As oth­ers re­mem­ber…

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Rob­bie (Sir Dove-Myer Robin­son) is still a light­ning rod draw­ing strong and dif­fer­ing re­ac­tions. Like him or loathe him, you could never ig­nore him. Then or now.

That’s clear from re­sponse to the col­umn on his lead­er­ship of Auck­land based on his mem­o­rable vic­tory when he stopped a pro­posal to pump un­pu­ri­fied sewage into the Waitem­ata Har­bour 60 years ago.

One reader’s re­sponse: ‘‘Yes but in­stead he de­stroyed the Manukau.’’

Not men­tioned in the mail were thou­sands of midges from the treat­ment ponds which in­vaded nearby suburbs. Made vic­tims very scratchy, they did.

And fumes which burnt the paint off homes as they swept through other in­ner city ar­eas.

Other read­ers re­mem­bered his drive to give Auck­land the rail ser­vice its cur­rent be­wil­dered and be­wil­der­ing lead­ers are now des­per­ate for.

From Michael Bas­sett, his­to­rian, former Auck­land city coun­cil­lor and a re­former as Labour Cabi­net min­is­ter of lo­cal govern­ment:

‘‘I en­joyed your ar­ti­cle on Rob­bie. You were right to iden­tify his best years as the 1950s and 1960s. He ac­tu­ally had six terms and was the long­est-serv­ing mayor in the his­tory of the Auck­land City Coun­cil.

‘‘But in his fi­nal terms (1971-80) he be­came an old hum­bug and con­trib­uted less and less. I was on the coun­cil 1971-1974. He was still out to the wee small hours, much to the ex­as­per­a­tion of the may­oral chauf- feur, and he would fall asleep in coun­cil com­mit­tee meet­ings dur­ing the af­ter­noon.

‘‘On one oc­ca­sion, at a meet­ing of the fi­nance com­mit­tee, he went to sleep in his chair. The chair­man­ship slipped seam­lessly to the se­nior coun­cil­lor present. We fin­ished the busi­ness and filed qui­etly out of the room leav­ing the mayor fast asleep.

‘‘Rob­bie fea­tures in the early chap­ters of my book which will ap­pear in De­cem­ber. It will be called City of Sails: The Auck­land City Coun­cil 1989-2010. It is the third and fi­nal vol­ume of the coun­cil’s his­tory. The pre­vi­ous vol­umes were writ­ten by Dr Gra­ham Bush.

‘‘My book deals with the new, en­larged isth­mus coun­cil that re­sulted from my lo­cal govern­ment re­forms that came into ef­fect in 1989. The book’s first two chap­ters sum­marise the coun­cil’s his­tory un­til the 1980s.

‘‘The rest of the book deals with the may­oral­ties of Dame Cath Tizard, Les Mills, Chris­tine Fletcher, John Banks (both may­oral­ties) and Dick Hub­bard.

‘‘There were many achieve­ments dur­ing those years. With coun­cil as­sis­tance along the way, the Sky Tower was con­structed, open­ing in 1997. The Viaduct was turned from a grimy old back­wa­ter full of rub- bish into a show place at a pace that, in ret­ro­spect, beg­gars be­lief.

‘‘No-one wanted to be ac­cused of hold­ing up plans for the stag­ing of the first de­fence of the Amer­ica’s Cup in 2000. The other ma­jor achieve­ment was the devel­op­ment of Brit­o­mart.

‘‘The ini­tial grandiose plans were scaled back and the new trans­port sta­tion opened in 2003. By that time the whole pro­ject had been 10 years in the mak­ing.

‘‘Even to­day many Auck­lan­ders don’t fully ap­pre­ci­ate what a splen­did job de­vel­oper Peter Cooper is do­ing with those old her­itage build­ings be­hind the sta­tion. The Brit­o­mart precinct is gath­er­ing in pop­u­lar­ity and will con­tinue to do so.

‘‘Lead­er­ship of the coun­cil var­ied at the po­lit­i­cal level 1989-2010, al­though David Hay, who was deputy mayor for 14 of those 21 years, left a stamp on many worth­while projects, most es­pe­cially the Monte Ce­cilia gallery and meet­ing fa­cil­ity in Hills­bor­ough.

‘‘Three CEOs (Bruce An­der­son, Bryan Tay­lor and David Rankin) presided over a tal­ented group of of­fi­cers, some of whom like Grant Kirby demon­strated ex­tra­or­di­nary skill at mov­ing projects along.’’ From Norma Lam­bert: ‘‘I feel very up­set about your ar­ti­cle on the ox­i­da­tion ponds. Yes. He might have saved the Waitem­ata Har­bour but he de­stroyed the Manukau Har­bour. My fa­ther at­tended a meet­ing which could be the one which you re­fer to in your col­umn. He was a very quiet man but it was a meet­ing where he felt very strongly about the re­sult the ox­i­da­tion ponds would have on the Manukau Har­bour.

‘‘He stood up and qui­etly said to Dove-Myer, ‘You will ruin the har­bour.’ Un­for­tu­nately, this is what hap­pened.

‘‘My Dad spent his early life com­ing from the city with his fam­ily to hol­i­day on the Manukau. The fam­ily later lived by the Manukau for many years and when he mar­ried he built a house by the Manukau.

‘‘Swim­ming, sail­ing and fish­ing on the har­bour had been a large part of his life and he knew it very well. John McLeod, his fa­ther, who once stood for mayor, would have been dev­as­tated to have known what had hap­pened to this beau­ti­ful part of New Zealand.

‘‘It has taken sev­eral years since new tech­nol­ogy, which does not use the ox­i­da­tion ponds, has al­lowed the har­bour to re­turn to a state where peo­ple could safely use it for swim­ming and many fish and birds have re­turned.

‘‘Many kilo­me­tres of shore­line have also been re­turned for use by the peo­ple of Auck­land. The weekly test­ing of the beaches on the har­bour now show it is usu­ally 100 per cent suit­able for swim­ming. Peo­ple are slowly re­turn­ing to swim.

‘‘I once was sur­prised to see Sir Dove-Myer visit Block­house Bay Beach and when he got out of his car a young teenage lad called out, ‘Are you go­ing for a swim, sir?’

‘‘He did not re­spond, had a quick look around and left.

‘‘It is very un­for­tu­nate that all his work in look­ing around the world at suc­cess­ful train sys­tems and try­ing to get the trains run­ning in Auck­land did not hap­pen.

‘‘What a dif­fer­ent city we would be now with our trans­port prob­lems.’’

So right, Norma.

Footy note: Mate, have you no­ticed, mate, how ev­ery new re­cruit to footy stardom starts us­ing ‘‘mate’’, at the end of ev­ery breath­less af­ter­match sen­tence, mate. They’ve picked it up from the Aussies, mate.

Just like I no­tice, mate, that the lo­cal com­men­ta­tors have caught up with ‘‘They’re on fire, mate’’.

Which re­minds me, mate, of the leg­end of how a young Amer­i­can re­porter was sent to cover a big flood, mate.

Back came his story, mate. It be­gan: ‘‘ God sat down on a moun­tain here to­day and wept.’’

That drew an ur­gent mes­sage from his news edi­tor: ‘‘For­get flood, in­ter­view God – rush photo.’’

How about that, mate?

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