As I think about the embarrassment of riches that were the announcements from government at the end of last month, delivering the funding (albeit with a built in delay) for the rail link, the third harbour crossing and the completion of the motorway network; I am trying to keep some sort of perspective.
“Blimey almost enough to make you vote for National” said a friend in an over emotional moment brought about by one or three glasses of bubbles. Seriously though, I have to admit to a huge sense of relief to have the rail link finally endorsed as a critical piece of infrastructure for New Zealand, now we just need to sort out the timing. Whilst it would be churlish not to say thanks, I am not in the mood however for getting carried away.
The politics leading up to the announcement were very interesting and the final announcement a surprise. So why did the government say yes? For the rail link, we simply set out the very clear vision, worked to build a very clear financial case and then the Auckland community stated very clearly that they understood the case and supported the investment and wanted the government to back Auckland.
Another vital ingredient was the support and strategic backing given by the wider local government community to the rail link proposal. The government has realised it can no longer on play the “Jaffa card”, relying on the outrage of the rest of the country when a large chunk of money headed to Auckland.
As I have said before, the local government sector is working in a real spirit of collaboration these days, brought about by the collective frustration at central governments ongoing negativity towards our sector. I believe that the strategists looked at the support for the rail link in Auckland, the election coming up and the fact that there were no votes in saying no any more.
Despite the announcements, it does get challenging trying to maintain a positive outlook in the local government environment. We remain the ‘whipping boy’ for central government when a distraction is needed, Minister Amy Adams is busy preparing legislation to ensure that councils are unable to support the wishes of their local communities and take a more precautionary approach to the release of GMOs. We have the resource consenting issue in Christchurch, where the agenda to centralise planning into one or two national processing centres rolls on and finally to add insult to injury, the constitutional review currently underway, doesn’t even mention local government.
Enough of the negativity, the Unitary Plan process is progressing well with all the pieces of feedback from our community being processed and scanned and put up on the website (all 22 700 of them!) This keeps our promise to be as transparent as we can be and try and pioneer new ways of working. Our community has come up with with amazing solutions to some key issues we have been challenged to solve and we have been weaving these into the plan. It is tremendously rewarding to see a plan come together utilising the wisdom of the Auckland community, the process is not without risks but I believe the more we do this as a collaborative process the less risk will be.