Local business owner, Alston D’Silva is standing for the Whau Local Board in the upcoming elections with the C&R ticket.
I grew up in Bombay City and ran my own business from the time I was 19. By the time I was 27, I had three homes, servants, employees and life was good, until my son was born that year, and died two days later of a congenital heart problem.
I grieved for a long time. One of the things that touched me at that time was that I couldn't see across the bay from our apartment due to the smog. I could see a million cars going one way and a million cars the other. I decided to hand my entire business to my engineer who had looked after it while I was grieving, and we headed to New Zealand because of one reason - it has clean air. I never want to see another child being lost to pollution, that’s something very personal to me.
We arrived in Avondale 18 years ago and have since raised large trees and gardens from a bare plot, along with two beautiful children. When we began redeveloping the property recently, were forced to cut down a few trees, but were conscious of how many years it had taken to grow them, compared to how quickly they had been destroyed. We ended up arguing with our own developers when they wanted us to cut down more! The environment is very important to us personally; we have our own water tanks and believe solar is an important technology, and we don't see the need to continually use land for housing.
I got into politics about five years ago when the Auckland Unitary Plan came about and I was feeling disillusioned with a development that was happening in the area. Rather than just complain, I wanted my voice to be heard and to get involved.
I’ve always stood by the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” For me it’s about empowerment. It seemed to me at the time that it was the National Party that best encompassed that ideal, and so I joined the National party in my electorate of New Lynn, eventually becoming its Chair which I have been for two years now.
I like to see businesses doing well. With the new motorway and tunnel, Avondale has become a central geographical area and with the changes coming our way, there is a lot of opportunity.
There are practical ways we can help. Business fronts need simple upgrading. The Avondale Dental Centre [at 72 Rosebank Road] is a good example of what can be done. The owner has simply put in a glass window and suddenly it looks inviting. I love the fish shop for example, because I get some of the best fresh fish from there. But many people don't even know there is a fish shop. I’d love the front to look more attractive so people will want to come in.
Look at the roundabout - when I came here 18 years ago, it had plants. I want to see plants in there again and to beautify the place; get the lighting done properly, get the slippery footpaths fixed … so that instead of going somewhere else, we enable people to shop here. There's a lovely Chinese guy I go to in Rosebank Road that does cupping. We have treasures here and we can help those small businesses showcase themselves in such a way that people notice them.
And then when people see successful businesses, they start to think what else might work here - a florist or an art gallery for example.
In the case of high rents, we can support businesses to split the building into multiple sublets.
I want to see businesses improve, so the families that live here can earn a decent living, go home to their families here, play in the field next door… it's my area, it's my locality, I want to see it better for me and my kids as well.