Candidate takes ecosystem approach

By Ged Cann

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Anna Casey-Cox
Anna Casey-Cox

Waikato Environment Centre project coordinator Anna Casey-Cox will be running in the upcoming local body election for the East Ward.

Ms Casey-Cox said local government could do a lot more to alleviate the price of housing and draw on lessons from abroad for solutions.

"I lived in a place in the States called Stapleton where the developers had to provide a certain percentage of affordable housing, and that housing was integrated within the community and not in its own area."

The community, in Denver, Colorado, used shared green spaces and courtyards to make apartments more attractive, another lesson Ms Casey-Cox believed could be applied to attract people into apartments in the CBD.

Ms Casey-Cox currently divides her time between Poverty Action Waikato and the Waikato Environment Centre, roles which she would like to continue if she were elected.

A central theme of Ms Casey-Cox's campaign will be reducing the city's environmental impact.

"Cities like Christchurch have awesome community composting programmes and there is a lot of work we could do to develop our waste services," she said.

Ms Casey-Cox criticised the lack of Maori representation on council.

"I think it's really poor that in the whole time of Hamilton's existence there's been three Maori people on council."

She said relationships with Maori in the Waikato were fundamental, and she would be pushing for getting more Maori voices around the table.

"First and foremost it would be a community conversation about how we would achieve this and a conversation with Maori about what that might look like," she said.

Ms Casey-Cox understanding of the issues facing Hamilton are grounded in her involvement as one of the lead researchers for the Window on the Waikato Reports, which are annual reports which have ran since 2010 targeted at highlighting social issues in and around Hamilton.

The living wage was also touched on, and Ms Casey-Cox was heavily critical of council staff's previous financial estimates, which she said blew the cost out because it sought to move everyone up relative to low-wage workers, rather than increase the living possibilities of the lowest paid.

A Council spokesperson said the initial report in July 2013 estimated the cost for implementing a living wage to be $612,000, a figure then revised to an annual cost of $556,000 annually for the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan.

This figure then jumped to a little over $3.5m. This reason given was the new estimate was based on relativity - a concept whereby all staff salaries would increase the average increase of those moving to the living wage.

"The purpose for considering relativity is that it is unfair for supervisors and staff to be on the same hourly rate. Interestingly supervisors were concerned that those reporting to them would get an increase without having any extra responsibility compared to them," the spokesperson said.

"It's not about that. It's about lifting up the bottom so that everyone can afford a reasonable quality of life," Ms Casey-Cox said.

Greater involvement with the refugee community is also close to Ms Casey-Cox's heart, and she proposed a new Pacifica migrant centre should be floated. In Ms Casey-Cox's opinion the key to revitalising the CBD is adapting it as an events centre.

Ms Casey-Cox said she supported bringing in a more comprehensive public transport network and would support the creation of a commuter train to Auckland.

She said environmental concerns were often put off to the side when they should be central in decision making.

"I refer to it as strong sustainability - which is looking at everything we do in terms of an ecosystem. Everything should be looked at as whether it builds resilience or undermines it in terms of the strength of our ecosystem."

Recent submissions to council from Ms Casey-Cox include one against pensioner housing, advocating for tighter rules in the Local Alcohol Policy and recommendations contained in the Window on the Waikato report, including banning truck shops.

- Hamilton News

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