Local Elections Candidate Interviews: Dennis Amoore - Raglan Community Board


As part of the Morning Show's coverage of the 2022 Local Elections, Aaron will be interviewing candidates standing for positions on the Raglan Community Board as well as the Waikato District and Regional Councils. Below is a transcript of Aaron's interview with Dennis Amoore.


"The last three years have been quite interesting... While at times it gets a little frustrating, there have been some things that we've been able to get our teeth into and work forward with," he said.

(Listen to the full interview below:)


Aaron: Tell us why you decided to run again - for people who don't know, Dennis is the current deputy chair of the community board and has been on the board for three years.

Dennis Amoore: I guess for me, the last three years have been quite interesting. I haven't been in local body politics in the past and I was sort of looking for something that I could give back to the community. While at times it gets a little frustrating, there have been some things that we've been able to get our teeth into and work forward with, from a project point of view, (where really my interest is) in trying to develop some of those sorts of things for Raglan.

Aaron: Let's go back a bit then and just tell us a little bit about your history. You've got family, what career you've had over the years and that sort of thing? Just so people get to know you a bit.

Dennis Amoore: Born in Hamilton, but grew up in Raglan because that's where my father was working in the post-war years and went to primary school in Raglan and did my secondary school in Hamilton actually, at Fairfield College. Then I went on into the trades and the electrical area and did an apprenticeship in electrical fitting and in hydropower generation and also in instrumentation and control in the same field. I’ve basically spent 50 years working in power generation, refurbishment, new builds and things like that, both in New Zealand and offshore.

Aaron: Were you working for the government or were you working privately?

Dennis Amoore: First 20-odd years was with the government, on some of the 'Think Big' projects such as New Plymouth Power Station, Stratford, Taranaki, Huntly.

Aaron: Right. So you were a small cog in a big machine in those days?

Dennis Amoore: Well, I did reasonably well, so at Huntly I was in charge of the commissioning team doing the final commissioning at Huntly.

And then corporatisation came along and a few of us got out and set up another division within electrics. We were just a general electrical contracting company at the time, contracting back to the government and power generation. So I spent the last 25 years with electrics at Alstom, contracting back to the government or doing new build power stations.

Aaron: So were you a partner? Did you own the company?

Dennis Amoore: No, I was actually employed by the company.

Aaron: All right. I couldn't quite remember what was all happening there. So you just focused on the job?

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, more or less focused on the job and the team working for us and that sort of thing.

Aaron: And where were you during this time? Were you living in this area the whole time?

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, predominantly lived here. Like I said, I grew up and spent the first 18 odd years in Raglan. Then when we got married, moved away to New Plymouth for three or four years and then Huntly and Hamilton for a year, and then bought a block of land out at Te Uku and spent the next 40 years out there before we sort of retired and moved right into Raglan.

Aaron: Do you feel like you know the rural community?

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, having lived 40 years in Te Uku, between Te Uku and Waitetuna, I've been involved with the board of trustees at Waitetuna School and that sort of thing. I've got a pretty good understanding of some of the challenges faced by people living out in the rural areas and some of the services that we don't get that you do get in town and having to manage those.

Aaron: And that's a relevant question this time around because we have expanded the community board boundary out past, presumably past where you used to live.

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, it is. It goes, More or less, to the turn off at Waitetuna Road where Waitetuna Road joins State Highway 23. It sort of stops there, roughly, but going out to Te Mata, Aotea, it goes an awful long way out that way.

Aaron: Yeah, that was the issue of mesh blocks. I don't want to get into the details about how mesh blocks work now, but that limits where you can put your boundaries - I've tried to explain them in the past. 

Were you involved with the surf club?

Dennis Amoore: Yeah I was involved with the surf club for a long time. I still am. They dragged me back onto the board this year, basically because we lost the tower and we're looking to do an extension to the clubrooms.

Aaron: So you've still got the tower somewhere in pieces, I presume?

Dennis Amoore: The tower is actually on Poihakena Marae. It was given to them in conjunction with the council. We gave it to them to use because it wasn't really in a position where we could put it back down on the beach anyway. It was better off giving it to a home that could use it. So it was donated to them, the council removed it for us, and we donated it to them.

Aaron: And I presume there's now seawater rushing through the spot where it was?

Dennis Amoore: No, it probably could still be there - just - on the edge of the precipice.

Aaron: I was talking to Shaw Meade last week and he was saying that the sand has come back a little bit at that end. I mean, it's really hollowed out around where elephant rock is, which looks more like a mountain at the moment. 

Dennis Amoore: Yeah. It's just that 50 year cycle that we seem to see on the beach where it comes and goes. Around Elephant Rock, it's not as bad as it was 25, 30 years ago when we had the old surf club at the harbour entrance and we actually couldn't drive the quads down the beach because it was just all rocks.

Aaron: Is that right? Is that why it was shifted?

Dennis Amoore: Well, it wasn't really why it was shifted, but it sort of gave it a bit of a nudge to get it moving. When I knew a reserve was being developed, Michael Hope, who sort of drove that, he was our councillor for this area at the time. He drove that but in conjunction with Bill Kennedy, they identified that we needed to relocate down there at some point in time.

Aaron: That is where the actual beaches are that people go swimming isn't it?

Dennis Amoore: That's right. That's why it was sort of in the original Wainui Reserve plan. There was an identification for a building for the surf lifesaving club. It wasn't actually in the location it is now. It was actually up on the hill, higher, behind where the club rooms were or are. But it was felt that moving it down closer was a lot easier - easier and quicker to respond and things like that.

Aaron: Especially now the surf tower's not there, is that where the guards are keeping a lookout at the moment? Or will be when summer comes?

Dennis Amoore: Well last summer we didn't have a tower, so last summer they were on the portable tower on the beach but they also had to look out under a marquee up on the terrace of the clubrooms.

Aaron:  I guess the reason why I talk about those things is to tie in the skills you've developed in your working life and your private life that relate to being on the community board. So presumably running projects, in fact I know that you have experience at running projects and I know from talking to you that you're a little frustrated at how hard it is to do that working with the council. But do you feel like you've achieved some things?

Dennis Amoore: I think if we look back and be honest, yeah, we have achieved some things. Hopefully we've made a few projects - like the footpath that went along Papahua. Prior to the footpath being put in and actually being able to liaise with the Raglan Sports Fishing Club and with the soccer guys about where it's going to go and is that going to impact on them or what do they need council to consider? I think with a bit of luck, that may have gone smoother and that sort of thing. We've also got the Places for People project going even though that money comes from outside.

Aaron: So Places for People - just to remind people - that's the parklets downtown.

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, the two parklets in town. We went through the consultation phase and then we managed to get them erected and installed and got very positive feedback back on them and they seem to now be quite successful and are being used on fine days - they're still a challenge when it's raining obviously. But on fine days and hopefully over the summer they'll get a lot more use. Last summer was a bit impacted by COVID and different things, so hopefully over the summer they'll get a lot more use.

Aaron: And you've been involved with what's happening at the wharf?

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, then there's been the wharf project and getting that up and running.

Aaron: And were you responsible for the big sign boards that were up in a few places around town?

Dennis Amoore: Well, we were sort of working with the council and the consultants that we had involved. Just to try and get that publicity for both local people and visitors was to do some bigger signage so that instead of saying; "What's going on here?" They can actually stop and read a sign board and get a bit of information on the project. It's a bit like what they've done out at the wharf with the signage that they've put up down there so that people can understand what's going on.

Aaron: Do you feel that's been successful?

Dennis Amoore: Well, I think even if only half a dozen people read it, it's got to be successful. They will keep people more informed.

Aaron: I think they will go away and talk to other people, or if they hear someone banging on about something where they don't know what they're talking about, they might correct them. That's kind of how I live in hope with what I do here at the radio.

Dennis Amoore: It's always difficult trying to get the message out to the greater community, particularly when a lot of us aren't on Facebook and we don't worry about that sort of thing. Then it's, “How do you get the message out to everyone else?” From the community board's point of view, we've tried to use the Chronicle and the signage around town to hopefully get that message out to the wider group.

Aaron: Now, we're told that because of increases in the construction industry, we can't do what was called the western walkway down at the wharf. Do you hope that it will eventually get done?

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, I'm positive that it'll get done.

Aaron: Where will the money come from to finish it?

Dennis Amoore: At the moment, we have made an application to the Better Off Funding pool, but we're not that confident we'll get a lot of money out of that because the amount of money needed would be too big of a chunk for them to take it out of the Better Off funding. So I think that's probably going to go elsewhere. We need to make sure we get it into the LTP plan for the next 12 months and then we need to look at where funding can come from. If we look back over the last three years, there's been quite a lot of government funding that just pops up and by having a project, which is  basically what they're saying, shovel ready now and ready to go, then we've got a project and we can just say, "Right, this project can start tomorrow if you're happy for us or if it fits within the funding requirements."

Aaron: That seems to be something they're keen on, it's got to be shovel ready. They don't want you coming up with new ideas.

Dennis Amoore: That's right.

Aaron: For whatever reason.

Dennis Amoore: So hopefully the wharf will be in that position. We can make it go. But I'm confident that in the next three to five years it'll definitely get done.

Aaron: After Bob McLeod passed a year and a few weeks ago now, you were eventually appointed in his place as deputy chair. For the coming term, Gabrielle Parson is stepping down and there's a vacancy for a community board chairperson. Would you be interested in that?

Dennis Amoore: Well I'm more interested in taking projects and taking things and trying to move them forward, rather than the chair's role, which is more a political role, trying to move things along and taking all those queries from everyone that has queries. So, you know, depending on who else wants to stand, I wouldn't say I would say no. But there are guys like Tony Oosten who are more than competent at filling that role.

Aaron: Somebody might have to have their arm twisted in this circumstance. I will talk to Tony. I'll have to ask him the same question. I'll say he's been designated and see what he says.  Let's get into some bigger, hand-wavy kind of things. I often talk about the fact that we think we're unique out here in Raglan. We've got a different place with our own strong identity and people don't like it to change. I often think that if we want things to stay the same, we need to actually understand what it is that we've got that we want to keep. Having talked to lots of people now over the last three years, what do you think it is that we're trying to hang on to?

Dennis Amoore: That's an interesting question because I can go back and say, in winter time when I was a 12-year-old kid and we wanted to go and play in the main street, we could ride go carts down the main street. There was no one in it - in the middle winter.

Aaron: It'd be fun to watch out here actually.

Dennis Amoore: It was fantastic. I've heard a lot of people say to me, "Hey, Raglan was a much nicer place back in those days," and I'd have to agree to a certain extent. But the reality is, we can't keep our head in the sand. The world population is growing exponentially and we need to look at how we keep that country vibe or that laid back atmosphere and the town while we still grow the town. One of the things that frustrates me a little bit is that everything that I've seen done in the last three years is pretty ad hoc. 

That was one of the reasons why I was pretty aggressive at times on the Whāingaroa Harbour Study that I didn't want it to grow so wide that it became just another study. It needed to be retained and kept to the brief that we basically had, which was about connectivity around the harbour and mobility around the harbour, and just focus on that - to not get into shellfish beds and all sorts of other things and then come up with some actions within that plan that are actually achievable. 

Whilst I don't think we quite got it right, we certainly have got some very good actions in that plan when you look at the whole of Raglan - and I know others have talked about a structure plan and things like this but we need have something like that to say, "Right, our vision for Raglan in 25 years time is this," and have a plan about, “Where we are going to have our soccer fields. Where are we going to expand with a hockey field with a grass surface going forward?” Rather than just have a developer come along and do what he wants to do and say, "Well, we might put a swimming pool up here, but we're not going to really communicate," and just do what the developers want to do and follow the flow, I think.

Aaron: And developers will always be doing that and it's a matter of the community knowing what it wants beforehand I guess.

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, it's a matter of the community saying, "Hey, this is what we would like, this is what we'd like to see." And then sort of looking at where you can buy a bit of land to do that or and then how big does the community have to be before you'd actually start to initiate that and make it happen?

Aaron: I guess Raglan has developed in an ad hoc way, and that's part of its charm. But that's an ad hoc way where a house was built there and then ten years later, the one next door was built and then another ten years down the road and it was built and it was all different styles of houses and infill and that has its own charm. That's part of what's unique about Raglan. But now I think we're into an era where the development is a lot faster and a lot more intense.

Dennis Amoore: Oh, without a doubt.

Aaron: And most of the infill has been done now.

Dennis Amoore: Oh, without a doubt. Things have escalated when you look at the smaller subdivisions at Lorenzen Bay and you know, out on the Main Road or Robertson Road. And then Rangatahi and there's other subdivisions plans in place for other areas as well. So yeah, the development has just taken off without a lot of consideration of what other services do we need for double the population (of what we've presently got basically) which is what we're going to have probably in another ten years time.

Aaron: One of the council's predictions is that they've got a report saying 12,000 people in 50 years time.

Dennis Amoore: Yeah. Which seems a bit far away to me.

Aaron: It seems like a big number, but it does help to have that out there.

Dennis Amoore: Yep.

Aaron: Say; when we're planning something for ten years time, and in ten years are we going to have to be redoing it anyway? You know, our plan will change but does the council think that far ahead? Is it structured to think that far ahead?

Dennis Amoore: I think it does have a 25 year plan but it's a matter of how much of that input into that plan comes from the community as opposed to coming from planners within council. So it's really up to people in Raglan to sort of take the initiative and lead those sorts of things for its own community. You could argue that they did that a little bit with Raglan Naturally, but it's a document with a whole lot of great ideas in it, but no real plan about how those initiatives would be actioned going forward and at what time frame.

Aaron: It's kind of an aspirational document, whereas you're talking about lines on a plan, lines on a map. 

Dennis Amoore: Something a bit more tangible, I guess you could say that.

Aaron: Yeah and that can come from Raglan Naturally.

Dennis Amoore: Oh, for sure, yeah.

Aaron: Aksel Bech, the deputy mayor who was heavily involved with the blueprints, he was saying the blueprints are kind of that - that's part of what he thought that they were about - was to have some idea of what the community wanted  before a developer turned up wanting to develop some part of the area, so you could say, well, "This is what we need now at this stage." Do you think the blueprints are working like that or are going to work like that?

Dennis Amoore: Well, my experience from what I've seen in the blueprints is, no, they're not working like that at the moment because they haven't got the detail in them. I think that's what we need to say. We need to say that in 2030, we need an area where there's X number of soccer fields able to be fit. We need a town community building for youth and saying we need those in those days, then if a developer comes along and says, "I want to develop 100 hectares," well, we can say, "Okay, but we need to consider this, and we need to consider this, within that development."

Aaron: Something Aksel Beck said to me was that in the old days, before the Resource Management Act, there was the  Town and Country Act or something. And every time someone wanted to develop somewhere, they had to take into account that schools were needed and parks were needed and things like that. And that kind of disappeared with the current legislation  - can councils put that stuff back in?

Dennis Amoore: I don't know how that politically, how that sort of works. But I would think that if a council wanted that in a council, like when a subdivision plan is being presented in the early stages, I'm sure they can have a lot of influence on what the community wants within that plan as well before they approve it, because if they don't approve it, then the development doesn't go ahead. So they've got a fair bit of leverage at that point in time.

Aaron: I guess not so much that it doesn't go ahead as it probably goes to the Environment Court or something like that.

Dennis Amoore: Council could offer to buy five hectares (for example) of that block, that's flat and suitable for developing a park or a community centre or whatever it might be.

Aaron: I've heard a rumour that, (and I've got no idea whether this is true or whether I should even be saying on the radio) but in return for providing some land for the sewerage, the land based sewage treatment, that a particular land company might get a bypass road coming through where they want it to go through - around the back [of Raglan] or maybe arriving up at Xtreme Zero Waste - somewhere around there, I don't know. Do you know about anything going on around that?

Dennis Amoore: No. But like you, I've just heard rumours.

Aaron: But if that's actually happening that underlines exactly what you're saying doesn't it.

Dennis Amoore: That's right. That's where these things are going on in the background that shouldn't be going on in the background. The public should be consulted. .

Aaron: And if it's happening, I'm not condemning a developer for doing it, they're doing what they've got to do to get something to happen. Someone has to make a decision. But at the moment, the only people wanting to make the decisions are the developers.

Dennis Amoore: Yeah and for some reason the planners are going along with it. So you've got to ask what goes on if that sort of thing is happening?

Aaron: I feel like the council's just kind of wired to enable developers in a way. I can't explain it any other way.

Dennis Amoore: I find it quite frustrating with what's happening and the fact that we're struggling to find a location for a soccer field and when I talk to the planners about it, they sort of say, well, if you can identify something, "We'll buy it." But the onus is back on the community to go and sort it out, which I don't have a problem with. But it's just one of the things going forward, we need to understand how the council works a little bit better on that type of thing.

Aaron: Bob MacLeod  - you went to school with Bob, didn't you?

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, we were at primary school together.

Aaron: H he was always on about trying to get a structure plan. He was always trying to get that to happen. Are you of the same mind - that's what you want to see happen?

Dennis Amoore: Well, I think that's what we've got to look to happen. The community then takes the initiative and this is what we want. And I think that's what we need to look at going forward with the new community board is to start to drive something like that.

Aaron: The other thing that Bob was always very keen on was devolving powers to the community boards. I haven't met anyone on the community board who's against that yet.

Dennis Amoore: Now that's been interesting in the last three years because I guess the existing community board were quite keen on working on that, without any doubt. I guess it comes back to the skills you have got, how much power you want to divest to the community board and then what skills you've got on your community board to actually do that. And then how do they do that? Does the community board employ a project manager to run some things on its behalf?

Aaron: I think they'd have to.

Dennis Amoore: I think they would do. The majority of the community board have got full time jobs for a start, so they're not in a position to go and run other projects.

Aaron: And you don't know, from term to term, what skills you're going to have.

Dennis Amoore: No, so there's a lot of risk in doing that. I believe certainly that more power (in the decision making part of the process) should sit with the community board, and maybe the council then, a bit like the Wharf Project. I guess the community board have had a lot of say into that project, council is running the project, but it's using a project manager to run it - who is still liaising with the projects control group that we set up for that project on various things. Like recently he's come back with a balustrade design and said, "Is everyone happy in principle with that?"  So we've still got a reasonable amount of input into how that project is being implemented.

Aaron: Yeah, that's relatively new. So you've got involved with community consultation. How have you found that?

Dennis Amoore: For someone like me, I guess I'm more at the sharper end of a project where most of the consultation has been done,  where we've been given a project to build, be it a power station or something else..

Aaron: This is your working life.

Dennis Amoore: Yeah in the working life. So to go through 12 or 18 months of consultation backwards and forwards, it's been quite challenging to be honest.

Dennis Amoore: Particularly in Raglan, I don't know whether it's different in the other community, but I just find there's a small number of negative people that seem to have a fair bit of sway. And I find that quite frustrating in that it wastes an awful lot of people's time. At the end of the day, it doesn't achieve anything because the majority are sort of uninterested in that side, but it has to be managed.

Aaron: There's a lot of people who have experiences where they ask for something from council and then it just kind of gets forgotten about and then I see other people who come in, they'll come into the community board meeting, and it's basically what I would describe as abusive behaviour toward council and staff. But they get what they want. And I think I see that as a massive problem because that reinforces the staff feeling frightened of coming out to the community and it reinforces that that the council isn't responsive and that the only way to do it is to go in and be horrible to people - which is a bit of a thing we have in our culture anyway. I know the community board is not the place to sort that out. That's more like for the mayor or the CEO to do. I'd love to see that resolved.

Dennis Amoore: Yeah and it does get a bit frustrating, you do see that half an hour free forum sometimes before a community board where someone just wants to beat up on somebody or something and you just waste 5 minutes and it really doesn't achieve anything. I think we need to have consultation and we need to listen to people's grievances. But at the end of the day, some things just need to happen. I guess the 5G tower that's going up here, some people are not happy about that for whatever reason. But at the end of the day, it's outside the council's control. The government legislation allows them to build things like that, whether we like it or not. So you can beat up on the council, you can beat up on your community board, but all you're doing is probably pissing people off. Excuse the language. And really, you're not doing yourself any service either because then, next time you turn up to a community board, everyone looks at you and says, "Oh, you again," type of thing. I think people need to be a little bit open minded. If you've got a grievance, maybe raise it directly with the community board. I've said sometimes to people that, if you've got a problem, something's not working, ring us up and we'll see what can be done about it.

Aaron: I have to be honest, my experience with soccer for ten years has been trying to get stuff done at those fields-  here I am talking to people on the community board regularly, so I have the ear of the community board. And I've always been quite polite and it was very slow-to-no progress for ten years. You've certainly been helpful lately, but I have a feeling if I'd got ten soccer parents to come in and shout at the community board, I probably would have got better results. That's what I see as quite a major problem.

Dennis Amoore: Yeah and where it's a justifiable thing, the community board or council need to action on it. The soccer field is a pretty frustrating one because it does get wet over there but the council's also been at fault because the drainage hasn't been working properly.

Aaron: When the drainage works, it's actually drier than the fields in Hamilton. That's what we've discovered. Everyone thinks it's a perennially flooded place, but it's not.

Dennis Amoore: Now that that's all been hopefully sorted out and draining away properly, hopefully we won't have the same problems next year. But I think with things like that, you can't just ignore them, they don't go away.

Aaron: Yeah, that's right, that's what we found.

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, so the community board does need to stand up and we need to rattle a few cages and people in council. I've found that I have developed a reasonably good relationship with a few individuals, particularly on the parks and grounds side of things, where I can ring them up and talk about a problem. And they'll pick it up and get it sorted for us. I think that's what we've got to do as part of our role within the community board is actually develop those relationships within council so that we know who we can ring directly and talk to them and say, "Hey, this is a problem." The service request that we've put in, or asked somebody to put in, is probably not going to be clear enough to explain what the real problem is. But as a member of the community board, if we ring up and talk to Caleb or whoever, then we can talk about the problem, talk about a solution and when it might happen, and then give feedback to whoever has put in the service request or whoever has raised the matter with us.

Aaron: Just before we go, we've got a coastal reserve stakeholders meeting tomorrow night.

Dennis Amoore: Yep. Tomorrow night.

Aaron: Is that 7:00pm at the surf club?

Dennis Amoore: Yes, it is 7:00pm at the surf club.

Aaron: And that's going to be some serious community consultation because there's probably quite a few people who want to have a big say about things there. 

Dennis Amoore: Yeah, well, potentially.

Aaron: It's hard to know, actually.

Dennis Amoore: I won't say we're trying to defuse things, but the aim is to give the stakeholders an opportunity. But we have asked Kayla Bahu and Rebecca to attend, and Caleb to give us a bit of an overview - these are council staff - on what maintenance work's been done in the last 12 months on the three reserves, and what's planned over the next 12 months. And also for Rebecca to give us some idea what the strategy is going  to be moving forward for each of the reserves as far as development is concerned and things like that. So hopefully that will answer questions for people. There will also be other people, no doubt, from different stakeholder groups that have got something they want to raise with us. And we'll be giving everyone sort of the opportunity to, depending on numbers that want to attend, three or four minutes to, express their aspirations of what they would like to see happen.

Aaron: All right folks, we've been talking to Dennis Amoore, community board candidate, current member and deputy chair, thank you for coming in and good luck with the campaign.

Dennis Amoore: Thanks Aaron, appreciate that.