Beacon Candidate Questionnaire
1. What is the biggest challenge facing the Whakatāne district and what would you do about it?
Same response as for councilor questions.
2. Is Te Rāhui Herenga Waka Whakatāne a good use of harbour board money?
Not in my opinion.
The test I apply to the worthiness of projects is what proportion of the community benefits. I believe that this project will improve the wellbeing of only a very small proportion of the community and therefore it has never had my unreserved support.
There are many other projects the money could have been used for. For instance, a solar farm on the other side of the river could provide subsidized electricity to the community. There is energy poverty in our district and our electricity system is vulnerable since it is entirely dependent on hydroelectric generation. When rivers and lakes run dry (as they will) we will be in trouble. We need to build in resilience.
I am concerned about the strength of the boat harbor business case and the competition with Opotiki. If the business fails, who will bail it out?
I consider the location of the site 4-5 km upriver to be unsuitable. The distance from the river mouth will require boaties to burn more fuel. That is not environmentally friendly. I wont be launching from that site.
The channel is narrow in the stretch of river where the harbor will go and silting will likely occur and require dredging. This cost must be borne by the limited partnership and not be paid for by the community. At full tide, at about 10 m from the bank, there is only 1.5 m of water. I measured it. Some of our local fishing boats draw 2.5 m when fully laden.
I believe that the location of the harbor will be detrimental to Mauri of the river.
Other river users such rowers & white baiters will be adversely affected.
I have asked for a Life Cycle Assessment to be carried out on the project from the time the first digger and dump truck turns up. About 300,000 m3 of fill will need to be excavated and moved and that will require 30,000 dump truck movements. Lots of inconvenience and emissions.
Finally, I have said from the beginning that we have a boat harbor and it is called Ohiwa Harbor. More than 100 years ago Ohiwa was the preferred harbor for large vessels (800 tonne schooners).
I doubt that this project will create the number of jobs that have been claimed.
I have my doubts that our fishery can sustain more intensive fishing that 70 commercial boats may entail.
Whakatāne is a trailor boat town.
The presence of contamination in the area chosen for the harbor cannot be categorically ruled out. The site investigations have not been comprehensive and monitoring during the excavations will be required. What happens if contamination is found?
3. Are there any recent projects that you consider a poor use of ratepayer’s money?
I did not support the full refurbishment of the Civic Center (option 1). I supported the $3M refurb (option 3) especially if it was focused on improving comfort and air-quality for staff. The majority of the community also supported this option not the full refurb.
4. Does Whakatāne need a second bridge and, if so, what more could council do to advocate for it?
Hell yes. A second bridge was part of my election platform in 2019 and it remains part of it. I am not part of any of any relevant transport forums but I have lobbied NZTA directly and independently on this. I believe their position is softening.
I think we need to be more strident in our lobbying efforts. Simply asking politely is not cutting it. We need to build a stronger case and go knocking on the right doors.
5. Is the council doing enough to engage with and advocate for all of its communities?
I believe that council does a pretty reasonable job in this department.
6. What is your favourite aspect of living in the Whakatāne district?
Whakatāne district is the place I was born, raised and schooled in. It has in many ways defined me. The great philosopher Socrates rightly said ‘give me the boy before he is 7 and I will give you the man’. Our district has everything. My science career forced me away after I completed my schooling but I always knew I would return. Whilst overseas I used to tell people that I was born in paradise and wanted to return there before I died. So here I am folks.
1. What are the biggest issues/challenges facing the district and what should be done about them?
We face many significant challenges going forward.
1) Rates affordability - Paying for infrastructure is going to become more challenging. For instance roading, a second bridge, better water infrastructure.
I want to keep rates increases at affordable levels especially for the households that are close to or below the median annual income of $64K.
We need to spend on projects that make sense for all in the community, not just a select few. I would look hard at how we can stop wasting your money. There are many places where savings can be made.
I would look hard into alternative funding sources. In particular I would lobby central government forcefully to use some of the money that they create from thin air via the RBNZ to fill the infrastructure deficit and take the load off ratepayers. I would also, look at other alternatives. We simply cannot pay for what needs to be done through rates.
2) Climate change - This is a serious existential threat to organized human life and the global community which includes us. I would conduct an education campaign so that we all understand what is at stake here.
What can individuals do?
- Understand the mathematics of exponential growth and the perils of believing that infinite growth on a finite planet is possible. It's not! As quipped by Kenneth Boulding, “Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist”.
- Conserve in the use and consumption of everything.
- Recycle as much as is possible.
- Again, council lacks economic firepower and central government with its power to create money needs to step up.
- Develop alternative energy sources for our district that helps drive the cost of energy down for everyone. e.g. Solar farms. Council should show leadership in this issue. They haven't so far.
3) Racial harmony - If you ask me things were much more harmonious back in the day than they are today.
4) Declining educational standards – Our educational performance seems to be in decline. Given that education is a key factor in determining well-being we need to do a better job here.
5) Transportation – We need to do more to develop public transport.
And if that’s not enough there are always the endogenous and exogenous existential threats which will affect us just as they affect everyone.
5) Existential threats – (i) Nuclear war, (ii) Climate change and loss of biodiversity, (iii) Pandemics, (iv) Advanced autonomous weapons, (v) Artificial intelligence, (vi) Advanced biotechnology.
2. What makes you the best person to represent your ward?
- I was born, raised and schooled in Whakatāne. I know the community, the culture and the environment and I have a considerable emotional attachment.
- I am the most technically qualified of all candidates by far and know how the public service operates.
- I am an educator and researcher. If I don’t know something I don’t speak, I do my research and I am very good at it.
- I have worked in the public interest my entire life.
- I understand infrastructure. I have specific technical expert in water treatment, renewable energy, waste management etc.
- I have completed one term as a Whakatāne District Councilor, so I know how Council and local government work.
- I understand the monetary and financial system better than most.
- I have been a research leader in some of the most prestigious institutions in the Southern Hemisphere. I get on well with people and know how to work collaboratively. You have to in science.
- I have written many competitive proposals to fund my research projects, so my ideas are good.
- I have had formal training in project management and have led and managed numerous important research projects in top government institutions.
- I have written more than 100 government tender documents. So I know a thing or two about procurement.
- I have been responsible for large budgets and I don’t waste money.
- I have trained my entire professional career to be a critical and analytical thinker.
- I am creative and a good problem solver.
- I get on well with people.
- I care about the community in which I was born, raised and schooled.
- I bring a way of thinking that others simply are able to.
- As a scientist I have led large research teams and collaborated extensively nationally and internationally. So I know how to work as a part of a team.
3. Anything else you would like voters to know about you?
- 'I am reliable, I'm a good listener and I'm extremely funny'.😁
- I want to see all of us better off, not just a few, and I care about people.
- I am vehemently opposed to the 3-waters reforms and I don't like the proposed health reforms either.
- I am a straight shooter and I fight for what I believe.
- I have integrity and honesty. Science is about the truth.
- I am an excellent communicator and have always been persuasive. See my Beacon writings as evidence.