We can’t take this rating for granted – Anne-Elise Smithson

As I understand it, the ranking is based on 30 factors across five categories – safety, healthcare, educational resources, infrastructure and environment.
Of course, we can’t take this ranking for granted. Auckland is reaching its ecological limits in some areas and we need to keep our green spaces protected. With regards to urban planning, let’s take an ecosystem approach that protects our urban waterways and other natural habitats, before and during development. We need a good national plan for regional development, secure tenancy laws and quality social housing. And let’s work with the community, not against it!

– Anne-Elise Smithson, Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Auckland has really stepped up in the last few years – Damian Light

Auckland is the 3rd most liveable city in the world. What makes us that way?

Auckland has really stepped up in the last few years and made some massive improvements that I think make it a fantastic place to live.

Developments (like Wynyard Quarter and Opkaetai Beach Haven Garden) make great use of space and show how the city has grown up and made an identity for itself. We’ve had an explosion of good eateries across the city with so many cultures and styles represented. We have stunning a natural environment throughout the city which is unique though we need to do more to protect and enhance it. We have our amazing harbour, our bush and our beaches.

And of course the people – Aucklanders are great! Despite our size Aucklanders are still friendly and community focused.

– Damian Light, United Future

Some people say it’s too complex, but it’s got nothing on the American system – Damian Light

How much importance should we be giving the American elections?

Unfortunately American politics will always have an impact on us, more so if you’re interested in foreign affairs. For example GFC could’ve been avoided if there had been better management and oversight of Wall Street before the collapse. The current refugee crisis is a result of the ongoing issues in the middle east which aren’t entirely the US’s fault, but they certainly have the ability to reduce the issue (or inflame it).

It’s always interesting watching the horrible ‘us and them’ divide that exists in American politics – you’re either for something or against it. There is never a middle way, never a compromise. It’s driven a massive wedge between their politicians in Washington DC, leaving their Congress ineffective. The regular and predictable budget crisis (threating a shutdown) is proof their system is broken. We’re fortunate to not have the same level of partisanship here – while there is a difference between parties, they general all work together to make NZ better. MMP (for all its faults) means that we get a better representation and a more stable government. Less extremes and more cross party co-operation.

On the topic of MMP – some people say it’s too complex, but it’s got nothing on the American system. I won’t try and explain it here, a complex weave of delegates, electoral colleges and Super PACs make US politics about as non-democratic as a democratic system can be. Hardly anyone in America actually votes for their president, it’s all voting for people to vote on your behalf, if your side wins.

– Damian Light, United Future

no one should feel threatened by a protest – Damian Light

TPPA Protesters blocked roads and entryways. Is this legal, and what we should expect of protesters?

I’ve always said that the right to protest is extremely important and I encourage people to use it. Not everyone is able to do it, in some parts of the world even considering it will get you killed or worse. It’s a proud tradition in NZ and something that I expect we’ll see more of as people get more engaged.

There is a difference between protesting and being a mob – no one should feel threatened by a protest. The idea is to raise awareness about an issue, show the volume of support for an action or belief. The Police are usually very good at providing escorts (if co-ordinated in advance) and ensuring everyone’s safety. The larger protests will cause disruption but generally it’s not for very long. Most protests I’ve seen or been involved in have been well behaved and conscious that they’re disrupting people’s lives. If you’re on a match, then its safe to assume that you believe that the issue needs more attention, so a little disruption is worth it.

The TPP has definitely caused some frustration – the lack of information, the speculation about the potential issues and the secret nature of the negotiations has fuelled frustration and a feeling of being ignored. While I’m not excusing any illegal behaviour, it’s not surprising considering the level of anger felt by some people.

– Damian Light, United Future

[Tom Gerrard] was a good man and liked by many – Damian Light

There seem to be a lot of principals disappearing – are there benefits to school’s looking for leadership?

The principal from my old school (Rosmini College) retired in the past few years, Tom Gerrard had worked there for so long that many of the teachers there were students when he was the principal. He was a good man and liked by many, so it was a shame when he retired. But in many ways I think it’s been good for the school, Tom moving on has allowed a new principal to step in, it’s like a new era for the school. Its true of any leadership, it can be a great loss when they leave but also a good opportunity to reset and refresh.

Teaching is a funny profession – it’s one of the few (like All Blacks coach) where everyone seems to have a strong opinion on how they should do their job. It’s undoubtedly an important role, but in my experience most teachers are extremely good people, who care about their students. They need support and resources, but they also need to be left to do their jobs.

– Damian Light, United Future

Summer is great when we’ve got somewhere to enjoy it – Damian Light

What excites you most about upcoming projects in Kaipatiki / Northcote?

In Beach Haven we’re still getting used to having our awesome Opaketai Beach Haven Garden – summer is great when we’ve got somewhere to enjoy it.

In the wider area, I’m excited to see Kaimataara o Wai Manawa underway – connecting Birkenhead to Le Roys bush is going to completely change that area. Our natural environment is one of the best things about our area, shame to waste it.

– Damian Light, United Future

Last year we saw prison closures that could increase community risk – Anne-Elise Smithson

How should we promote a safe neighbourhood?

This is a very broad question! In terms of creating safer neighbourhoods through better penal policy – if your question was meant to be along these lines, that is – last year we saw prison closures that could increase community risk. The Government is compromising the safety of communities by closing provincial prisons. Research shows that inmates who maintain families and other relationships while in prison are more likely to be successfully rehabilitated. We need high standards of safety and rehabilitation! 

– Anne-Elise Smithson, Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand