Councillor monthly report May 2021

General update

My Councillor report covers the period from 12 April 2021 until 7 May 2021.  It has been prepared for the May business meetings of the Aotea Great Barrier, Waiheke and Waitematā Board Local Boards.

The purpose of my report is to detail my main activities and to share information with the public and local boards in my ward regarding governing body decisions, my attendance at events and meetings, regional consultations, media updates and key issues.

Positions

  • Deputy Chair, Environment and Climate Change Committee
  • Co-Chair, Hauraki Gulf Forum
  • Member, Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB)
  • Board Member, LGNZ National Council
  • Member, Auckland Domain Committee
  • Member, Appointments and Performance Review Committee
  • Member, Joint Governance Working Party
  • Member, Waste Political Advisory Group

Summary

  • Council Finance staff reported to the Finance and Performance Committee that we have saved over $119 million so far this financial year as part of the $120million savings target stipulated in the Emergency Budget 2020/2021.
  • Chair Cath Handley and I met with the representatives of the Kennedy Point Marina development on 29 April. We all agreed that we are aiming for a “best practice” approach to managing and monitoring the Kororā habitat.  We requested that the review of their Little Blue Penguin management and monitoring plans is independently audited.  We strongly urged the developer to hold off re-commencing any works until after the review has been completed and the updated resource consent documents are approved by council.
  • Council announced plans to improve Queen Street and make it more pedestrian-friendly including installing wide boardwalks, seating, planter boxes to replace the temporary plastic sticks put in place during lockdown. A pocket park will also be created on the corner of Queen Street and Fort Street. The High Court decision on 6 May not to grant the injunction sought by Save the Queen Street Society means Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are able to proceed with planned improvements from 10 May.
  • I responded to a The Spinoff opinion column harshly criticising Auckland Council’s decision to fell a stand of trees at Western Springs for the native bush restoration project that I have supported since I was on the Waitematā Local Board.

Governing Body meetings – Key decisions

The minutes for all meetings are available on the Auckland Council website. The following is intended as a summary only.

On 15 April the Environment and Community Committee received a quarterly update from Auckland Unlimited. As part of the development of a Water Strategy the committee adopted ambitious targets designed to reduce Aucklanders’ use of drinking water by 20 per cent over the next 30 years to create a city more resilient to impacts of drought and climate change.

On 22 April the Finance and Performance Committee received an update on progress on savings targets set out in the Emergency Budget and approved the annual plans and council funding contributions for ARAFA, MOTAT and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The committee also agreed that staff use existing rating policies to fully remit the fourth quarter instalment of the Accommodation Provider Targeted Rate set for 2020/2021

On 29 April the Governing Body received the final report of the independent review of health & safety at Ports of Auckland, requested a copy of the implementation plan, and that Ports of Auckland present their progress at the July and October Governing Body Meetings. The Governing Body also endorsed Mayor Goff and Deputy Mayor Cashmore as sponsors of the Light Rail Project and approved recommendations on proposed changes to Te Ture ā-Rohe Whakararata Waipiro 2014 / the Alcohol Control Bylaw 2014.

On 4 May the Appointments and Performance Committee appointed directors for Auckland Unlimited and Panuku Development Auckland and approved a shortlist of Board Members for Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board.

On 6 May the Planning Committee   received public input from Christine Rose and Bevan Woodward on behalf of Movement regarding “The People’s Path”, a proposal for a walking and cycling facility across the Waitematā Harbour, and in response resolved to support Movement discussing with Waka Kotahi a trial of a walking and cycling lane on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and requested Waka Kotahi to seek a practical solution to a cost effective walking and cycling crossing across the Auckland harbour.

In agreeing to delegate development of the submission to the Transport and Infrastructure Committee inquiry into congestion pricing in Auckland, the Planning Committed agreed to  support in principle congestion pricing in Auckland, conditional upon the following issues being addressed:

i)       mitigation of equity impacts ii)      having public transport services and projects in place across Auckland on an equitable basis to allow road users to switch to alternative modes where appropriate iii)     that revenue collected, in addition to that needed to operate the scheme and to address clauses a) i) and a) ii) above, be used to offset and, as revenue and costs allow, replace the Regional Fuel Tax

Other key meetings and events

  •  On 12 April I met AT staff to discuss the city centre bus plan. The Governing Body held a workshop to discuss the findings of the CHASNZ Independent Review of health & safety at Ports of Auckland. I also attended the City Centre Residents Monthly meeting at the Ellen Meville Centre
  • On 13 April I met with David Abbott, Chair St Marys Bay Residents Association and with Tania Billingsly to discuss her family’s Te Atatu development.
  • On 14 April I attended Auckland Transport’s online RLTP public consultation event.
  • On 15 April Minister Wood met the Mayor and Councillors via Zoom to provide an update on Light Rail. I joined Councillor Desley Simpson in a meeting with the Auckland Bowling Club.
  • I was in the driving seat briefly at a ceremony to mark a major CRL milestone with the start of underground construction on the Aotea Station

    On 16 April I joined Mayor Goff to mark a CRL milestone in the build of the Aotea Station  and joined his visit to Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki’s Umupuia Marae, Cr Dalton gave me a tour of Manurewa on the way there. I attended the Taskforce on Alcohol and Community meeting.

  • On 17 April I attended the opening of the new playground in Western Springs Lakeside Park Te Wai Ōrea with the Waitemata Local Board and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
  • On 18 April spent the afternoon on Waiheke to visit Kennedy Point and Wharetana Bay where residents wished to discuss long standing issues regarding the public reserve.
  • Visit with the Mayor to Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki’s Umupuia Marae

    On 19 April I received an update on the resource consent conditions for the proposed Kennedy Point Marina and visited a business building and selling sustainable eco-friendly tiny homes. I attended a regular catchup with Waiheke Local board members via Skype

  • On 20 April Cr Hills and I met with attendees from British Consulate General and the Regional COP26 Climate Change Advisor Dr Victoria Hatton.
  • On 21 April I attended the Waiheke Local Board meeting in person.
  • On 22 Minister James Shaw met with the Mayor and Councillors to discuss the government’s action and response to the Climate Change Commission. I also received a briefing on the Cycling Programme Business Case Review.
  • On 23 April I attended the City Link e-bus launch; was taken on a walking tour of Wynyard Quarter by Panuku staff; attended a site visit on Beach Road to discuss noise issues and met with City Centre Residents Group representatives.
  • On April 25 I attended Anzac Services at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Grey Lynn RSC.
  • On 27 April I attended the first Political Reference Group meeting for the Auckland Cycling Programme Business Case review and attended a Women in Urbanism monthly catch up event.
  • On 28 April I met with Mark Knoff-Thomas of the Newmarket Business Association.
  • On 29 April Chair Handley and I met with the Kennedy Point Marina Director and Project Manager. I also attended the Viaduct Harbour residents’ meeting regarding Project WAVE and the opening night of ‘Single Asian Female’ at the ASB Waterfront Theatre at the invite of ATC
  • On 30 April Local Board I attended local board members Graeme Gunthorp, Julie Sandilands regular catch up with AT to discuss issues in the area and attended the Urban Nerds networking event.
  • On 3 May I met with Christine Rose and Andy Smith to discuss their walking/cycling lane proposal across the Harbour Bridge ahead of their presentation to the Planning Committee.
  • On 4 May I met with Auckland Blues representatives Andrew Finn and Brian Hore. I also attended a meeting for the Hauraki Gulf Forum to discuss the possibility of a Blue Bond and met with the Grey Lynn Business Association to discuss the impact of AT’s work in West Lynn.
  • On 5 May I met with Carolyn Cox to discuss the Hauraki Gulf focus of the Waiheke Local Climate Action Plan
  • MP Chlöe Swarbrick and the owner of Monster Valley, Karl and the opening even for Chlöe’s new office on Karanagahape Road

    On 6 May I attended Bike Auckland’s Bike Breakfast at Terrace café and I attended the opening of MP Chlöe Swarbrick’s new office on Karangahape Road

  • On 7 May I attended City Rail Link’s “ready to bore” event to mark the launch of the tunnel boring machine by the Mayor and Minister of Transport Michael Wood and joined the Minister again in the evening for his Auckland Light Rail discussion meeting with stakeholders at the Fickling Centre
  • I also attend a range of workshops and committee briefings throughout the month

Our urban forest

One of the final decisions I made as a Chair of the Waitematā Local Board was to approve Auckland’s first localised Urban Ngahere Action Plan.  The plan is a road map for replenishing the urban forest and delivering on Auckland Council’s Urban Ngahere (Forest) Strategy to achieve the goal of 30% tree cover by 2050.   There are now 16 local boards who have either finalised or are in the process of taking Waitematā’s lead on their own plan.  There are numerous benefits associated with having, developing and maintaining a flourishing urban forest.

If the Recovery Budget is supported with a one off 5% rates rise there will be an additional $14m to invest in growing our urban and rural forests.   We will be able to plant an additional 11,000 street trees. We will be able to partner with the community to establish a nursery and produce 200,000 native seedlings a year to support community and marae planting.  There will be funds for planting an additional 200 ha of native forest.   Surveying is currently underway to determine locations for street trees targeting local board areas with the lowest canopy cover.   This is part of a package of proposals to address climate change in addition to the planting and ecological restoration already underway.

We are currently deep into the second year of the Mayor’s million tree initiative.  The goal of planting between 250,000 and 350,000 trees was well overshot last year by focusing on 4 major sites for new trees.  The Waitematā Local Board area has had an overall increase in canopy cover from 368ha of urban forest in 2013, increasing to 371ha in 2016/2018.   This provides a promising indication that clearance of trees is not occurring as has widely been predicted even with the removal of tree protection rules over a decade ago.

All trees will reach a stage where they become unwell or unsafe, so if we can plan for the  future we can achieve much better outcomes.  The Recovery Budget supports a 10 year programme that takes a long-term view of tree management and planting. Trees aren’t like other infrastructure, if they are planted properly they will give dividends well into the future.   I fully support the Tupuna Maunga Authority taking this long-term view to plan for the restoration of indigenous native ecosystems. The removal of inappropriate exotic weeds and trees is part of that process.

Wynyard Quarter is one of the best examples of planting to a masterplan.  There are now over 800 maturing trees many of which have been successfully moved from Quay Street. However, planting is becoming more challenging because of changing weather patterns.  Last year there was barely a winter.  This year the traditional planting season is likely to move to July until September.  In all maintenance contracts there are now standard clauses to ensure streets trees are well looked after for two years before being handed over as council assets.

When tree removal is required, for example, for much needed housing, improvements to community amenities or for safety,  council has to ensure proper processes are followed, mitigation is provided for and appropriate tools are used to protect significant trees.  At Western Springs I want to see council push ahead to remove the unsafe and failing pine trees so significant planting can get underway during the planting season and the track opened up again for the community (read more about the Western Springs Native Bush restoration project here on the Auckland Council website).  The long-term benefits will be enjoyed by generations to come.

First published in Ponsonby News April 2021