Hamilton City, New Zealand

Horiana Henderson

I am a qualified journalist. Journalists can ask the hard questions, they can talk and relate to all sorts of people, and they can smell BS a mile away. I’m also a mum. Mums manage budgets and know the difference between a necessity and a nice to have (and can also smell BS a mile away).

There are voices that are missing from this Council and I want to make sure that they are heard

I initially only intended to run for Councillor in the East Ward as I have done in the past two by-elections. However, as I looked at the Mayoralty race it occurred to me that the two front-running “horses” have led the current Hamilton City Council for the past three years. Three years in which rates have risen year on year, as the city’s debt has exploded and as the Council continues to approve big ticket spending on “nice to have” projects. All of this has taken place against the backdrop of the massive disruption caused by Covid 19 and lockdowns and inflation going through the roof. Many Hamiltonians are struggling but it seems like the Council is the champion of gold-standard vanity projects.

It occurred to me that either way the Mayoral election went we are likely to get more of the same. I thought it would be great if there was an alternative, someone who will actively listen to and represent the concerns of the people of Hamilton, and make sure that their perspectives are brought to the decision-making table. I thought that if I was looking for an alternative to more of the same that other Hamiltonians might be too so I put myself forward to give them that option.

The Council’s increasing debt levels are a major concern, especially when a large proportion of that debt is being used to fund gold standard vanity projects. We have seen rates continue to rise, which places more financial pressure on Hamiltonians, at a time when living costs and inflation are already causing extreme hardship in the community. We have a council that has earmarked millions of dollars for projects like the $36 million walk and cycle bridge, the $12.5 million per kilometre Cook Street cycleway when the councillor with the most financial management experience had warned against taking on additional debt.

Housing is another huge issue in our city. On one hand we have a housing shortage, on the other hand, many are questioning whether in-filling the city with high density town houses is the answer. Central government have well and truly stepped into the space of local government with the changes to building consent laws that are due to kick in in August of next year. These will allow buildings of up to 3 stories to be built without requiring consent, the desired objective being higher density housing.

We need to build more houses but we also need to build them in planned ways that don’t put excessive pressure on existing infrastructure or destroy the character of our suburbs. I am in favour of greenfield developments rather than in-fill as an approach to these issues.

I think that’s a very good question and I’ll be interested to see some of the answers you get. I have no connection to, or involvement with any registered political party. I also do not have any connections with big business, land developers, or lobby groups, I am not connected to Voices for Freedom or groups like them. I am also not intending to stand in next year’s general election and if elected intend to serve our city for the full three year term.

Auditor-General John Ryan said, in his report, that the Bill as drafted could have “an adverse effect on public accountability, transparency, and organisational performance”. When the expert charged with considering the legitimacy of the Bill sends up warning flares, we need to look where he is pointing.

I believe that Hamilton City should be able to have control over its own assets and make decisions about the needs and requirements of its people in regard to the delivery of water services.

I’m also concerned that, although Hamiltonians have previously sent strong
signals that they are not in favour of water metres, that this could be a likely outcome of the city’s water infrastructure being lumped in with other councils and areas that already have them.

I don’t support it in its current form and believe it should go back to the drawing board as per the recommendation of a number of councils including our own.

I actively supported the introduction of a Māori Ward and believe that it helps the council to keep its legal obligations under the Local Government Act 2002 and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

I believe that the introduction of the ward was a Treaty response rather than race-based policy.

I understand that some voters may not feel that way, though I would ask them to consider the fact that, while only those on the Māori electoral roll can vote in the Māori Ward, their votes will contribute to the election of only two councillors. Those in the General Wards can have their votes counted towards the election of 6 councillors to represent them.

It’s also worth noting that Waikato-Tainui is a major land owner (if not the biggest) in Hamilton and therefore a major ratepayer, yet historically have had little if any representation on council.

Section 4 of the Local Government Act 2002 says that, “In order to recognise and respect the Crown’s responsibility to take appropriate account of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and to maintain and improve opportunities for Māori to contribute to local government decision-making processes” so I believe that working with Mana Whenua in decision making is a legal requirement regardless of whether I support it or not.

I’m uncomfortable with the amount of intervention in the Local Government space that we seem to have been getting from Central Government recently. Three waters is the most obvious example of this with it’s drive to bring locally owned assets under more centralised control, however there also appears to be increased pushing of specifically ideologically based initiatives by government agencies such as NZTA (such as seen in last year’s Innovating Streets debacle on Ward & Rostrevor Streets).

Central government have well and truly stepped into the space of local government with the changes to building consent laws that are due to kick in in August of next year. These will allow buildings of up to 3 stories to be built without requiring consent.

I believe that local government should be empowered to make local decisions about the city’s operations, infrastructure, and amenities with central government providing funding support when appropriate.

The $36 million walk/cycle bridge that one of the leading Mayoral candidates has described as their, “baby” is a gold-standard vanity project. It is proposed to go within a few hundred metres of the two existing bridges that have already been reconfigured for cycling. Also, it is more than four times the cost of the Perry cycleway bridge.

Even with the funding that HCC has applied for from Central Government, the city will need to make up any shortfall via increased debt.

The same mayoral candidate, currently on council, has said that, “We have to have the bridge if we want to build more houses,” I think we have to build more houses if we want to build more houses. Our other leading mayoral candidate has admitted that, “Right now there is an enormous gap between what we need to develop and what our ratepayers can afford.”

When our city is running on debt and ratepayers are struggling, I believe that council needs to stop spending up large on gold-standard vanity projects and kicking debt to future generations.

I think that many people aren’t aware or don’t recognise the direct impact that council decisions have on our lives and so aren’t as engaged in local elections.

Absolutely! Hamiltonians should represent Hamiltonians. City councillors should live in the city so that they can see and share the impacts of the decisions that they make. I don’t think it’s right for someone to make major decisions that impact the quality of life of Hamiltonians and then jump in their car (or plane) and take off home to somewhere else.

The people of Hamilton should be able to choose who represents them even if they choose the same person for multiple terms. I’m really encouraged to see that a range of candidates have put themselves forward to represent the diverse communities that make up our city this election.

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