1 December 2018. Rarotonga family holiday tainted by dirty politics. As we accelerate towards the festive season no doubt many of us will be thinking of the friends and family we long to catch up with, or seldom see. As your Councillor with the largest most diverse electorate in all of Auckland these very same thoughts are often on my mind.
Some of you may have seen a NZ Herald article recently suggesting I was on holiday claiming it was Council business. It is important to me to tell you, my constituents, that this is not true. I took a 4 day long weekend which was fully paid for by myself (not Council). I did, however, make the mistake of updating my Council diary too late one day to show I would be absent from Council business. That was an oversight on my behalf. I own that mistake.
But there was nothing untoward. My annual leave was not affected and the administrative error was immediately corrected.
Yet someone “weaponised” this and took a jab in the media. Why? Because I am the Councillor who is stands by my promises to you to vote against the likes of the fuel tax, and unpopular targeted rates, and anything else that my constituents tell me will adversely affect them. A strong leader will only ever be defined by their ability to listen to their people and that is exactly what I do.
I pride myself on being above political pressure and schoolyard politics – but others it seems do not.
The article also skewed the issue of my attendance records at certain meetings. Again, I want you to know I make my decisions around what meetings I attend based on what you, my constituents asked me to do when I knocked on thousands of doors at election time – less time in the “ivory tower” more time in the community.
I have purposely chosen not to attend many non-compulsory, non-decision making Council “workshop” meetings. I am always informed as to the topic of these council “workshops”, so am able to prioritize if attendance is going to be detrimental or beneficial to my community – Rodney. I refuse to spend hours in an air-conditioned office debating with the majority what is often a city centralized forgone conclusion when I could be out talking and strategizing with the people in this area in order to ascertain their future opinions and wishes.
I am very proud of how much time I spend out in the field helping the residents and ratepayers of Rodney who need me – regularly travelling from one of end of biggest geographical ward to other in one day, which takes time. I will continue to run on my record of being a strong community advocate. In a heartbeat I would choose to have a cup of tea with a retiree, or lunch with a playgroup to hear their concerns, ahead of attending bureaucratic unproductive meetings.
By contrast, I have one of the highest attendance records at the vital decision making meetings – attending more than the Mayor himself. It is at these important Auckland Council voting meetings that I am often having to make the tough call to take a stand against others in order to make sure Rodney has a voice. I will continue to do that, and take the hits if I have to, to deliver what I have promised you.
So, like many of us this festive season I intend to act upon my thoughts and resolve to spend more time with the people I care about – my family at home and my Rodney family – because at the end of the day that is the only way you can truly make a positive difference in people’s lives.