Rumbles in the worried suburbs
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’’?