Jacinda Arden –
February 25, 2017 may not have etched into many people’s minds as much as it is etched into mine.
It is the day of the Mt Albert By-Election.
By-elections may seem like common place of late.
Phil Goff’s election as Mayor of Auckland (on October 8, 2016) triggered one in Mt Roskill Auckland (on December 3, 2016).
But Mt Albert is not a place that has had much MP turnover in the past few years. In fact, the Constituency has had only four Members of Parliament since it was established in 1946.
I can see why.
It is a wonderful place to live, with a tight-knit community.
But having knocked on a few doors now, and talked to people about the issues of their interest and concern, there is no doubt that there are ways we could make a great place even greater.
The most common theme I have heard at the doorsteps is the roof over people’s head. Those who own a home are often worried about whether they could ever afford to move if for instance their family grew, or whether their children will ever be able to buy their own home.
Those who are renting are worried that rentals have also gone up by 40% since 2008. And those who are looking to buy simply want to know if it would get any easier.
It is a fair question, given that Mt Albert is the seventh least affordable place in Auckland to buy a home.
Basic human right
Shelter, a safe warm and dry home should not just be in our law, but a human right. Housing needs to be affordable; so, that means building what our market does not have.
Demand needs to be dampened. That means putting a stop to those who do not live here being able to buy.
Investment should be into our productive economy instead; that means taxing speculators. As we meet the growing demand on our city, we need to keep a sense of our community. That means decent urban design and planning.
The housing crisis has a knock-on effect.
Developments like Unitec are bringing much-needed housing into Mt Albert, but must make sure that we have the transport infrastructure to deal with the growth in population.
And by that I mean, for instance, a crosstown bus route connecting Mt Albert to the North-Western busway and to the south, light-rail that comes from the city through to Dominion Road (something that we announced while campaigning in the Mt Roskill By-election) and safer walking and cycling options, including looking at ways to connect the school communities that are divided by motor ways.
These are all things that would significantly improve people’s ability to move around the community.
Like other parts of Auckland, we have great schools in Mt Albert, but they are facing challenges. Rolls are growing, and we now have two of the largest primary schools in the country.
That would be fine, so long as the schools have the space and buildings they need to cope. I know that the Principals are doing their best, but operational funding for schools was frozen in the last budget and there are some massive building projects needed.
We need to make sure that we work alongside school communities to meet the growing need, not wait till they burst at the seams.
There would always be more that we do to make our communities feel safer, more secure, and better connected.
Community-based policing is one of them.
My father was a policeman for 40 years.
I have always believed that the best policing is community based – that means having them in our neighbourhoods, available and approachable.
Over the years, Mt Albert has lost the small police kiosks, with the police moving to centralised offices.
That needs to change, and we should start by bringing the police presence back to Mt Albert.
There are so many good things about the communities in which we live, but there are always things that we could make better.
What is on your wish list?
Please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I also look forward to meeting you at your homes, offices, festivals, community events; in fact, at every opportunity.
Jacinda Arden is Member of Parliament on Labour Party’s List from Auckland Central Constituency. She is the Party’s Spokesperson for Justice; Arts, Culture and Heritage; Children; and Small Business. She is also Associate Spokesperson for Auckland Issues.
She is the Labour Party candidate to contest in the Mt Albert by-election scheduled to be held on February 25, 2017 to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of David Shearer, who is taking up UN diplomatic assignment as the Head of the Peacekeeping Force in South Sudan.