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Challenges and satisfactions in the role of mayor of Kapiti District

Alan Milne talks to Dorothy about his work - 11/03/05

Kapiti Island from which the district takes its name.
Kapiti Island from which the district takes its name.
Photo source Kapiti District Council
Click here to view a larger version

As mayor of Kapiti District Alan Milne of course faces challenges, many of them associated with the growth in the area, especially the growth in the use of the motor car as increasing traffic passes into or through the area. He has just begun his second term as Mayor and has a good working knowledge of the problems with water supply, roading and traffic and flooding. He also has found that as Mayor he has been able to become better acquainted with the people of the area and has had satisfying interactions with young and old.

Mayor Alan Milne in his mayoral robes
Mayor Alan Milne in his mayoral robes
Photo source Kapiti District Council

Supplying water to the growing district was a major problem in Alan's first term as Mayor
"In my first three years as mayor we started the term with a clean sheet of paper as far as water supply issues were concerned. Previous councils had wrestled with this topic and thought they had achieved conclusions and successful options, but none of them came to fruition.

"In the last three years we have explored all of the known and suggested options and assessed their merits and costs. We have reached the conclusion that for the area from Raumati to Waikanae a combination of taking water from the Waikanae River, taking water from a bore field, and storing water in a pond system near the Waikane River was the most appropriate water supply solution for the area. As we progressed through this process it became clear that when sufficient water was not available from the Waikanae River it would be possible to supplement this fully with water from the bore field. So the solution which we have adopted and are putting in place is a system of bores in the Waikanae area which will when necessary feed sufficient water to our treatment plant to supply the essential needs of this community."

Transport and traffic problems demand immediate improvements but a major improvement will only come after expensive works in Transmission Gully.
"In this current term the issue of transport will probably be the most significant real matter." Alan said. "Obviously as with most communities in New Zealand the level of rating and the methods of funding will be an issue. There are a number of issues. There are a significant number of people commuting every day and the area is astride the highway from Auckland to Wellington which has significant movements with freight carrying trucks, tourists and other travellers passing through. The growth in traffic on this highway is around four per cent per year, which means that in about fifteen years it will double.

"We have options which include improving the capacity of rail to carry commuters, and with this in mind it is proposed to extend the existing electrified line from Paraparaumu to Waikanae. Not only will this make it easier for the people of Waikanae to catch the train, but it will also provide three additional railway stations and parking areas which will enable others to make greater use of the rail."

Need for the Western Link Road
"This district relies very much on the State Highway for communication and in many places that highway is the only road between communities as there is not a network of roads that can be used in the event of a stoppage on the main highway. For this reason a very significant development will be the Western Link Road which will start at the State Highway south of Raumati and rejoin the State Highway north of Waikanae. This will not take the through traffic but will be of vital importance to local people enabling them to access their own communities and adjoining communities in a manner that will be safer and more reliable and provide an option in the event of major disruption on the state highway. Western Link Road will provide an additional bridge across the Waikanae River which is something which everybody on the Kapiti Coast would agree is absolutely essential. However determining the exact location is a matter of considerable debate and in my view the best position is on the alignment of the Western Link Road."

State highway from Paekakariki to south of Pukerua Bay
"Another issue is the stretch of state highway from Paekakariki to south of Pukerua Bay. This is the Centennial Highway - some would call it the Killer Highway because there were seven deaths on this highway in 2004.

"The road itself has been reconstructed to a very high standard and of course most of the problems have resulted from drivers going to sleep or having their attention diverted. Transit is the roading authority which carries out works on the state highways. The view of the locals is that it is essential for Transit to do what it can and to put in place safety measures urgently. They have started this process by building a 700 metre wire barrier, but Kapiti people would like to see this extended the full length of this part of the state highway. It is also necessary to look at what improvements can be made to the road to bring its capacity to four lanes, which may involve extending the road out over the foreshore or double-decking the road. Environmentally double-decking has got some advantages, but from the point of view of cost it may well be the most expensive option.

"I think it is important that these options be explored and once it is determined which options are possible that they be proceeded with urgently, because we have a large number of residents using this stretch of road ten or more times a week, and their safety, their convenience and their ability to rely on the road is of vital importance."

Projected road through Transmission Gully
"I believe that at some stage in the future the road through Transmission Gully, which is a further option, will be built, but it is a project which will take ten to fifteen years to complete and therefore I am of the opinion that it is important to do these other works in the interim, no matter when it is decided to start work on Transmission Gully.

"Transmission Gully will be built at some stage and we must be sure that whatever interim work is done does not in any way impede the ultimate construction of Transmission Gully which will provide, at a cost of about a thousand million dollars, an alternative access out of Wellington to the north and of course vice versa alternative access into Wellington for communities like the Kapiti Coast."

Flooding problems
"A further issue important to ratepayers is that there are a number of areas subject to inundation. Solutions to this will probably be quite complex and expensive.

"In October 2003 part of Paekakariki was devastated by flood waters which inundated the lower part of the town. The Kapiti District Council is accepting that works need to be done and they are at the moment on the verge of proceeding with works which, in the event of a storm, will impede the flow down the valleys of material such as soil, gravel and rocks which cause blockage of the drainage structures and result in flooding in the town. This work will be carried out in cooperation with Transit and Tranzrail both of whom share the problem with the Council."

Satisfactions in being Mayor
Some of the satisfactions in being Mayor are because being Mayor gives Alan a far greater opportunity to mix with the people and become aware of their wonderful talents.

Meeting the young people
"My days at college were mainly a case of turning up, being lectured to, doing a minimum of homework, playing cricket for an hour or so, and not much else, but the modern students are so involved in the student community and contribute so generously of their time that I can never stop being amazed at the efforts they make. These efforts are not just put into scholastic and sporting achievements, but into contributions they make towards the arts. Students take part in Shakespearian festivals and some have been selected to visit London's Globe Theatre. I also think of projects like the Yellow Ribbon Programme where students are looking after their fellow students.
A lot of students spend time tutoring and mentoring the younger students. The contributions of young people are amazing and while we hear of what 5% of the students contribute, as Mayor I hear how 60% of the students are serving the community."

Meeting the older people
Meeting the older people in the community enables the Mayor to recognise the problems of the older folk, arising from financial constraints and access difficulties, and to appreciate the wonderful contributions that volunteers make to the community.

"While at election time we try to convince people that the Council's work is the most important part of the community, in this area the volunteers are the most important people because they enhance the quality of life for so many residents," said the Mayor.

Commercial activities in the Wellington region
"I also become aware of the activities of various companies right across the Wellington region, the companies that are the suppliers to Microsoft, the preferred subcontractors to the US Coastguard, people who are working in partnership with IBM, companies that provide the navigation system for the Panama Canal. It has only been by being Mayor that I have become aware of what is being done.

Helping to resolve issues
"Another aspect is that the Mayor is able to play a role in helping to resolve some issues that residents and rateplayers are unable to resolve themselves. My experience as a surveyor has meant that over the last twenty years I have been involved in a lot of engineering and planning work and had a lot of experience in dealing with the Resource Management Act. I believe that this enables me to consolidate solutions or act in an intermediary role to help others to solve issues."

Mary Milne, the Mayoress, accompanies Alan to many of his official engagements.

The Mayor and Mayoress Alan and Mary Milne
The Mayor and Mayoress Alan and Mary Milne
Photo source Kapiti District Council
Click here to view a larger version

A singular highlight for Alan and Mary has been participating in the premiere showings of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and walking the red carpet for "Return of the King".

There are significant challenges facing the Mayor and Kapiti District Council in the next three years, but there are also satisfactions for a Mayor in working with people who have elected him for a second term of office.


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