C&R’s plan to forcibly remove Monte Cecilia School has now exploded as a major campaign issue. This scathing Herald editorial accurately reflects the view of most Aucklanders – we’re happy to invest in the new gallery, but it is utterly unacceptable for the much loved school to be forcibly evicted at a cost of tens of millions of dollars of public money, when it just doesn’t need to happen.
On Saturday the dividing lines became very clear. The new gallery was opened with a ritzy function. The very important people of Auckland attended; many bussed to the venue in tinted MPV’s, no doubt paid for with more public money.
Just across from the gallery, the Monte Cecilia School Community gathered for a family fun day, and to mount a peaceful protest. The numbers swelled despite the bad weather, and the sense of total anger and grief at the potential loss of the school was visceral. Len Brown met with school leaders and expressed his concern about the cost to ratepayers, the impact on the school, and whether there is an on-site compromise option.
The school community just cannot understand why John Banks, David Hay, and C&R are so hell-bent on uprooting the school at an enormous cost, when it is so unnecessary. The community has put forward proposals to move the school buildings to a small 1 hectare block of the park, out of the way of the gallery. This proposal would allow the park, the gallery, and the school to comfortably co-exist, and would cost about one tenth of C&R’s current plans.
At every step of the way however, any attempts to engage in a genuine discussion about alternative options have been shut down by Hay and C&R. Their arrogance was on full display on Saturday as first, Banks and Hay attempted to smile and wave to the protestors as if the whole issue was a joke, and then secondly as a stream of C&R candidates came to talk to the crowd as proceedings were winding down. Christine Fletcher, and Roskill Community Board member Nigel Turnbull attempted to soft-pedal the issue, promising more consultation after the election, and stating that they didn’t want to “politicise” the issue.
What they hadn’t counted on was the commitment of the Friends of Monte to the cause, and their unwillingness to be shrugged off. Politics is about how we make decisions in our community, and this is a political issue. The abuse of process, the sidelining of a whole community, and the enormous and as yet un-tallied cost of the project are all intensely political issues.
In Mt Roskill and across Auckland, voters have a chance to make their own political judgment. Back C&R who have forced this project through at $40 million and counting, or back City Vision for Council and Roskill Community Voice for Local Board, who have pledged to stand with the community against this madness.