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RIGHT, BUT NOT ENOUGH MIGHT.

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might is right book coverThere is a particular group of people on Waiheke that I’d like to address today. Many of them are probably not reading One Waiheke just yet but hopefully can be coaxed gently into the debate that’s raging across the island. As that odious chap once said, a week is a long time in politics. And it’s a week to wait before you get to see any more newspaper coverage so you might as well tune in here if you want to keep up with local opinion.

As Mark James pointed out yesterday it’s foolish to try and classify our community in terms of old fashioned Left and Right. It may still work at national level but here on the Rock it only serves to muddy the waters. But don’t despair. Let’s try it another way. The people I want to reach are the ones who voted for Alex Swney and John Banks rather than Mike Lee and Len Brown. You know who you are. So do I for that matter.

I’m pretty certain that you Swneys are the ones sitting at your computers trying to come up with a letter to the papers in support of the Local Board. You probably feel that here at last is a line up that can get stuff done and maybe move the island in the direction you’d like to see it go. You liked all that stuff about jobs, economic growth and so on. And why not? I myself was thrilled when Jo Holmes threw her hat in the ring and I was happy to support her. Yet now, all this possible progress has been derailed by the spat over the sidelining of Denise Roche. I can see why you are not happy.

It’s a tricky life for Swneys. You certainly wield considerable economic power on the island. You run businesses and create employment. Your custom keeps cafes and restaurants ticking over during the slow months. Yet time and time again you find yourself hopelessly outnumbered by the legions of Lees who block your moves and keep you pinned down, unable to shape the island in your own image.

The only advantage Swneys have is their cohesiveness. They move in the same circles and think in broadly the same ways. Lees may be more numerous but are hampered by their variety of internal factions and obsessions. We only have to look at their excessive line up of candidates to see this.

Let’s just remind ourselves of those numbers once more. I’m sure I got taught statistics at school but I was almost certainly gazing out the window humming an Emerson Lake & Palmer tune to myself at the time so I can’t break these numbers down into percentages with any kind of accuracy, but then with figures like these I don’t really need to. [ed: added pie charts to illustrate]

Read ‘em and weep as the saying has it;

Councilor vote from Waiheke;

Mike Lee 2726

Alex Swney 301

Mayoral Vote from Waiheke;

Len Brown 2290

John Banks 866

See what I mean? All those pep talks from Michelle Boag and back patting sessions at Rotary on Monday nights are never going to make up for the fact that you don’t have the numbers and never will.

Also, just to digress here for a moment, the irony is that the more economic growth you DO manage to create the worse it gets. After all, when Jim Hannan talks about creating jobs he’s not talking about well paid careers, he’s talking about minimum wage jobs. Service industry, tourism, vineyards etc, none of which will pay any better than working for Woolworths and create yet another layer of poorly paid folks living in rented accommodation. And who will THEY vote for come the next election? Mike Lee of course.

So stop and think for a moment before writing that letter in support of Faye Storer and her Swney cabal because it really isn’t going to help either you or them.
We’ve all heard lots in the last week about how Faye is a ‘Career Politician’. If that is the case then she’d know that politics is a bit like sky diving. There’s precious little room for error, and any mistake made above a certain magnitude means it’s ALL OVER. She made her play and its all gone pear shaped. No matter how tough she tries to play it she must realise she’s finished on Waiheke. The only question is whether she goes this week, or in three years time.

So what can be salvaged? If the board gets sworn in next weekend as planned then they face a miserable three years of criticism and mistrust. Nothing they do will make anyone happy least of all themselves. Then, come 2013 they will be massacred at the polls and replaced by five solid Lees. The Swney dream will be well and truly over and it will be 2016 before they get to try again.

It’s not a happy prospect. The Local Board should be balanced, with a bit of give and take from both sides. There is no way that a 4/1 voting bloc of either Lees or Swneys will ever manage to run the island effectively.

Both factions have eight days to get this mess smoothed out. The best way to start is for the Swneys to look to their three board members elect and try to persuade them to make the only sensible move. They have to cut Faye Storer loose and leave her to her fate. I know it sounds harsh, but that’s politics. Right now the focus of public disgust is on her, with Hannan, Holmes and McKenzie perceived as misled beginners. If they jump ship now they can maybe salvage some credibility and hang in there. If they insist on standing by their actions of the last week then all three will go the same way as their leader.

Waiheke really doesn’t need that to happen. If the swearing in on the 6th goes ahead with things the way they are now then Len Brown is going to see Waiheke at its most fractious. No amount of calming talk from anyone is going to stop the inevitable mess of placards and public abuse outside the Ostend Hall. It will not look good.

So come on Swneys. Think this one through and see what you can come up with. Forget building barricades around your ambitions, it simply won’t work. If even one of you reads this then pass it on to others. Join the dialog on here because by the time the Gulf News come out next Thursday it will be too late.

Posted in Comment, Governance.

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2 Responses

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  1. Uroskin says

    I think for Len Brown to “see the island at its most fractious” is actually a good thing. We’re probably the only local board area where, if he attends other local board swearings-in too, he will see that locals actually care about local government.
    I would be disappointed if we didn’t keep up our reputation of being a feisty and involved community. It may also concentrate the minds at the Auckland Council about what they will actually local boards empower with. Politics is all about combining the art of the possible with power to get things done. If the Mayor and Councillors see that some boards may not be well equipped or are not well able to deliver policy, they may not devolve many powers from town hall downwards.
    The next election will be gruntier, given the slow but steady and relentless gentrification of the island. I disagree that the Waiheke proletariat in minimum wage jobs will vote en masse for Lee next time, because they will largely not live on Waiheke as it is unaffordable to do so for them. They will be commuting to their jobs from town (as increasing number of workers and contractors do now) – much to the delight of Jim Hannan’s employer. Perhaps that’s what he meant with creating jobs (on the ferry).
    I’m pessimistic about it because this is a long term and wide reaching social and economic trend that I can’t see the local board address with any efficacy as it far outstrips its abilities.

  2. Greg Treadwell says

    While it can influence the commercial environment to a small extent (signage, ferry subsidies – yeah right, zoning issues etc), I’m not sure I’ve ever known a community board to create jobs. These sort of statements are usually naive claims from people who have yet to be elected and yet to find out what the role of minor local body reps really is. Perhaps the local board will be different but I doubt it. Do you hear experienced politicians like Faye claiming they will create jobs. Red herring, I reckon.

    Great analysis, Alan.



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