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One way forward

In an earlier comment, I referred to Faye Storer’s assumption of the chair of the Waiheke Local Board as a “coup”, and I’m not the only one to use that term.  On reflection, however, the word is not accurate, because it implies that someone else — Denise Roche, for example — had prior claim to the position.  This is not only untrue, but I think it distracts us from the real problem of the so-called coup and its aftermath.  As Denise herself has said many times (and repeated during Saturday’s interview with Shirin Brown on Waiheke Radio), the urgent issue is not the decisions taken at that infamous Thursday meeting, but the way in which those decisions were made.

Even though any objective analysis of last month’s vote would show greater popular support for Denise than for Faye, the board chair is not elected directly.  Faye has the numbers on the board; it was clear from the first results that Denise would never be chair.  If we need to assign blame for this disconnect between direct and indirect democracy, it is, as is so often the case, because one side’s votes were fragmented and the other side’s weren’t.  Consider this:  The reason we have Len Brown as supermayor instead of John Banks is that Mike Lee refrained from running and splitting the progressive vote.  If Denise’s supporters had shown similar restraint, the makeup of the Local Board would have been very different.  Let us keep this in mind for 2013.

So Denise is not going to chair this board, and no amount of irate comment, petitions, threats to disrupt meetings, not-so-veiled references to scorching, or facile appeals to Len Brown or the Local Government Act is going to change that.  What the people of Waiheke should be upset about, as Denise is upset, is the manner in which Denise has been excluded from participation in board decisions.  Denise does indeed have a mandate from the voters, a stronger one than any other individual on the board.  Due to the same disconnect between direct and indirect democracy that brought Faye to the chair, Denise finds herself representing, alone, the views and interests of a much larger segment of the population than any of the other four board members can lay claim to.  Jim Hannan, in particular, should bear this in mind, as he watches his hair-thin margin over Andy Spence subjected to a recount.  Even if he survives, he will owe his position far more to the chance mathematics of vote fragmentation than to any voter mandate.  Thus Jim’s talk of “core support” is vaporous indeed.

As I’ve said before, there have been two serious errors committed in the past couple of weeks.  The first was to use the Thursday meeting to humiliate Denise, with unnecessarily hurtful declarations of lack of confidence, and false ones of lack of mandate.  The second error was John Stansfield’s call to arms.  Each error has served only to inflame the other side, harden positions, and guarantee that any compromise will be very difficult to achieve.  The best suggestion I’ve heard so far is to have a facilitator sit down with these scrapping children and teach them how to work together.  Unfortunately the suggestion was made by Denise herself, and will therefore be seen as a political ploy and ignored by the other four board members.  I wish the suggestion had been made by someone respected by both sides, such as Mike Lee or Len Brown — or, even better, another board member like Don McKenzie.

Barring that, the only way forward I can see is to revisit the allocation of board portfolios, and to do this in a very public manner, preferably before the Saturday swearing-in ceremony.  Denise has expressed interest (that I’ve heard of) in civil defence, the Recreation Centre, and social services.  Offer her two or three of those, and do so in front of the cameras, so to speak.  If Denise refuses the peace offering, let her do so in public.  If Faye’s well-circulated typed sheet becomes law as is, and Denise’s only participation is to have her nose rubbed in it, then the protesters will have their day, and they will be right.  The Local Board will be discredited as a vehicle of personal vendetta; its voice will carry no weight; and every right-wing opponent of the delegation of supercity powers to the local rabble will point to Waiheke as proof of their oh-so-wise counsel.

Posted in Comment, Governance.

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5 Responses

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  1. Andrew says

    Thanks for that Mark. I’d like to comment on the vote split point. There has been on Waiheke no left wing or green party involved in local politics. Whatever Faye thinks. If there had been then yes you might have expected them to select some key people and give them full backing – perhaps in the way Vision Waiheke have for the last few years. But every candidate I talked with believed in keeping party politics out of local government. No party, no selection process, no one to cull the pack, or even have a quiet word about the wisdom of standing. In fact I believe the large proportion of progressive people on the island led to a large number of candidates.
    First past the post voting leads to disproportionate representation which eventually leads to
    political parties. The events this year have effectively ensured that the next election will go forward with some kind of progressive ticket unless a form of proportional representation comes into play.

  2. sue fitchett says

    I do think Mark’s is a well thought out analysis of the boards first actions & decisions, which again points to ‘process’ as the big issue and if that ‘process’ remains as the way the board addresses local issues during their term then the community has to develop new skills around engagement and finding out what is really being discussed behind the ‘caucus’ doors. I agree in an attempt to re-negotiate the allocation of board portfolios if possible before the 6th. If the board is reading this site then I urge them to consider this ‘peace’ offering to Denise as a start to a considered and consensual response to the community of Waiheke and the mandate they entrusted to Denise Roche

  3. Meriel Watts says

    I agree with much of Mark’s analysis especially about process, but cannot go along with the view that because Faye has the numbers on the Board it is ok that she is chair. It is precisely because Denise does not have the numbers on the board (but does have the numbers in the community) that she should be chair. Else the Board cannot function as an integrated whole. The majority has already indicated that it has no intention of even trying to work with Denise in an even-handed way, so it cannot function properly. If Denise were elected chair – and presumably the decision around chair can be revisited at anytime if the chair chose to resign – that is the best shot we have of achieving a properly functioning integrated local board that works with and respects the community. It is up to Faye now whether her desire to be chair exceeds her desire for acheiving what is right for the community of Waiheke; and to her fellow board members to put aside personal politcial inclinations and help her to find a solution that the community can be proud of.

  4. Anna Pashby says

    Today is Tuesday…where are we standing with all this?

  5. john says

    Thanks Mark,
    I appreciate your analysis however I would like to correct a couple of things from my own perspective. I have in the past made a call to arms on this Island and the result has cleared mountains and wharves. My communique to Denises friends was a very genuine plea for support for my mate who was knocked for a six. Others on the board, because they were not or only peripherally involved, will not understand the huge effort that went into the royal commission process. An effort lead and funded by Denise to ensure we were able as a community to make the best of the opportunity presented by the supercity. this sits against the context of a sitting C&R (or in my words right wing) council which rode roughshod over communities all over Auckland and worked to both disenfranchise and alienate those communities from their own governnce.
    The thursday meeting then, at which the self described C&R type majority flexed themselves, was an unhappy portent of a future as miserable as its past. My email was a call to support and validate the efforts denise made in leading the push for local control and to support her personally. My calls to arms are a lot more direct
    John Stansfield



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