Con­fes­sions of a Trendy Leftie

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

I’ve got to tell you, this col­umn was very nearly a very long and pub­lic sui­cide note. All be­cause of some­thing some­one wrote about me.

All the way from Que­bec, it turns out.

Be­ing called names goes with the ter­ri­tory, of course, But this! Dear, dear, dear.

It was part of an­other blast from Andrew Love, who is, you will note, on dis­tant but first-name terms with me and who roasted me last week for op­pos­ing mon­strosi­ties of build­ings planned for down­town Auck­land.

Quotes from this, his sec­ond long and oth­er­wise lu­cid let­ter:

“... It’s symp­to­matic of the malaise within the coun­try ... rid­dled with peo­ple who are against change, against de­vel­op­ment and against do­ing things dif­fer­ently.

“So, what do the best and bright­est do, Pat? They vote with their feet, tak­ing ad­van­tage of one of the world’s best pass­ports.

“The irony here Pat, is that it was your gen­er­a­tion, in their in­fi­nite wis­dom, who col­lec­tively be­lieved that nine years of Robert Mul­doon was in the coun­try’s best in­ter­est.”

Now, that was the stage I reached for a sharp blade? Cruel. Me! A Mul­doon sup­porter? Rather than slash­ing my wrists, I de­cided all I could do was to plead not guilty – and then some.

Strangely, I felt I also owed it to the late and, to me, un­la­mented Robert Mul­doon.

He would have been ap­palled by any in­fer­ence that he had had the sup­port of a Su­perTrendy Me­dia Leftie like me. (“Trendy Leftie” was a favourite and spite­ful Mul­doon la­bel for any­one who op­posed him.)

Like me, who with my wife and chil­dren marched against the 1981 Spring­bok tour, who as an ed­i­tor wrote on the front page of the Auck­land Star why I re­fused to pub­lish the list he re­leased of 30odd peo­ple who were, he said, pub­lic or se­cret mem­bers of the So­cial­ist Unity Party, the coun­try’s com­mu­nist cell of those days.

Me. Who har­ried his gov­ern­ment in print end­lessly for years un­til he freed Arthur Thomas and then nagged him all over again for the royal com­mis­sion that fol­lowed.

Me, who with my wife gave com­fort and shel­ter to Bill Sutch dur­ing his sense­less agony over the spy charges against him.

Such a calumny! I also feel a duty to peo­ple like Tom Newn­ham, John Minto, Trevor Richards and the rest who could now be at risk and need pro­tec­tion from be­ing tarred with the same very wrong brush.

Trendy Leftie? If that’s how he saw us. Mul­doon­ists? Hardly.

But Andrew went fur­ther than just build­ings.

We are, it seems, also guilty by as­so­ci­a­tion be­cause we hap­pened to be alive dur­ing the Mul­doon dic­ta­tor­ship and shared the life­time of a gen­er­a­tion which, he says, set “the bright­est and the best” on their trek to Aus­tralia and be­yond.

We are now ap­par­ently bleed­ing our “young who in many cases are univer­sity or tradee­d­u­cated. Many do not re­turn. Af­ter all, why would we? We’ll come back to the same lack of cre­ativ­ity, po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness gone mad and ob­ses­sion with stop­ping ev­ery large-scale de­vel­op­ment which could, in so many ways, ben­e­fit the city and coun­try as a whole.”

What a re­spon­si­bil­ity. What a ter­ri­ble bur­den I share. I can feel my fin­gers reach­ing out for that sharp blade again. Also in the mail: From Kathy Tor­pie, San­dring­ham: “I cringe ev­ery time I hear some­one wist­fully yearn­ing for Auck­land to be ‘world class’.

“I came here from New York – long be­fore all the de­vel­op­ment be­gan – and found Auck­land so in a class of its own that I gave up an around-the world trip on the yacht I was crew­ing on to stay here.

“When peo­ple heard my ac­cent back then, they asked: ‘But, don’t you find it bor­ing here?’ Ha!

“A city on the edge of a mag­nif­i­cent har­bour. A pic­turesque is­land vol­cano smack in the cen­tre.

“Clean wa­ter – chil­dren ac­tu­ally swam near our yacht tied up at the bot­tom of Queen St. Is­lands with sandy beaches where any­one could af­ford to live. The wild west coast beaches only a short dis­tance away. Vic­to­rian homes ev­ery­where I looked. Never locked the doors. No traf­fic. Safe to walk around any time, day or night. Ev­ery­one so damned kicked back that I drank it up.

“World class? Are you kid­ding? I have trav­elled widely and know few places in the de­vel­oped world that of­fer what Auck­land did then– ex­cept, I ad­mit, the food, which was aw­ful.

“The more ‘world class’ we be­come, the more we be­come just like the places those tourists – who you talk about want­ing to at­tract to New Zealand – have left be­hind.

“Why don’t they hang out in Auck­land city?

“Be­cause they came here for the nat­u­ral, un­spoiled en­vi­ron­ment that we are so reck­lessly tak­ing for granted in our yearn­ing to be ‘world class’.

“They don’t want to travel across the planet to see more big build­ings like the ones back home. “Why would they? “If we were to show­case Auck­land’s nat­u­ral beauty rather than our in­se­cu­rity, you might be sur­prised by how much more at­trac­tive we would be.”

Talk­ing about a brain and brawn drain, re­mem­ber the Pole in the hole in last week’s photo com­ment on mi­gra­tion trends from Europe into Bri­tain?

Well, here’s the same pic, above, tweaked as a New Zealand ver­sion, from Dawn Tolo­maki – whose email ad­dress “Taranaki­girlat­heart” struck a chord with this Taranaki-boy-at-heart.

New look: All it took for Dawn Tolo­maki’s amus­ing new look was a sub­tle change in one la­bel and a new ti­tle: “Aus­tralia to­day”.

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