Rum­bles in the wor­ried sub­urbs

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

While city coun­cil­lors de­bate just what their con­tro­ver­sial plan is in­tended to al­low – two storeys or three, even six if de­vel­op­ers get a coun­cil go-ahead – wor­ried home own­ers are be­com­ing more con­cerned and an­gry by the day.

An ex­am­ple: ‘‘It’s very wor­ry­ing that in the new uni­tary plan the city has paid so lit­tle at­ten­tion to trees, av­enues, parks and open spa­ces.

‘‘It is pre­cisely th­ese things which make huge cities like Paris, Lon­don, New York, Melbourne – to name a few – the beau­ti­ful and live­able cities that they are. In­stead, we seem in­tent on de­stroy­ing what lit­tle green space we have.

‘‘Al­ready in places like Epsom, de­vel­op­ers are buy­ing old homes on large sec­tions with trees and green­ery and de­stroy­ing hedges and trees to make room for sev­eral homes where there had only been one.

‘‘The char­ac­ter of this lovely old sub­urb is chang­ing overnight and the city is al­low­ing it to hap­pen with­out the con­sent of its cit­i­zens.

‘‘There doesn’t seem to be any plan­ning for green parks and trees, apart from the ones we al­ready have – and the coun­cil seems to be let­ting most of the trees in the Do­main die off, in­stead of re­plant­ing be­fore they do. And it’s clogged with traf­fic and parked cars.

‘‘Cities need open spa­ces, trees, grass, wa­ter in or­der to breathe. Surely ev­ery­one now knows that trees help to off­set the poi­sonous fumes of traf­fic and that they act as the lungs of a crowded city?

‘‘The threat­ened takeover of schools and places which at the mo­ment of­fer shel­ter for birds and beauty and re­fresh­ment for peo­ple is very wor­ry­ing. As is the de­struc­tion of pri­vate gar­dens to make room for more hous­ing. At the mo­ment, they pro­vide much of the green­ery and beauty in Auck­land.

‘‘Ev­ery land agent knows that a road lined with trees will com­mand bet­ter prices for houses than a street with none. Peo­ple want beauty and a city en­vi­ron­ment that of­fers the space and charm of the liv­ing world. If we have no re­gard for the nat­u­ral world we live in and the ben­e­fits it con­fers, what sort of arid soul­less con­crete jun­gle will we end up with? So much for the mayor’s much vaunted trum­pet­ings about ‘ mak­ing Auck­land a live­able city’. With­out parks, av­enues, trees, wa­ter, birds, our once beau­ti­ful city will be­come a sad, blighted desert of charm­less con­crete and sad peo­ple.

‘‘In mak­ing plans for this huge new pop­u­la­tion which we haven’t been asked if we want, have the plan­ners in­cluded words like beauty, charm, na­ture, beau­ti­ful pro­por­tions, el­e­gant spa­ces, light, fresh air, as well as plan­ning how many bod­ies they can squeeze into a square mile?’’ – Name pro­vided Also in the mail­bag:

From Neville W Rider: ‘‘It must be very sat­is­fy­ing to be an ‘arm­chair gen­eral’, draw­ing ret­ro­spec­tive judg­ments on the rights and wrongs of po­lice ac­tions.

‘‘I’ve never been in­volved in a car chase, as ei­ther the pur­sued or pur­suer, but I do be­lieve that re­port­ing and de­ci­sion mak­ing by the pur­suer would be a bit more dif­fi­cult from the seat of a squad car trav­el­ling at 100kmh or more than from the com­fort of an of­fice chair. I’m equally sure that I might be able to cherry-pick a num­ber of in­stances from car chase his­to­ries of the past 10 years to il­lus­trate pos­i­tive out­comes and per­haps even the sav­ing of po­ten­tially deadly out­comes.

‘‘I ac­knowl­edge the tragedy of loss of life of in­ci­den­tal par­ties to the out­comes de­scribed in your ar­ti­cle. but would also point out the high prob­a­bil­ity of de­struc­tion of life and prop­erty if those who flout the law in this way were to be left unchecked, af­ter all, speed (and other in­fringe­ments) ap­pear to be a com­mon fac­tor even be­fore the chase com­menced.

‘‘It seems to me that the po­lice have an in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult job to do, made more dif­fi­cult by an in­creas­ing depth of red tape and ac­count­abil­ity dumped on them by those who don’t have to make the hard calls. It’s no sur­prise to me that the oc­ca­sional er­ror of judg­ment with tragic con­se­quences oc­curs. In the end, our po­lice are on watch to pre­vent or ap­pre­hend law­break­ers and if in­di­vid­u­als didn’t break the law then there would be no need to ap­pre­hend them’’.

In re­ply: I am not sure whether the writer knows just how it feels to be ‘‘an arm­chair gen­eral’’. I don’t.

But I do know very vividly how it feels to be in the com­pany of grief-stricken par­ents who have lost a much-loved daugh­ter. Par­tic­u­larly in a hor­ren­dous and vi­o­lent ac­ci­dent which could, and should, have been avoided.

That dead daugh­ter was what the let­ter writer has la­belled an ‘‘in­ci­den­tal party’’. Like the teenage son who went off with two of his mates and never came back from a city po­lice pur­suit sparked by him stand­ing up through the sun roof of a car he clearly was not driv­ing. They all died.

I’m not a ‘‘bleed­ing heart’’ weep­ing for crim­i­nals who die in pur­suits. But I grieve for those who’ve lost loved ones in the se­ri­ous crashes which too of­ten are the cli­max. All too of­ten too, a high speed chase in­volves two sets of young peo­ple putting them­selves and ‘in­ci­den­tal par­ties’ in se­ri­ous dan­ger – the chased and the chasers are much the same age.

Reread the tes­ti­mony of a po­lice com­mu­ni­ca­tions dis­patcher from an in­quest into the pur­suit death of the daugh­ter de­scribed in last week’s col­umn: ‘‘When … pur­su­ing, driv­ers can lose fo­cus on other things, and when told to aban­don, they are usu­ally gut­ted . . .’’ ‘‘Gut­ted’’ like mourn­ing par­ents. No doubt it’s a very real prob­lem and just as clearly po­lice top brass and the Po­lice Com­plaints Au­thor­ity have gen­uinely tried and failed to break the pat­tern and save lives with or­ders like: ‘‘If the speed of the pur­suit places the safety of any per­son at risk, then the pur­suit must be aban­doned.’’

But such past or­ders and rec­om­men­da­tions from in­quest coroners and strong out­spo­ken judg­ments from the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Com­plaints Au­thor­ity haven’t changed tac­tics or saved lives.

The Po­lice Con­duct Au­thor­ity ruled that a Gis­borne chase last May should have been aban­doned ear­lier, that the of­fi­cer did not fully com­ply with pol­icy, that the of­fi­cer’s speed of 127kmh in a 50kmh zone was too risky, that the of­fi­cer didn’t meet poli­cies on siren use, re­port­ing speed lim­its and aban­don­ing the pur­suit.

How much more was trag­i­cally wrong? Well, the po­lice dis­patcher mis­tak­enly noted that the pur­suit was in a 100kmh zone, rather than a 50kmh zone and later mis­heard the street name. When he asked for back­ground and an up­date to the chase he was told it was ‘‘just a rou­tine stop’’.

And he was given the flee­ing car’s speed as about 130kmh and the of­fi­cer’s 120kmh. Could any­one rate all those fac­tors as ‘‘oc­ca­sional er­rors of judg­ment’’?

Would at­ti­tudes be dif­fer­ent if an aver­age five po­lice driv­ers – rather than ‘‘in­ci­den­tal par­ties’’ – died vi­o­lently with an­other 25 se­ri­ously hurt each year in chases? Or if Cabi­net min­is­ters were vic­tims? Or coroners? Or crit­ics of ‘‘arm­chair gen­er­als’’?

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