January 21, 2019
With the end of the school holidays looming, we can reflect that as well as creating heavy traffic and crowded beaches, the influx of visitors has given the island’s economy a big boost. And so far, we have managed to avoid the water crisis we experienced in the 2017-18 peak holiday season due to the heavy rainfall we received in December. Because of the water conservation campaigns of Project Forever Waiheke and the Waiheke Resources Trust, homeowners and renters now have the tools to help guide people's water consumption in times of future drought.
Early in the New Year, many were astonished to see the large cruise ship Seabourn Encore anchored just outside Matiatia, with passengers delivered to shore by lighters, to enjoy organised tours or get themselves around while on the island. One way to take the pressure off the ferry service…
However, locals and visitors alike have experienced numerous delays to Fullers services due to vessel breakdown, as well as congestion at Matiatia and confusion around the downtown locals’ lane, which is currently not working satisfactorily.
Several initiatives are underway to address some of our most pressing traffic and transport issues. The Waiheke Transport Forum had its first meeting on December 6, with a mandate to look at ways to improve the island’s roads, cycleways, car parks marine transport and footpaths. And the Waiheke Pathways Plan released by the Local Board last month sets out a 10-year programme of upgrades, improvements, new paths and maintenance that should make getting around the island safer for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.
Since mid-December, Project Forever Waiheke has been monitoring use of the Explorer buses, the numbers of vehicles arriving on selected Sealink sailings and the traffic flow along Belgium Street, and will be providing the data to the Local Board at the end of February.
The Local Board is also working hard to establish a more open and collaborative relationship with Auckland Transport in 2019. Cheers to that!
Meanwhile, Waiheke holiday-home providers are continuing to fight a potentially crippling local body rates increase, and many local low-income earners are feeling the pinch due to recent increases in rent, rates, ferry fares, car parking and petrol.
On a more positive note, two no-waste nomads from The Rubbish Trip will bring their zero-waste message to islanders on 31 January and 3 February. A pilot citizen science project to assess and regenerate kelp along the north shore of the island will begin this March. Auckland Council is for the first time providing a floating waste barge to help boaties dispose of their litter and debris correctly. And a dotterel chick that hatched on the High School field took to the sky on 13 January, thanks to the efforts of everyone involved in protecting the nesting site.
Finally, here’s an idea that could be pertinent, from one of the most over-touristed places in the world: Venice to charge day-trippers up to €10 to enter city.