to us that it was a disgrace that they were “allowed” to be there.  The complainant and Aucklanders may have to get used the idea of the square providing for a range of different uses who feel at home there. But guaranteed there is now going to be a big debate about who is welcome to use the square especially as the word is out  about how perfect the space is for BMX riders and skateboards.

As Tim recently blogged on Cycling in Auckland “Aotea Square is one of Auckland’s most iconic BMX/Skate spots that have been shredded for years and was temporarily under reconstruction. It’s been around a 2 years since being first closed off and is back and pretty amazing. The council has out done themselves  with what could be now NZ’s best street spot.

It made me wonder how David Engwicht, place maker extradionaire and urban thinker, would respond. He was recently in New Zealand talking about the Art of Place Making. He shared a number of his design secrets for creating vibrant public spaces and building community. As he says “all design has paradoxical outcomes”.   This is exactly what we are going to see in Aotea Square following on from the unintentional design of the perfect urban park (unfortunately the $80m spent on the Square didn’t extend to materials that will withstand constant shredding by skaters). However, the skaters don’t need to deter other users from enjoying Aotea Square especially once the grassy areas have opened and there is more shade.

The Auckland City Council should be congratulated on redeveloping Aotea Square as a vibrant urban space that appeals to a wide range of users- I just wish there was parking in the square for my bike!

Super city election countdown

With voting starting today in Auckland’s first Supercity election, it is hard not to feel positive about the prospects for a progressive Council led by Mayor Len Brown.  It all depends on getting people out to vote – this is hard in a postal ballot when most people under 30 have never used snail mail and voters generally being very apathetic about local government elections (only 38% voted last time).

The City Vision team has been working hard getting the message out there to vote and sharing our vision for Auckland. Our values and policies are clear. We believe in public ownership, major public transport improvements, and giving real powers to local boards.

I’m impressed with all our candidates. They are real, hard-working community campaigners with a strong track record of service to ratepayers and our communities.

Campaigning with the City Vision Waitemata Local Board team and Mike Lee has been fun.   I’ve particularly enjoyed the candidates meetings. Last week we were invited to meetings in Parnell and Grey Lynn (hosted by Grey Lynn 2030) and today St Stephen’s church hosted a meeting with local personality John Elliott as chair.

At the Parnell meeting Hinu Te Hau spoke eloquently on behalf of the C&R team.  However, it was clear something was up the next night in Grey Lynn as Hinu was clearly frustrated with the poor showing from her team. One C&R candidate arriving direct from the supermarket apologized for wearing his motorcycle jacket because he didn’t realize he was going to be at the meeting until he got called up! Two days later Hinu took the unprecedented step of deserting the old boys to stand as an independent in support of Tenby Powell.

At each meeting Mike Lee has shone as the man to be the Waitemata and Gulf ward’s first councillor. The other big guns, Tenby and Alex are very likeable and have many valid ideas but Mike clearly has the experience and track record of public service that make him ideal to take a leadership role in the new Auckland Council.

The future of Auckland is at stake – please vote.

City Vision and City Vision supported candidates:

Waitemata and Gulf Ward:

Endorsing Independent Mike Lee for Council

City Vision team for Waitemata Local Board

Albert-Eden-Roskill Ward:

City Vision candidates Cathy Casey and Glenda Fryer for Council

City Vision team for Albert-Eden Local Board

Roskill Community Voice team for Puketapapa Local Board

Whau Ward:

Future Whau team for Whau Local Board

Maungakiekie-Tamaki Ward:

Labour candidate Richard Northey for Council

Labour team for Tamaki Local Board

Maungakiekie Team for Maungakiekie Local Board

Auckland District Health Board:

City Vision Health Team

Portage Licensing Trust:

City Vision team

Mike Lee backs the City Vision team for the Waitemata Local Board

Media Release
City Vision – Waitemata Local Board Team

Mike Lee, Chairman of the Auckland Regional Council and Candidate for the Waitemata and Gulf Ward has given his strong backing to the City Vision Team standing for the Waitemata Local Board. Waitemata  is one of the most contested Local Boards of the 21 in the new Super City structure, with 23 Candidates standing for 7 vacancies. The City Vision Waitemata Local Board team welcomes the endorsement from such a high profile and experienced politician.

In giving his support, on his website Mike Lee says “The City Vision team has a marvellous balance of youth and experience.  To my mind their personalities, professional backgrounds, life experiences and political philosophies make an excellent fit for what will be one of the most important Local Boards in the Super City.

Mr Lee goes on to say “This is a team well worth watching – and supporting”

Bruce Kilmister, Kate Stanton and Christopher Dempsey all are currently serving on Community Boards with extensive experience of local government and involvement in local issues.

Jesse Chalmers, a company director, one of the youngest candidates standing, is the new generation of local politics.

Tricia Reade is a well-known Ponsonby resident through her work at the Ponsonby Community Centre and City Fringe Inc.

Pippa Coom, a corporate lawyer is involved with a number of community groups that focus on building vibrant, sustainable neighbourhoods.

Shale Chambers,  a Ponsonby lawyer and company director, brings business experience to local issues.

Shale Chambers on behalf of the team says “Mike Lee will be a strong voice at the top table, with his public service experience and track record he is the ideal candidate to serve as the Councillor for the Waitemata and Gulf Ward and fully has our support. The City Vision Waitemata Local Board team is thrilled that Mike Lee has given us such firm backing and we look forward to working with him for a prosperous, secure, fair, and sustainable future for the CBD and all our central city communities.”

Mike Lee will join the City Vision Waitemata Local Board team for Meet the Candidates Evenings being held in the Waitemata Local board area on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th September.

More details about the City Vision Waitemata Local Board team here.


Shale Chambers  0274765284

Mike Lee 0274943198

Meet the candidates evenings for the Waitemata Ward and Local Board:

Tuesday 7 September at 7pm, Parnell Community Centre, Jubilee Building, 545 Parnell Rd. Hosted by Parnell, Newmarket and Grafton community groups

Wednesday 8 September at 7.30pm, Grey Lynn Community Centre hosted by Grey Lynn 2030

Just please don’t call me a cyclist

My preferred mode of transport is on 2 wheels. My Victoria Classic sits by the front door ready for any trip I need to make – especially around Auckland’s “Zone 1”.  I’m fortunate that I don’t have the expense of a car and love the convenience cycling.

But please don’t call me a cyclist. I would no more put “cyclist” on my CV than a person who commutes by car would put “motorist”.  I ride my bike every day just for transport and I’m involved with Cycle Action Auckland to improve cycling conditions in Auckland but I rarely go on purely recreational rides.

However over the last weekend there were a couple of special reasons to be out on my bike just for the sake of cycling. On Saturday I joined the  BIG Auckland Ride,  a lesiurely pedal around central Auckland in warm spring weather organised to profile the benefits of cycling in the inner city. Here is an account of the ride by Antoine (and more photos) on the wonderful cycling blog Cycling in Auckland.

One of the reasons I am motivated to stand for the Waitemata Local Board is a desire for better cycling infrastructure in Auckland. I’m on the City Vision team committed to prioritising  public transport and the provision of better bus and train services together with integrated ticketing and timetabling, cycleways and safer walking routes. Read more about City Vision’s policy here.

On Sunday it was necessary to dodge the rain showers to experience the only opportunity to cycle across the new Newmarket Viaduct before the switch next weekend.  As fellow Waitemata Local Board candidate, Chritopher Dempsey commented ” what a fantastic cycleway! Wide,  broad, smooth concrete – I asked if NZTA was planning to continue this  cycleway through to Orewa and south to Hamilton. Wry smile. There’s hope yet!”

Cycle Action’s chair Mark Bracey puts the ride in the context of Auckland’s burgeoning cycling culture on his Cycling in Auckland blog here.

Creating our Local and Regional Future

Candidate seminars for the Auckland Council elections

The seminars are designed for potential candidates for Auckland Council roles to provide information about:

  • The new local government structure in Auckland
  • Roles and responsibilities of elected representatives
  • legislative processes relating to elected representatives
  • Decision-making – meetings, agendas etc
  • Remuneration
  • Expectations – time commitment, personal and family impact, impact on work
  • Conflict of interest
  • The electoral process and timetable.

The seminar I attended last night (after Jan Gehl’s brilliant presentation at the Aotea Centre) was really informative and highlighted just how much there is to get to grips with under teh new Auckland Council governance arrangements.

More information here on the new Auckland Council website.

Renumeration rates for Local Board members

As one of the City Vision candidates standing for the Waitemata Local Board I, like the other 6 candidates, put myself forward for selection before the Remuneration Authority released its determination on elected member salaries for the new Auckland Council. It demonstrated a commitment to public service and a willingness to do the job regardless of the financial benefit. We were able to do some guess work which suggested that the Local Board responsibilities would result in renumeration more than the current Community Board members of around $10,000pa.

The Authority has now determined that the new Auckland Council mayor will be paid $240,000, and councillors will receive a base rate of $80,000. The base rate for Local Board members will be between $20,100 (Great Barrier) the minimum base rate and $37,100 (Howick), the maximum base rate. Waitemata Local Board members will receive a base rate of $35,000.

I’m fortunate that, if elected, I will be able to serve as a Local Board member without needing an additional income and will be able to make a full-time commitment to the role (thanks to my supportive partner).   It is a concern, however, if the salary on offer is an amount that will potentially put off  candidates who do not have the financial independence required to give up work commitments for a big pay drop. The Remuneration Authority needed to find a balance between recognising the responsibilities of the Local Board members and a fair cost to ratepayers. At the current salaries levels ratepayers will be getting an incredibly good deal from their elected respresentatives, especially at  Local Board level where the  range of member responsibilities will be significant.

Community Independent to stand for City Vision for Waitemata Local Board

I feel very fortunate and privileged to have been selected yesterday to be one of the 7 City Vision Candidates standing for the Waitemata Local Board.

Here is my full speech prepared for the Selection Meeting at the Grey Lynn Community Centre on Saturday 19 June 2010.

I’m Pippa Coom
I’m seeking selection as a community independent with the City Vision team for the Waitemata Local Board.

If I have to give myself a job title it is variously –  a change agent, Community Organiser, a cycling advocate, and a free agent, but what I do is work towards  creating a sustainable community.

Integral to what I can bring to the City Vision Campaign and the role of Local Board Member are the people and places that support me and without whom I am not able to achieve anything.

I would like to acknowledge the Steering Committee of Grey Lynn 2030 and the supporters here today – my sustainability colleagues who share the same vision and are working hard to make it happen.

I acknowledge my friends – my urban whanau whose children motivate me to make my generation accountable so that we don’t compromise their future needs at a time of huge environment, social and economic challenges.

I acknowledge my family – my partner Paul who has given up hoping to live with a domestic goddess, and my mum Barbara who I can thank for my social conscious and social responsibility developed from political action starting in the 70’s and a healthy interest in reading the Guardian newspaper from a young age.

I acknowledge this place the Grey Lynn Community Centre – the heart of so much that goes on in our community and my unofficial office at the Grey Lynn Farmers Market each Sunday.

As far as an immigrant can say they have a turangawaewae in NZ that place for me is the central suburbs of Auckland. The first place I landed in when we came  to NZ from the UK in 1982 was Castle Street across the road. My mum recognised the value of living in older heritage suburbs and before we had even set foot in NZ had decided that our home would be in this area.  I also looked at the map of Auckland and from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire decided instinctively that Auckland Girls’ Grammar was the school for me .

For 25 years the family home was in Ponsonby (an area now known as the Avenues of Herne Bay) and now all of my NZ family lives in Grey Lynn (yes that is my entire family in NZ of 2).  I must acknowledge my belated dad Mel for having the foresight to buy a house in Grey Lynn 25 years ago where we live now.

I moved away from Auckland for many years – for uni at Otago, travel, career jobs as a lawyer in Wellington, an OE in London – and would often say that I could never live in this city again. A heartless, crass, cowboy town, destroyed by the corporate vandalism of the 80’s. I was convinced that I’d rather freeze through Wellington summers than live in a place without decent public transport, a closed off waterfront, uninspiring urban design, a paucity of leadership with no civic pride.

But what eventually bought me back 4 years ago was the search for a sense of community, the place I could call my own turf and feel passionate enough about to want to make a difference (not to mention the love of good Auckland man and an opportunity to live close to my mum). With perfect synchronicity, when I was looking to get  back into voluntary work after a hedonistic time overseas, I discovered our local transition town group Grey Lynn 2030.

A group with a positive vision of creating a sustainable, vibrant, self resilient community. At its most simple it is about creating the place we want to live.  We don’t just talk about ideas but take action to make them a reality– waste minimisation, community gardens, water way restoration. I am grateful for the freedom Grey Lynn 2030 has given me to pursue a range of projects – traffic calming initiatives, organising a street party, connecting to the local community through a monthly newsletter, bringing the community together at monthly meetings and encouraging sustainable business practices.

I am fortunate that my job is what I am passionate about- thanks to Vector for making me redundant last year and with the support of my partner – I have been able to work full time for Grey Lynn 2030, on climate change awareness campaigns and for Cycle Action Auckland and Frocks on Bikes  – other fabulous groups that have supported me to get on and make things happen –  and more recently on the City Vision campaign committee.

It really is true that if your job is what you are passionate about you never work another day again. As part of the transition town movement we are encouraged to step up into positions of leadership.  To serve on the Local Board, will to some extent be a continuation of what I am doing now as my job. I say this with respect to the elected officials here who know the reality of local government but I feel am ideally placed to represent my local community. It will be my full -time and only  job using many of my current community focused skills not to mention what I consider normal now  – regular meetings, taking every opportunity to network and playing an active role in the community.

I am also hugely excited about the election, the new era of local democracy and the opportunities provided by the new Auckland Council. I feel positive for what will be achieved and full of hope for an Auckland with a progressive Council and new leadership.  I am committed to campaigning for a City Vision Local Board,  Mike Lee getting elected for the Waitemata- Gulf Ward and Len Brown as Mayor.

It is essential that we have strong local boards and people on those boards who are able to take on a huge range of new responsibilities. I am more than ready for that challenge.  I am not looking for this opportunity to spring board to any other position – my focus and aspirations sit with the central suburbs of Auckland that make up the Waitemata Ward and I acknowledge all the communities that make up the ward and aren’t represented here today.

I come to City Vision as a community independent supported by Grey Lynn 2030 – the philosophy and policy of City Vision fits neatly with our vision for our local community.  I would consider it a huge privilege to stand as a candidate with City Vision and if elected to serve my local community on the Waitemata Local Board. I thank you all for your support.