The Waiheke community responded to the tragedy in Christchurch on 15 March with fundraising efforts, flowers, poetry and messages of love and sympathy, joining the rest of Aotearoa New Zealand and others around the world in an outpouring of grief and outrage. Meanwhile the worldwide student strike for action on climate change, which took place in New Zealand at almost the same time as the massacre, was largely ignored by the mainstream media. Not, however, by the Gulf News, which celebrated the turnout by Waiheke students, as well as Lindsay Jeff’s marathon bike ride from Auckland to Wellington in support of New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Bill.
In early April the Local Board and several Waiheke residents presented submissions to planning commissioners opposing proposed changes to the Downtown Ferry Basin , one of which is to enable even larger cruise ships to dock in Central Auckland. (At the end of April, Auckland had hosted 39 cruise ships, a 20% increase on the previous season.) The wharf extension has since been approved despite strong opposition.
On a more positive note, the Waiheke Transport Forum has appointed Don McKenzie as their new accessibility representative. Hopefully the Waiheke Special Needs Group’s call for access mats to popular beaches will be similarly addressed.
Sustainable tourism to the fore: DOC is nearing a decision to develop Stony Batter as a cultural tourism, star-gazing and education destination.
Good news also that the adventure company EcoZip, in partnership with the Waiheke Resources Trust, is planning to double the number of native trees they plant each year.
The increasing numbers of young South Americans working in our vineyards, restaurants and cafés is a boon to our tourist industry. Recent arrival Manuela Irianni’s response to the island and its community is a heart-warming story.
Less palatable to locals is the news that the Local Board’s bid to ban freedom camping anywhere on the island’s public land is taking longer to achieve than first thought. And the High Court has ruled out the Kennedy Point marina appeal option.
Looking at the big picture, planning for Waiheke’s next 30 years is underway. But with some gaps that need to be addressed, public consultation on a draft Waiheke Area Plan will not take place until mid-year. The local board members are facing challenging topics in their weekly area plan briefings and discussions. Nothing is off the table: housing scale and densification, water quality, visitor numbers, maximum carrying capacity for population numbers and even wastewater reticulation have made it into the debate. Cath Handley, Waiheke Local Board Chair, says “It’s confronting sometimes but the board has to make sense of it all in a draft plan before taking that out for the community’s response. We are guided by Essentially Waiheke and other strategic plans, including sustainable tourism and community."
Finally, a round of applause to the fundraising efforts of Barry Fenton and Dan Harrop, in a bid to keep Chris Bailey’s Te Werowero sculpture permanently at Matiatia. The artwork both welcomes and challenges visitors to respect the island’s culture, whāhi tapu and fragile environment, says Chris. A truly welcome addition to Waiheke’s gateway!