Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Is The Best Decision Always The Right One?

In two different parts of Auckland this week, we saw Auckland’s region-wide conflict about how we grow being played out. And we saw golfers and yachties potentially looking for different options.

In Takapuna, the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board was dealing with a longstanding issue of whether to close an eighty year old camp ground and support a new yachting development. In Mt Eden, the Albert Eden Local Board were debating reducing a ninety year old eighteen hole golf course down to nine holes to allow for other developments (a playground, cycling tracks etc).

I attended part of the Takapuna meeting. It was typical of many public meetings I have been to over the years – although it went a little longer than most! (If you missed it, you can watch the 19 videos of the five and half hour meeting here. The last two is when they voted.).

The most recent Takapuna consultation had seen a strong crowd of 80% of the 7,725 respondents preferring an upgraded camp ground to the new marine facility. At times it seemed like most to them were at the meeting.

The crowd

In Albert Eden the crowds participating in the debate and at the meeting were smaller, but I’m sure no less passionate. 1,365 people contributed to the initial consultation on the golf course with “high levels of support for change” apparently (including both an improved golf experience and a wider range of sports). However, only 235 people submitted on the second consultation asking which option they favoured. 40% wanted to retain the 18 hole course (spread across 3 different options); 35% wanted the nine hole course plus new facilties; 25% wanted none of the options.

The results?

In Takapuna it was expected the yatching proposal would narrowly pass but it ended up being defeated by 4/2. In Albert-Eden, the nine-hole proposal was passed 5/3.

Auckland Council is getting a little bit used to close votes on vexed issues with the recent one-vote majority the Mayor received for his 10-year budget barely one month old.

But at the heart of this is the extent to which ‘the people’ should be driving decision making. Inevitably politicians making decisions are usually going to have access to and will have spent more time with a wider amount of information. Each of us have the right to vote based on what we think the best thing to do is. But what role does consultation play if it doesn’t influence our decisions?

We have seen this approach at play extensively with some of the key decisions the Mayor took in the Long Term Plan, and we are seeing the same approach now with the unravelling of council’s previously agreed position on the Unitary Plan.

It’s not easy. But I think we are elected to make the right decisions. These may not always be the best decisions.

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