A pilot project launched by Auckland Council last year is addressing issues raised by Waiheke Island residents in a recent household survey.
The three-year pilot started in December to trial ways of giving the Waiheke Local Board and community more influence over decision-making.
The council’s Research and Evaluation Unit sent 4734 households letters, with 477 responding, as part of the project to provide a baseline of where concerns rest.
The key issues raised were:
While recognising tourism’s benefits, 29 per cent of respondents highlighted the negative impacts of high visitor numbers on the island’s infrastructure, environment and way of life
Poor roading was identified by 26 per cent of respondents, with double-decker tourist buses frequently cited as a factor, alongside poor maintenance
Parking at Matiatia was a concern for 23 per cent
That the Waiheke Local Board lacked authority
That Auckland Council and Auckland Transport do not understand the island’s needs.
Those themes were raised during the call for an independent unitary authority for Waiheke that the Local Government Commission rejected last year, while urging more local input into decision-making.
Auckland Council Governance Director Phil Wilson says the report is a useful wake-up call. “While the need for more local input had been identified in a governance review, the survey reinforces that creating the Waiheke Pilot was the right decision, and it adds impetus for action.”
He says the council is receiving the feedback positively and highlights the example of the board getting delegated authority over decision-making to do with Matiatia, with Auckland Transport and Panuku also supporting that.
"We have a shared interest in improving relations and the pilot project gives the board more influence over the things that are important to the community. The survey tells us that is what residents want."
The survey also questioned how well respondents felt the wider council family was doing.
Around half agreed they understood the board’s responsibilities, that it listened to the community, and communicated well, but that fell to just 43 per cent who agreed it made decisions positively impacting the island.
Board chair Cath Handley says the pilot should address the concerns of the 66 per cent of respondents who say the board does not have enough power.
"We can do better, and we will never please everyone, but having more decision-making on the island, reflecting our own concerns, has to be good, and is certainly a great starting point."
Auckland Council and Auckland Transport were identified as bureaucratic and ineffective on island issues by respondents.
"The pilot is only one tool in improving performance on Waiheke, and Auckland Council staff remain committed to working with the community to get the right outcomes," Wilson says.
Criticism of Auckland Transport centred on a perception that it did not prioritise island issues and had enabled Fullers Ferries market dominance and enabled the use of double-decker buses despite residents’ objections.
Auckland Transport spokesperson Wally Thomas says the organisation is committed to working with the board and community and that CEO Shane Ellison would visit Waiheke this month to see issues at first hand.
"We already have dedicated staff working solely on Waiheke-related matters, several of whom live on the island and bring a local perspective. We want to build on that expertise."
Auckland Transport has purchased the Owhanake carpark and committed $15 million in its 10-year budget to improve transport infrastructure at Matiatia.
"That will mean work on a strategic plan can start and we should have concepts to consult on in the next few months. We recognise Waiheke is a unique environment with strong communities of interest and the survey has provided excellent insights into how we can work towards common goals," says Thomas.
The survey will be repeated to track progress over the three-year pilot period.