Denise Krum – Governing Body, Auckland Council, October 30th 2013
Greetings your worship the Mayor, Councillors, and all those gathered here today.
I’m very aware, mostly because I have been reminded by many of you and most of the media, that I’m a newbie here. My Facebook page even had a discussion on how to spell ‘newbie’ – does it finish with ‘ie’ or ‘y’? So while it’s true that I am a newbie to both this Council and to local government, I come from a lineage of local politics. My father was a district Mayor and his father before him.
I remember marching in the town ANZAC parade as a highly decorated
battle-ready 8 year old Brownie, saluting my father as we dutifully walked by the Council chambers. I grew up with this annual reminder that serving the town was important.
I have also seen public service up close through the charitable/voluntary sector. For years now I have been the director of a community trust. My role was to broker partnerships between residents, local business and community groups around shared projects for the sake of the local community. The most innovative and visionary ideas come from listening to, and understanding, the opportunities found in a neighbourhood.
What I have discovered is that people want to make a difference. When it comes to homes and their local neighbourhood, most people can no longer afford to move out and up. People now see the need to be part of the solution for their communities to make a bad neighbourhood good, and a good neighbourhood better. And they want to be empowered by us to do so.
I heard a lot of this during my campaign.
One example I’ll never forget was a discussion with a man I’ll call “Joe.” A man who appeared to have seen very hard times, cautiously allowed me to put up a sign on his property. That sign was knocked over five times throughout the campaign, and each visit to put it up again provided another opportunity for a chat.
On the last day of the campaign, Joe offered to help take the sign down, and then afterwards invited my team to sit and have a korero. We heard about, and were shown, the literal scars of his past; he talked about his love for his partner and young daughter, and then he said “I’ve never voted before, but we voted for you this time. ‘Hard out!’” he says. “I think you’ll do good by us. Life is hard. I work full time, work doesn’t allow any more than 40 hours, and we are not making it. I just want to take care of my family. Hard out! But rates keep going up and I can’t see what I get for it. I didn’t even understand rates until Denise explained it. Hard out!” he finished with.
Maungakiekie-Tamaki is full of young families. We know the average household income in Auckland is around $70,000, and they are stretched. They work hard, they pay their bills, and they take care of the people where they live. But nearly all the extras are now gone. They don’t eat out like they used to, they don’t go on holidays like they used to, and they don’t buy new toys like they used to. But they have a plan. And what resources they have left goes towards their plan for a better future.
They don’t have extra money to waste. And that’s how they want us to run the city.
Most residents in my ward are resigned to paying their rates, (even at a woeful average of 17.6% increase over the last term), but their tolerance for wasteful spending is exhausted.
We have been entrusted with their hard-earned money. And they trust us to make the same hard decisions for the city, as they have had to make for their own household. To not waste their money, and to plan for a better future. To be fiscally responsible, to back the necessary infrastructure projects to keep this city working, moving, and growing, and to provide the services that create and maintain the community that we all want to live in.
Wastewater, sewerage, rubbish removal, walkways and transport, berm mowing and park maintenance. There is nothing sexy about local government. What we do is pure public service. It’s not about us at all.
But when we do try to ‘joos’ up our council role, or make it about us and our personal ideas, we end up getting involved with things in which we have no business getting involved. And that’s what makes rates go up beyond the level of inflation.
Aucklanders don’t want to see their Council spin why borrowing more money and raising their rates isgood for the city, while losing core services and gaining massive administration and red tape that makes life difficult for the Joes of this world. Our residents are simply trying to provide for their own while paying their rates… and our salaries. Who are we working for really? And what is it that they are paying for us to accomplish?
I have no desire to work at this table to create a more liveable city. Where’s the aspiration in that? People don’t move to Auckland to simply live. They move to Auckland to get ahead. I don’t want Auckland to be more liveable. I want Auckland to be globally exceptional. Just like the residents of my ward.
So I will do two things as a city councillor. My first priority will be to hear, understand, and represent the voices of my ward at this table. Our wards are where the innovative ideas for our city will come. The second is to productively work with you all as my council colleagues. So when the plans are good, I will cooperate, and when they are flawed, I will have the guts to respectfully ask for them to go back to the drawing board. Because I have the “Joes” of my ward asking me how it is going, what I am doing for their families, and how much is it going to cost them.