Rudman is on the money

It is hard to say this….[swallow]…but…[swallow]…Brian Rudman is right in his article this morning in The NZ Herald.

He talks of a vision of Auckland beyond parochial patch protection which is one of the reasons the government is keen on “at large” members of the council.

He also shows up the muddled thinking of some, for example John Walker.

When did John Walker become such a defeatist? Doesn’t he have a mate to whisper in his ear that the “can-do” Olympic champion of old was so much more attractive.

Yesterday as parochial councillor, he was shroud-waving again about the impact on his people of Manukau when they became citizens of the Auckland Super City.

Woe is us, he wailed. Free access to local swimming pools would end and Manukau City would lose some of its greatest assets.

Maybe it was all myth, but I like to think the positive, obstacle-busting, John Walker we once looked up to would have approached the situation from the other end of the telescope. He would have said “Great, now we have a chance to introduce a policy of free swimming pools for all Aucklanders.”

And instead of fussing about Manukau City having to share its meagre hope chest of treasures, he would have seen the opportunities inherent in joining a united city and inheriting the vastly greater collection of treasures that Auckland City and the other cities will be bringing to the marriage.

It’s not as though Mr Walker was just having a grumpy day. Nine months ago, he was singing the same old dirge before the royal commissioners. He told them that his Field of Dreams programme to get disadvantaged kids involved in sport would be threatened if Manukau was absorbed into one large city.

“Who,” he asked, “will take the kids from Otara, Mangere and Manurewa. They sure won’t in Auckland.” Exasperated commission chairman Peter Salmon responded, “Why shouldn’t Field of Dreams cover all of Auckland?” Why not indeed.

Rudman also openly scoffs at Waitakere and their tantrums;

From Waitakere City there are similar squeals about losing their identity as an eco-city. I’m never too certain what that means, but it’s said in such fearful tones, as though we barbarians of Auckland City are lining up at the Avondale border ready to sweep across into paradise and scrape the grass and tussock eco-layer off the roof of the city’s new headquarters.

They seem to forget it was the far-sighted citizens and leaders of Auckland City who in 1894, inspired by the vision of Auckland University professor of biology and geology Sir Algernon Thomas, set aside land near the Nihotupu River for recreational purposes and as a water catchment.

Many private bequests and purchases followed and in 1940, what is now the 16,000ha Waitakere Ranges Regional Park was Auckland City’s centennial birthday present to itself.

In other words, Aucklanders were eco-conscious citizens long before the artificial boundaries of 1989 went up, temporarily dividing us into Waitakereans and Manukauites and the like.

His final paragraphs are sensible advice and advice he notes that Len Brown seems to have taken onboard.

Admittedly, the politics of this reorganisation are still a mess, but it is encouraging to see that this week the mayors have started to focus on matters they can still have an impact on, such as improving local representation on the all-powerful Auckland Council. However, one thing is certain, Auckland will, by the end of next year, be governed by one mayor and one great council.

The politicians who have lost this battle have two choices. They can howl away at the iniquity of it until they’re blue in the face or they can come out fighting to make the best of it. We all know which camp Mr Walker has joined.

Manukau Mayor Len Brown is one of those who has chosen to be positive. He’s promising to fight for free swimming pool access, not just in Manukau but across the whole region. He’ll have a lot of support for this, I imagine, from across the whole region – which is perhaps why he said it.

It certainly shows he knows the political landscape has changed and that whatever our home base, we’re now all Aucklanders.

Yes we are….and at risk of being trite, Yes We Can.

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