Shale Chambers, Chair, Waitemata Local Board

If you stopped someone walking down any of our local surbaban shopping centres and asked them what a Local Board of Council does I don’t think they would mention local economic development.   For those in the know they might talk about sports fields, community centres, swimming pools and libraries – but there is far more to our work even that those very important facilities.

Shale with cityscapeLocal Boards are responsible with Auckland Transport for maintenance of the streetscape and our town centres so they are clean, tidy, and free of graffiti and rubbish and provide a welcoming environment.

In Waitemata our Board has representatives on all the ‘Business Improvement Districts’ formed to further the interests of our shopping strips and commercial centres in Waitemata in partnership with Council.   I sit on Heart of the City responsible for the City Centre, my Deputy Pippa Coom Grey Lynn; the only non-BID, Tricia Reade Ponsonby, Jesse Chalmers Karangahape Road, Christopher Dempsey Parnell, Greg Moyle Newmarket and Rob Thomas the newly formed Eden Terrace BID.

We attend their monthly meetings and take part in fulfilling the aspirations of local businesses to develop the local business precincts and town centres as great places to do business.  At a time when air-conditioned and rain free suburban shopping malls are drawing people and money out of our communities into the coffers of mainly Australian owed chains, our local business associations do a wonderful job in keeping our local communities shopping and buying locally.

Christmas lights, street festivals and markets days are part of the formula to keep our Art in the dark eventshopping centres vibrant and keep people returning to spend in our local economy and keep jobs within walking or cycling distance of where we live.

One of the attractors is the quality of the streets which help create an environment that is attractive. Local Boards have ‘place making’ responsibilities and we know that our shopping centres are ‘Good for Business’ when our mostly heritage and character shops are enhanced by quality street design.  We make it a priority to provide attractive public spaces, and encourage more cycling and walking and our communities dependent on fewer car movements.

Aotea SquareWe work with Auckland Transport to continue investment in local streets with wider footpaths, new kerb and channel, planter boxes, and improved street lighting.  Our streets must be designed for walking in a business or retail environment rather than just for arterial vehicular movement. Slowing down traffic to 40 kms as in Ponsonby Road and providing safe places to cross the street and cycle as well as better street amenity, is part of our vision for a safe, connected and business friendly place for people.

The Board is in the process of setting up a Ponsonby master plan working group to work on a plan that incorporates urban design, the road corridor, landscaping and best balances safety, multiple users, parking, heritage impacts and retail needs.

Our Board has just completed a draft Greenways plan which links open spaces and parksMyers Park and which we also hope will assist people walking and cycling through parks to shopping centres.

This year we are drawing up an economic plan for the city fringe in areas outside the City Centre.  In the coming 2013-14 year we have provided for a discretionary budget of $50,000 for the first time enabling local economic development iniatives to be funded.  We also have a new Local Board Auckland Transport capital expenditure fund of $10m a year shared between all 21 Local Boards and we see Waitemata’s share largely being directed towards streetscape and Greenways investment projects.

The summer holidays are over for most of us, our children are safely back in school but while the sun is shining warmly, we still have lots of choice of things to do.   The Pride Festival is returning to the city 8-24 February, with Ponsonby Road once again hosting a parade on February 16 at 4pm after a long abeyance. Expect much colour, sequins, drag queens, toned bodies, fantastic music and even the army on parade.

The Lantern Festival is at Albert Park on the weekend of 22 February with marvellous Chinese eating offerings and performances again.  The Fringe Festival starts on 15 February with an exciting menu of edgy shows at the Basement and other inner city venues to warm us all up for the Auckland Festival in March.

Auckland is indeed blessed.

Contact me: [email protected]

Edited from Ponsonby News article in the February edition