Saturday, May 25, 2024

Our door is always open

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I am writing in response to the Howick Residents and Ratepayers Association letter published in the Howick & Pakuranga Times on April 3, 2024.

The Howick Local Board has been busy serving our diverse communities across Howick, Pakuranga, Botany, and Flat Bush. Recently we’ve delivered Celebrating Cultures and Music in Parks, in addition to funding for local community events like the Auckland Brit and Euro Classic Car Show, the Pakuranga Rotary Family Carnival and River Festival, the Howick Village Cultural Food Festival, and the inaugural East Auckland Business Awards.

Last year, the newly-elected Howick Local Board made an extraordinary effort to consult with the public to understand their priorities, attending over a dozen community events plus two special sessions with all the local residents and ratepayer associations. We used that feedback to develop our latest Local Board Plan which is our three-year strategy and we’re pleased to be making good progress. To make sure we’re still delivering for our community, we’ve recently checked in with the public and we appreciate everyone who took time to provide feedback.

It’s important to note that Local Boards do not have decision-making authority over zoning or planning rules, but we continue to strongly advocate for infrastructure to be in place before intensification is approved. Sandspit Road has been fast-tracked by the previous Government, removing Auckland Council from the decision-making process. We continue to advocate on behalf of the community for the right outcome.

Our business meetings are where your elected representatives discuss, debate and vote so there must be robust rules to ensure we meet our legal obligations as well as maintaining an open and fair democracy.

Therefore, they’re not always the ideal place to engage in meaningful, two-way conversations, which is why we continue to create opportunities to meet with groups and individuals. We’ve met with the Howick Residents and Ratepayers Association on a range of issues, including the Howick War Memorial Hall. There have been no decisions on how this building will be managed, hence why there has been no update.

Our meetings are normally scheduled for the third Thursday of each month and we receive the agenda at the same time as the public (normally the Friday before). Everyone is welcome to attend these meetings and we always have a spot allocated for public forum and deputations. We haven’t turned anyone down for a speaking slot despite very high numbers of requests, ensuring that the public can always have their say. Minutes are published for every meeting, along with a recording for additional transparency (even though this isn’t required).

As we’ve discussed before, workshops are confidential because they often cover topics and materials that are commercially sensitive. A list of topics and who attended these workshops are published each month to provide transparency. We’re looking at ways to further improve the transparency around these workshops, without compromising good decision-making outcomes for our community.

Our monthly email newsletter provides updates on what we’ve been doing as well as what is happening in the community. You can also follow our Facebook page for more regular updates and we have a regular piece in the Times. We can always do more to improve communication and are open to suggestions on what else we can do. There is also an open invitation to every group and resident of the area – if you’d like to meet with us to discuss any ideas or concerns, please contact us as we’d love to talk.

Damian Light, Chairperson, Howick Local Board

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