Eastern Courier : April 1st 2011
8 EASTERN COURIER, APRIL 1, 2011 NEWS Helpers needed to take the lead at Riding for Disabled By KRISTINA RAPLEY Volunteers at work: Dulcie Rhind-Eglese, 9, riding Shorty with volunteers, clockwise from left: Linda Agnew, Lorraine Grant and Sheena Casidy. Photo: FIONA GOODALL Seeing faces light up is what it's all about for volunteers working with disabled chil- dren. Totara Park Riding for the Disabled is a non-profit organisation giving people with disabilities the oppor- tunity to ride specially- trained horses. They don't receive any government funding and rely on volunteers that are few and far between. They have around 50 on their books and only 35 of those are able to come every week. We would love to have 10 or so more,'' volunteer co- ordinator Peter Scott says. It would make a huge dif- ference.'' Volunteers are needed on Mondays or Thursdays from about 8am to 1pm. They will need to have their own transport, be reasonably fit, committed and reliable and have a kind heart,'' Mr Scott says. There is plenty of training provided including health and safety. The people here are great. We have a real mix- ture and there's an excellent vibe which of course rubs off on the kids,'' he says. Howick mum Bronya Rhind-Eglese has been taking her nine-year-old daughter Dulcie to Totara Park for a year. She has a rare condition called achromatopsia which affects her vision and co- ordination. Her upper body strength has improved dramatically and her co-ordination has improved too.' She spends the whole time with a huge grin on her face. She absolutely loves it,'' Bronya says. Visit www.totarapark rda.org.nz to find out more about becoming a volunteer and to contact the team. Len Brown's take on the supercity Is it working?: Auckland mayor Len Brown takes stock of progress as he approaches six months in office. Photo: KAREN MANGNALL With April marking the the sixth month of Auckland's new supercity, reporter Scott Morgan sat down with mayor Len Brown to find out how he thinks the new structure is working. What are your general thoughts on how the supercity is progressing? At a rapid pace. We've pretty much settled the struc- tural changes. There are bits of work to do around finalising local boards' roles and their budgets and obvi- ously outstanding work on the Maori Statutory Board and their funding. I think otherwise everything is in place. We've got the Pacific Island Advisory Board, Eth- nic Advisory Board, youth and business. We've also been asked to set up an advisory board for our disability sector and we're very happy to do that and I've set up a range of meetings with seniors through Grey Power and Age Concern. The whole focus of reaching out and bringing everyone into an inclusive city has been really effective.'' You don't think there are too many meetings, with 27 committees, pan- els, boards and forums? It's not going to be perfect. We're a totally new structure and if we weren't having too many meetings then we'd be having not enough. People would feel the mayor shut them out, you're not being inclusive enough. I'm very happy to err on the side of too many meetings, of over- inclusivity. We're doing some critical stuff with the Auckland spatial plan -- that's a huge body of work and we've got to get that done by December so we're travelling at a fearsome pace. If you're not on the train, get out of the way.'' Are you enjoying the job? Absolutely. It's long hours but when I'm in the com- munity people have been very generous with their support and encouraging of me when I'm out there so it's easy and a hell of a lot of fun.'' With the job comes scru- tiny. How have you dealt with that? It's hard. You're in a high scrutiny job probably not dis- similar to what the prime minister has to deal with. I accept that. You've got to be thick skinned and have a good sense of humour. It's not every day you get sent up by Tui and that was great. I accept the intense nature of the scrutiny and would hope that the scrutiny helps inform the debate.'' When are we going to see delegation of powers to local boards? It's working out. Most of those delegations are in place and I would encourage boards just to get on. If we don't think it's there in terms of delegation we'll say. We've had one or two workshops where we have worked through scenarios and by and large everyone understands what they're entitled to do or not. So I think people shouldn't overly amp that -- I think people understand exactly what local boards are required to do and I just want them to get on with doing that -- get in among service levels in the local community and show good leadership and start bringing those community plans forward. I'm giving the boards a lot of latitude. That's what was specified in the legislation and I'm encouraging that.'' So does that mean we're going to see local boards delegated power to im- pose liquor bans and set targeted rates? We're working through that and what that means. The one thing I'm adamant we're not doing is setting up 21 local councils. So we're all part of the same team, we're in a shared governance model. We need to have a good balance between what are the bylaws and regulations that have global application across the region and those where we can give some latitude locally and that will take a little while to work out. I don't think it's necessary to overly stress about that. We're a totally new structure and I think goodwill and com- mon sense will work that out.'' Is there a timeframe for introducing these chan- ges? I'd be really keen for us to be in a well settled space three to six months down the track. No more than that.'' Rates rises are some- thing people are worried about. How will you keep the increase down to your goal of 4.9 percent? Presently our proposed rate increase in the draft budget is 4.9 percent, down from 9.2 percent. I've got pressure on the organisation to see if we can't get to 3.9 percent. I'm the one in this council with the reputation for being particularly staunch and pru- dent on rates. And so I'm working really hard to make that a sustainable position and until such time as it is I won't go to the community with something that's not sustainable or justifiable. We've inherited this situ- ation. This is the average rate from all of the other councils, so all of the councils had an average rate increase of 8 or 9 percent so I've been able to with our councillors to trim that to 4.9 and let's see if we can get it lower than that. That's what I want to achieve.'' Can you give us some sort of idea where the savings will come from? We haven't got to the bot- tom of the budget in terms of a final starting point. It's taken a long time to bring these budgets together, it's been quite complicated. It can be any or all parts of the organisation whether it's cap and spend, operational savings, savings from amal- gamation, assessment of our depreciation rates. There's a whole range of options where one, we've got the existing savings so far and two, where we can get more.'' So how are we going to pay for big infrastructure projects like the inner city rail loop? I've agreed to abide by the 10-year plans by and large. I haven't changed much in the capital programmes or operations programmes of the existing plans. I have given councillors a very clear message -- the 10-year plan we're working on right now and put in place next June will be a reflection of our vision that is agreed through the Auckland Plan that I'm required under stat- ute to articulate my vision. The next plan will reflect those types of focuses in par- ticular around the inner city rail loop and how we're going to do that.'' There's been some con- cern about the possibility of regional fuel taxes to fund the inner city rail loop, rail to the airport and the North Shore. Right from the start of the campaign I've been really open to all options to how we might fund this major trans- formation from user charges through to private public partnerships to regional pet- rol tax through to infrastruc- ture bonds. All options will be in the pot for consideration. We're not going to let debates of affordability or the issue of expense stand in the way of the need for us to carry out the transformation of Auck- land that we know is 50 years overdue. So we're going to find a way.'' You seem to have rela- tively good political sup- port on transport issues. Relatively good? That's the understatement of the century. I've got outstanding politi- cal support and they know why. They know the people of Auckland totally back this vision. Any place that I go to people always come up to me and say, We back you all the way on your vision for trans- port in Auckland. Particu- larly the transport'.'' So you'll be needing John Key to get out his chequebook too? There's public and private parts to this discussion. In our private discussions the government has always been considerate and mindful of the mandate I have and the vision I have been putting forward, which is the whole idea of bringing together the supercity. That Auckland at last can speak with one voice and have a strong leader and a common vision. That's what we've got.''
March 30th 2011
April 6th 2011