Mayor Bob of the West picked up a gong today. It is great to see Bob Harvey honoured. He has made a huge contribution to West Auckland, elected six times in a row as Mayor of Waitakere City.
Bob is a man of many parts. As a young ad man he brought modern advertising to Labour’s election campaigns in the 1970s, and played a key role in the re-making of two Labour Prime Ministers: Norman Kirk and David Lange. He served as Labour Party President 1999-2000 and is a life member of the party. He has been a lifelong surf lifesaver and high profile advocate for the sport. He swam the Dardanelles and the Manukau Bar. He has been an active member of the international nuclear disarmament movement Mayors for Peace. He now chairs the board of Waterfront Auckland.
You never quite know with Bob what creative and/or outrageous idea he is going to come up with next. His transformation from ad man to mayor was seamless. His life has been a series of brainwaves and it is a tribute to him that quite a few of them have been turned into reality.
Waitakere, the eco-city, was one such idea. Bob and the councillors he drew around him, took a sprawling collection of neglected dormitory suburbs in Auckland’s West and over twenty years made this community proud. They invested aggressively in infrastructure and community facilities. They worked to bring jobs and urban renewal to the West. They worked with Labour in Government to protect the Waitakere Ranges from suburban sprawl. The Council worked alongside community organisations on pioneering environmental and social projects like Project Twin Streams.
But perhaps Bob’s greatest achievement was to craft a sense of identity out of the place and the people. He and the people around him made it something special to be a Westie. He did what great politicians do – he lifted people’s horizons, appealed to their better instincts, and communicated a vision of how their community could be better.
Listening to Bob speak at community events is a treat. He acknowledges the land and the place, he reaches back into history, there is a big idea or two, and he always appeals to our humanity.
On behalf of Labour, congratulations Bob on an honour well deserved.