by Denise Roche
I feel very fortunate to live on Waiheke Island. It’s just 35 minutes by fast ferry from downtown Auckland and its permanent population of around 8000 people are friendly and are frequently spurred to action over environmental or social injustices. It’s where I cut my political teeth – because this is a community that takes its politics seriously. (Check out this link for political commentary or for completely unfettered flavour the Waiheke Island People’s Parliament is an open facebook group.)
So it was inevitable really that some of our residents were going to take action when a local land-owner – who has consistently breached his non-notified resource consent by building bigger and bigger structures on his private land to the point where he is about to deliver his waste water over the 40 metre coastal protection zone and the council beach reserve (which is also a sensitive archaeological site) – got Local Board permission to bring his prefabricated boat-house and visitor accommodation facility by barge to the bay and get a really big truck to tow them across the reserve and archaeological site and into place.
I joined the 50 or so protesters on Monday morning in an attempt to blockade the barge. I did so because this is yet another example of the council issuing inappropriate and non-notified resource consents. The land owner in this case originally had resource consent for a much smaller structure – a barbecue and a shed. That wasn’t a problem. What was a problem was that as the owner built larger and larger buildings on the sensitive site the council granted them retrospective consent each time. For this latest incursion the owner’s planning consultant has once more applied for a retrospective consent.
None of these consents have been notified so the scale of the current building wasn’t discovered until the neighbours saw the diggers and the builders working on the retaining walls and foundations.
This isn’t a new problem on Waiheke – or in fact in Auckland – since the advent of the ‘Super-City.” Waiheke’s local councillor Mike Lee makes the point that the rights of community seem to be continually over-ridden by the individual rights of the property-owner. And certainly the community’s ability to take action against property owners under the Resource Management Act have been seriously reduced since the National government started undermining the Act during their last term.
It was disturbing to have been read a trespass notice and told to get off a public reserve on Monday. And it was even more disturbing to see our local police (who are generally pretty amiable folks I have to say) assisted by un-warranted private security guards manhandle seven protesters out of the water where they operated a type of ‘catch and release’ exercise as none were charged, they were removed from the site.
Ironically Monday was the start of Auckland Council’s Heritage Week. I applaud the efforts of my fellow islanders to protect the heritage at Wharetana Bay for all people in New Zealand.