Last year was intense nationally and locally, with earthquakes, tornadoes, the Rena stranding, the Rugby World Cup win and the general election.
It was a year that saw Auckland on the world stage during the cup. The odd hiccup aside, Auckland rose to the challenge. Many locals saw their city through new eyes as the waterfront came alive and the fan trail opened up previously unexplored nooks and crannies.
So what does 2012 hold and what should we be aspiring to?
On the wider front there’s no question that economic growth is the key priority and that is where the government’s focus is. Ultimately raising export levels is the key to future prosperity. There will also be a continued drive to contain growth in public spending, while making sure that government expenditure produces real results.
At the local level there are some areas I’d like to see focus on in 2012:
Enhanced ferry services. The Beach Haven service is coming later this year with Fullers also trialling enhanced services from Birkenhead and Northcote. However, the public needs to support services to ensure ongoing viability.
Auckland Council taking a sensible approach to transit lanes in Northcote. It is council that controls these, not central government. Why not trial a T2 lane on Onewa Rd and review the Lake Rd Northcote Transit Lane? Once the Victoria Park tunnel and overpass are operating at full lane capacity, it should be possible to let traffic flow far more freely down Onewa Rd on to the harbour bridge.
More information on walking/cycling across the harbour bridge. It’s time to answer some of the detailed questions around funding and access at the Northcote end. There is a wide range of opinion but people want to know how it might work in practical terms.
Continued community engagement about optimising our local environments. Communal gym equipment in reserves might be what some communities want; in Little Shoal Bay, locals might prefer to maintain the environment as is. The point is they haven’t been asked.
A hard look at what we’re actually getting for our council rates spend. Rates are going up beyond the rate of inflation and it’s difficult to see how it’s justified. I believe many people would like to see spending focused on the core services everyone expects a council to provide – like cleaning the overgrown weeds and dead leaves that are choking the Shore’s paths and gutters.
On a personal note, 2011 was a great year. We achieved a record 9379 majority in Northcote and I’m extremely grateful for that vote of confidence. I have new portfolios as Minister of Defence, Minister of State Services and Associate Minister of Finance. There are big challenges but I’m really looking forward to this term as MP for Northcote. Here’s to 2012.
Like many Kiwis I love my rugby and the world cup is a very special time – even more so when it’s all happening on your home patch.
You could tell there was something extraordinary happening in the week of the opening ceremony as flags started appearing on cars, and All Blacks banners were draped from house windows and decks all over the North Shore. We’re on track to host an incredibly successful tournament. It’s a big opportunity for the country on so many levels. New Zealand is being showcased to an estimated overseas audience of four billion people – to achieve equivalent publicity through paid advertising would be simply beyond what we could ever afford. Three key factors are combining to make this showpiece a great spectacle which is presenting New Zealand in a fantastic light – the exciting rugby, the special character and exuberance of the touring fans, and the participation of Kiwis as hosts.
The New Zealand public is living up to the promise of a stadium of four million people because ticket sales have gone through the roof. North Harbour Stadium was chocka for the Japan v France game on the opening weekend, and not far off capacity the next day for Australia v Italy. South Africa v Namibia sold out, and the final pool game at the stadium, South Africa v Samoa, is a sellout as well. Overseas fans are a vital ingredient to the colour of the spectacle, as they fill the grounds and party on afterwards. Kiwis have made them very welcome and there has been a huge amount of goodwill going round. Birkenhead has adopted Argentina as its second team and locally we are getting right into the cup spirit. There are Argentinian themed events happening in the town centre right through the cup period and Birkenhead Town Centre manager Kae Condon has done a great job putting together a festival programme. Similarly Takapuna has adopted France, and Browns Bay South Africa.
Financially the RWC is a huge success. Since the opening match $5.5 million of tickets have been sold, taking total sales to within $14 million of the $268 million target. Research recently released by MasterCard estimates the 95,000 overseas visitors could generate $780 million for the economy. The Auckland waterfront has come alive and the opening up of Queens Wharf has finally given Auckland the central, outdoor venue it’s needed for so long. Get along to The Cloud – it really is a great addition to the waterfront, and an excellent place to get a bit of the world cup atmosphere.
This world cup has given New Zealanders something to really enjoy and has engendered a huge sense of pride as our city and country is on display to the world. But can the All Blacks break our 24-year drought? I have faith they will triumph on October 23 at Eden Park.
Whatever happens, just enjoy the Rugby World Cup ride. It’s going to be great.