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Letters to the Editor


Where has the spirit of Mangawhai gone?
On a Magical Mangawhai afternoon, myself, a friend and two small dogs (4kg each) were cruising up the beautiful estuary when we noticed our dinghy leaking. The tide was rapidly going out so we grounded the boat on the wet sand of the sandspit as we neared the iconic golden sand dune. Our dogs immediately jumped out and took to the water, swimming and running around the boat. We bailed the boat out okay, but now had the problem of the motor becoming embedded in the soft sand. A quick dig and five minutes later we were back on the water and headed back to the mainland.

On approaching the beach I noticed a woman waving her arms about and shouting. She was screaming something about our dogs running around the dunes disturbing the nesting terns. I was confused as we were two and a half kilometres away at the other end of the spit! She continued this irrational barrage of abuse demanding my “credentials” so she could report us to DOC. She was even accusing me of riding a horse along the dunes the day before. She had been watching us through her binoculars. I have never ridden a horse in my life and don't intend to!

She never stopped this tirade of screaming long enough for me to speak. I felt quite threatened by her behaviour and didn’t go to shore. After several minutes she marched back up the steps and proceeded to door knock asking people to identify us. Yes we could see and hear her still.

I find this kind of vigilante very disturbing and unnecessarily extreme and aggressive, which could become very detrimental to the awareness of the plight of the fairy tern. I support the bird sanctuary and have given financial donations in the past. I have also lived in Mangawhai for 17 years and breed exotic birds. There is no signage on the stretch of sandspit from the nesting area up to Tern Point (about 3km) indicating ‘no dogs’. For a visitor this would have been a very bad experience of our Magical Mangawhai.

I am writing this in hope these "aggressive tactics" can be turned into "educating people and awareness" in the future. And perhaps instead of spying tactics there could be a friendly passing out of printed information. Certainly DOC does not condone this kind of approach as it can create factions. A pity such a beautiful day had to be spoilt by such ugliness.

(Name supplied)

Angry and frustrated
After reading the latest extremely well informed and sophisticated summary of the current status of the Kaipara council's attitude towards the community, I again became inwardly angry and frustrated. Then something else happened: my emotions turned more towards feeling sorry for individuals who choose to live by different rules in life. My thoughts gravitated back to my own upbringing and how I was taught as a child by my parents to work hard, become an honest individual with integrity, be strong and respectful, get a decent education and a job that I enjoy.
I recognise now that my upbringing did not mould me into the company director or entrepreneurial type. Nevertheless, here I am. One way or another I feel happy enough with myself – not rich, not influential, not a mover and a shaker, but have maintained the fundamental family and life values that I hope people appreciate me for. I seem to have adopted the adage that "I climbed the ladder of success, but I found out it was the wrong building.”

So what's my point? Well, here is an extract from that very same publication that disturbed my thinking in the first place. And I quote: “This is a cynical and calculated abuse of the judicial system. It shows how fundamentally rotten local government is in New Zealand when commissioners can ignore their responsibility to ratepayers and force ratepayers to pay debts that the commissioners acknowledge were illegal, and then use public money to block access to the courts to have the matter of liability clarified." Unquote.

Nothing could be closer to the truth. Yes, I have seen movies such as Wall Street where greed is good, and Gordon Gecko tramples all over everyone at every opportunity to get what he wants – shafts all and sundry around him with a cynical smile while pretending to be everyone's friend and hiding his real intent while advertising an amicable facade. Am I fooled by such front-men? Sadly no. I am just thankful that I can get up in the morning, feel proud of myself and my family, uphold my values, not feel like a fraud and have to go out and communicate pre-prepared scripts full of half-truths which deliberately exclude obvious detail to appease the masses and gain support.

Would I want to get up and face every day, knowing full well that everything I was doing was flying in the face of honesty, integrity and all that I had been led to believe was how one should conduct their life? And all for $1400 a day? No, you are welcome to it. I much prefer seeing myself in the bathroom mirror in the morning, brushing my teeth, and feeling somewhat proud of the fact that at least I have made a difference to the people close to me in my own other small ways.

My only wish is that someone in a very high place, who is well versed in the law, eventually puts this Kaipara council where it belongs.

(Name supplied)

Fund money gone
Half the front page of the October 7 issue was devoted to a long self-congratulatory spiel from the chair of the government’s Kaipara District commissioners. In extolling his own virtues, while lambasting the community yet again for its shortcomings, and lack of loyalty to his cause, he spins the line that the council has balanced its books.

Unfortunately, because of the complete absence of any accountability regime in local government, balancing the books is even easier than falling off a log. All you have to do is set a plan that you can live within. The plan does not have to bear any relation whatsoever to reality or to financial probity. The Auditor General has no interest in whether a council is really a going concern; as far as she is concerned, if the council says it’s a going concern, that’s good enough for her. It does not have to result in solvency or any of the other tests that ordinary people are required to meet.

This is what they have done. Readers may have felt a bit miffed that of all the councils in the country poor old Kaipara was the only one that wasn’t allowed to participate in democracy last weekend. Thank you minister, you clearly know best, even though you have never been here, and have never even answered our letters.

The commissioners trumpet the fact that they have made an operating surplus in the year to 30 June 2013. How did they do that? They simply revised their income expectation down so that almost regardless of how badly things were managed the real income would exceed the planned income by an amount that would make it possible for the commissioners to crow about how well they were doing.

At a recent public meeting in Dargaville, Mr Robertson was asked by an attendee what had happened to all the various funds, the largest of which is the Mangawhai Endowment Fund. After a minute or two of mumbling, Mr Robertson handed over to his trusty CEO, who has quite a few numbers (but not these ones, as it happens) right at his fingertips. But before handing over to Steve, he confirmed for those with keen hearing that there is no longer a Mangawhai Endowment Fund. He will only refer to something that none of us has ever heard of – The Mangawhai Harbour Land Settlement Act.

Mr Ruru explained that even though all the money in the various funds has disappeared (long ago), the council does not record the amounts that were supposed to be in these funds as debts, or even as liabilities. To make a grant from the Mangawhai endowment fund today, this council has to go to the bank and increase its borrowing by the amount it intends to grant, then it pays for the grant by socking the ratepayer.

Is anyone accountable for this state of affairs? No they are not. Could anyone be held accountable? Well, there is a slight possibility, but only if the Validation Bill that these commissioners dreamed up does not pass the House. If it does, all the crimes and misdemeanours associated with the past six years (at least) will vanish without trace. A high-performing little council? Oh, please, give us a break.

Bruce Rogan

Election thanks
My congratulations to Craig Brown on his re-election to the Northland Regional Council, and to Deborah Harding on polling so well – the highest of any woman standing in Northland for the NRC. Keep it up lady!

To those who voted for me, an unknown ‘anybody’, I thank each of you for your support. And thanks to this newspaper for the publicity. I actually quite enjoyed the experience!

Jan Vaudrey
Coastal South candidate

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