Priyanca Radhakrishnan –
On March 24, 2017 Labour’s spokesperson for Auckland Issues Phil Twyford and I announced that our Party will withdraw support for the ‘Point England Development Enabling Bill,’ which is currently before Parliament.
This Bill, if passed, will revoke the reserve status of almost 12 hectares of Point England Reserve that will be sold to Ngāti Paoa as part of their Treaty Settlement claim and used to develop housing.
This was a difficult decision for Labour as there are a number of competing values and priorities at hand.
On one hand, we unequivocally support the need to address historical grievances and support Māori social and economic aspirations.
On the other, we also know that building more affordable houses is a large part of the solution to the Auckland housing crisis.
However, building them on reserve land is not the answer – it is short-sighted and ill-advised. The government has been negotiating this sale behind closed doors for two years. They had ample time to consider alternatives but they have failed to do so.
For example, they could consider selling a portion of the land being developed by the Tāmaki Regeneration Company (TRC) to Ngāti Paoa.
The Crown is a majority shareholder in TRC.
Such a move would have supported both the local iwi’s aspirations and saved a reserve that is well-used and well-loved by locals.
Had the Government bothered to consult locals on this, instead of pushing the Bill through over summer when most of New Zealand shuts down and many are away, they might have come to a similar conclusion.
If you do not live in or near Pt England, you may be wondering why you need to know about this.
Firstly, if this Bill passes it will set a precedent for other reserves to be carved up for development.
Point England Reserve is already well used. Its sports fields are used by local school children and community groups. Local Church groups have been using the fields for over 35 years to play Kilikiti (a sport that is like Gilli Danda, which is popular across the Indian subcontinent).
The Reserve is home to the endangered New Zealand dotterels and is used by families who attend free public events like Music and Movies in the Park.
This reserve is the largest piece of public open space in the Eastern part of the Maungakiekie Electorate.
It is in an area that will see an increase of about 20,000 people over the next couple of decades. As communities grow, we must ensure that we have the affordable housing, infrastructure and public green open spaces to sustain this growth and to build healthier and more connected communities.
Secondly, the manner in which this Bill has been pushed through is concerning.
Shutting out local communities from having a say is not an example of effective democracy.
This Bill was introduced to Parliament in early December. It had its First Reading in mid-December and public submissions closed at the end of January.
We all know that most of New Zealand shuts down over Summer. The locals tell me that they feel shut out of a process that is really a modern-day land grab.
This is an important issue for all New Zealanders, regardless of where we live.
That is because it sets a precedent for the government to reduce green open spaces by pushing through a Bill with minimal consultation on its impacts.
Some of the most liveable cities in the world are those that are known for their public green open spaces. Improving access to such spaces have numerous physical and mental health benefits. In the United States, an evaluation of the largest 85 cities in the country found the health savings from parks was an estimated $3.08 billion.
As Auckland increases in population, we must protect our public green open spaces.
I will be working with local communities to save the Point England Reserve.
If this is important to you too, please join us.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan is a politician of high calibre with a sound knowledge of issues that concern all of us. We hope she would accede to our request to write about the Treaty of Waitangi for the benefit of migrants most of who would not have a proper conception of this historic document. Ms Radhakrishnan will contest in the Maungakiekie Electorate as the Labour Party’s candidate in the general election scheduled to be held on September 23, 2017.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan with Phil Twyford in Point England