Council squabbles miss the real story

Auckland Councillors squabbling like old hens isn’t anything new. Nor are the barbed jibes about past decisions. So to see Councillor Chris Darby come out to rain on Penny Hulse about Auckland’s newest shopping mall isn’t exactly news.

A crowd larger than a full-capacity Eden Park poured through Auckland’s newest mega-mall on just one day last week – and left Auckland councillors at each other’s throats over it.

One councillor, Chris Darby, went as far as to dub the vast new $160 million NorthWest as “the anchor of more sprawl, and a dire Henderson town centre left in its wake”.

But Penny Hulse is easy fodder when it comes to that new West Auckland mall that opened last week. She was right in the depth of negotiating with developers to allow the project to happen before the supercity amalgamation.  

What Chris Darby did – however – was miss the opportunity to point out that the deals done with the property developer by Penny Hulse and her Council – are under official investigation.

Darby took a swipe at the mall on Facebook for potentially damaging Henderson and causing urban sprawl, adding that “the blight of Lincoln Rd was the warm-up act”.

Fellow councillor Linda Cooper called Darby a killjoy.

“Thousands of people here today,” Cooper said on Thursday.

“This town will be the anchor for northwest growth – the fastest and biggest growth in New Zealand. Would you rather all these local people drive 15km to Albany or 20km to St Luke’s? From Kumeu, it’s even further.

“Think of all those emissions and fossil fuels burnt on cars to get there. Local residents ecstatic with their jobs close to home.”

Darby said the only killing of joy had been in Henderson, referring to that town centre being hollowed out by the new Westgate Town Centre.

Whether Henderson town centre survives or dies is not the biggest issue to sledge.

The real issue is that accusations exist levelling criticism against Hulse and her Council regarding whether these deals were improper. Enough evidence exists to warrant the enquiry.

Where there is smoke there is fire. I’m not confident that the investigation will result in proving empirically that the deals are dodgy because Councils have a deliberate habit of being quite evasive about paperwork in a self serving self preservation modus operandi. What did exist is surely shredded by now.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a good look for those involved. Having yourself formally investigated is an indictment in itself.

Going into next year’s local government elections it is highly possible that this new mall could taint Hulse. Whether impropriety is upheld or not – the fact is – once something dodgy is levelled at a politician it’s hard to claw back from it.

Old Len is proof of that.


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