Mon­ster cities and mon­strosi­ties

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

Peter Salmon QC and his com­mis­sion friends are be­gin­ning a long look at – among other things – the mer­its of an Auck­land su­percity.

And cer­tain may­ors with familiar names are al­ready draft­ing plans for land and pres­tige grab­bing ex­pe­di­tions in the process.

Mean­while, a 45-storey, 328-me­tre mon­stros­ity is planned for the Auck­land wa­ter­front, an­other threat to the com­mu­nity’s view of the har­bour – and pub­lic views on the project.

Re­gard­less of con­di­tions, how could Auck­land city plan­ners rec­om­mend it be ap­proved? What hap­pened to the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion pro­cesses in the much-vaunted Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act?

If cur­rent bu­reau­crats are as dis­tant as that from is­sues of the pub­lic good and its opin­ions, what would their re­place­ments, or the same peo­ple with new ti­tles, in a new hi­er­ar­chy, be like with author­ity over the whole isth­mus and be­yond?

Ar­gu­ments that soupedup com­mu­nity boards would play a big­ger role in a new set-up don’t wash with me.

I’ve been on three com­mu­nity boards and chair­man of two of them and I know the frus­tra­tions of work­ing with un­elected masters, coun­cil bu­reau­crats in far-away high-rise civic head­quar­ters. And I’ve seen how a com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tion sys­tem which once promised so much has so of­ten been side­lined and ig­nored.

Okay, so we’ll never get back to those in­ter­est­ing and of­ten sat­is­fy­ing days now re­mem­bered only for the re­dun­dant coun­cil cham­bers that dot sub­urbs which were once lo­cal bod­ies.

One me­mory of that era: Com­plain­ing to New­mar­ket coun­cil that our rub­bish hadn’t been picked up. Soon af­ter, I watched with as­ton­ish­ment as the town clerk, a gen­uine pub­lic ser­vant, ar­rived to pack the bags into the boot of his car and do the job him­self.

Those were the days. No one ex­pects them to re­turn, nor be­lieve they would cope with a big mod­ern re­gion.

But Auck­land and the Salmon com­mis­sion must find a com­pro­mise be­tween that, the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and the risk of fu­ture power for even higher-paid and even more dis­tant desk-driv­ers.

They could pon­tif­i­cate and change your en­vi­ron­ment work­ing out of tow­ers like the latest har­bour-side dis­as­ter – call­ing the shots with­out the need for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion with the peo­ple who pay their salaries.

You might feel you’ve got lit­tle voice now, but the risk is you’ll have even less af­ter an ex­pan­sive and ex­pen­sive re­vamp we’ll all pay for. A mon­ster-city could pro­duce more mon­strosi­ties.

Date­line Zim­babwe: “Pray for us.”

While the Mu­gabe regime pun­ishes, beats and im­pris­ons those who voted against it, jails elec­toral of­fi­cials who un­wisely ac­cepted those votes, busily reshuf­fles the re­sults and whis­tles up even more arms from in­ter­na­tional deal­ers, this call came:

“This email may be my last from Chidza Farm, Masvingo, Zim­babwe.

“A care­fully or­ches­trated war vet at­tack has been made on the few re­main­ing white-owned farms in Masvingo.

“The farms that I know were in­vaded, were the God­dards, Con­nors, Bor­land, Richards, Spar­rows. The whole Pa Nyanda Lodge was taken over.

“Gra­ham and Cally were given an hour to leave their house. They did so with a few pho­tos and valu­ables but didn’t even have time to pack a suit­case.

“A lorry-load of war vets ar­rived at our gate to take over our land, equip­ment and cat­tle.

“They have been singing their war songs at our gate and more and more of them have ar­rived.

“We man­aged to get Alison, our daugh­ter, and baby John to town and for now it is just John and my­self and our dogs in the house, now on the farm.

“They have said that our labour will not work to­mor­row and that they want us to kill them a sheep which John re­fuses to do, so no doubt they will kill one for them­selves.

“Gra­ham Richards was un­der siege at the same time as us. The God­dards and Dei­dricks are in the same boat.

“Chris was in­vaded yes­ter­day af­ter­noon. I just hap­pened to be visit­ing Charmaine and Chris when about 23 war vets drove up the road singing war songs. Chris went out to them and they told him to leave the farm im­me­di­ately.

“The po­lice ar­rived about 45 min­utes af­ter the war vets and spent a long time talk­ing to them with Chris re­main­ing calm and rea­son­ing.

“Charmaine, Laura and I watched anx­iously. I was so wor­ried that they might beat Chris up as is so of­ten their style.

“They left the prop­erty and have vowed to re­turn to­day to ‘sort things out’.

“As Mbeki and co sit on their hands Mu­gabe is free to do as he likes. It’s ob­vi­ous that Mu­gabe wants to pro­voke vi­o­lence so that he can de­clare a state of emer­gency to rid him­self of dis­senters.

“All we can do is pray for in­ter­na­tional in­ter­ven­tion be­fore it’s too late.

“Surely, the out­side world can­not sit back and al­low a re­peat of 2002. Please keep all of us in your prayers.”

We will. And not just the be­sieged white farm­ers – the whole Zim­babwe com­mu­nity too.

Let­ter of the week, which needs a lit­tle back­ground­ing for those who may be puz­zled about its sig­nif­i­cance.

When Paul Holmes summed up his im­pres­sions of China which I quoted from, he also men­tioned – as a non-com­mer­cial aside – that he had made his Bei­jing trade deal ex­cur­sion to “flog my olive oil and to take ad­van­tage of the new friend­ship”. Which prompted Ken Wortel­hock of Nar­row Neck to write: “Don’t be too hard on Holmes ... all he is do­ing is try­ing to pour olive oil on trou­bled wa­ters.”

On the sub­ject of quotes, how about that Amer­i­can house­wife who posted on a blog site the Obama throw­away line to a private func­tion.

He talked po­lit­i­cally naively about Penn­syl­va­nia’s bit­ter small-town vot­ers “cling­ing to guns or re­li­gion ... or an­tipa­thy to peo­ple who aren’t like them”.

She quoted him then capped that off by re­veal­ing later that she was ac­tu­ally an Obama sup­porter.

Who needs en­e­mies when you’ve got friends like that?

To con­tact Pat Booth email: off­pat@snl.co.nz. All replies are open for pub­li­ca­tion un­less marked Not For Pub­li­ca­tion.

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