It was speeches and a cooked breakfast at the New Lynn RSA this morning to celebrate the first passenger train to go through the New Lynn rail trench. A carriage load of politicians, ARTA and Kiwirail officials, mayors, local Westies, transport activists, Waitakere City councillors and staff picked up the 5.44am from Henderson and were greeted by a brass band on the flash new New Lynn platform quarter of an hour later.
There is much to celebrate. The New Lynn town centre redevelopment, of which the rail trench and station are the vital first phase, is a half billion dollar investment in urban renewal. It is the latest centrepiece of Auckland’s rail modernisation and just the kind of ambitious place shaping the city desperately needs. Big hats off to Mayor Bob Harvey and Waitakere City, my colleague New Lynn MP David Cunliffe and many others for making it happen.
But would something like the New Lynn project happen under the kind of ultra-centralised super city this Government is putting in place?
Large capable local councils with significant powers as recommended by the Royal Commission might have been able to exercise some of the place shaping leadership demonstrated by Waitakere City as it has carved out identity and jobs in a once-neglected part of Auckland’s outer suburbs. But the toothless local boards planned by the Government won’t have anything like that kind of clout. See this morning’s Herald for stories on reaction to Friday’s announcement on the powers of the boards.
And will Waitakere’s two councillors out of 20 on the new super council be able to muster enough political will to get the city to focus on much needed projects out West?
Not sure. But I do think that centralising power in the hands of a mayor and only 20 councillors, delegating huge authority to unelected corporate entities, and giving local boards the power to choose the colour of the carpet in the library is unbalanced and won’t be sustainable.