I live in Waimauku just 30 minutes drive from the Auckland CBD — hardly the boondocks. Yet, in the two years I’ve lived here I’ve experienced at least ten times as many power outages than I did in the entire 33 years I lived overseas.
The reasons are always the same fallen trees, high winds — Mother Nature, damn her! I have come to accept that life here requires a generator and candles. Thankfully, I use gas for cooking and hot water.
We get the same level of inane excuses when complaining about the potholed, disintegrating state of the roads: It’s the heavy usage — all those cars and trucks. And, of course, the heavy rain.
Um, yeah, and what are roads built for again? And in case you hadn’t noticed it rains a lot in NZ. Is it too much to expect roads built to take heavy traffic and rain?
The only answer we never get is the truth: ‘Crap infrastructure management, sub-standard construction, dodgy contractors, ineffective maintenance and inept, irresponsible expenditure of public money.’
Furthermore, public works here take about five times as long to construct than they would in, say, Singapore. The latter built an entire subway system in the time it would take us to construct 5 kilometers of bad road.
Evidence suggests that we are a country strapped by incompetent and even corrupt decision makers where local body elections are about as much use as rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
Hence, the underwhelming response to the recent elections, which, I must confess, I took no part in having no knowledge about or faith in any candidate.
I’m not saying the candidates don’t want to do well, I just think they are patently unqualified to do so. Aspiration is admirable but if you want professional performance get a proven professional. Find a quietly determined achiever who understands that life is not a popularity contest. And back him or her to the hilt.
Sadly not too many people like that apply for public positions. Such jobs usually appeal more to those attracted by position, power and the possibility of a knighthood down the road.
However, in the unlikely event that such a person is found the first item on their agenda must be to deconstruct the system. Those who campaigned on the basis that they were going to reduce and/or streamline the council bureaucracy are kidding themselves. They have clearly never watched ‘Yes Minister.’
In short the bodies that need to be changed don’t want to be changed. Hence they will be obstructive to the point that any changes will be slow and doomed to failure. The reality is that it’s often better, cheaper and more effective, to rebuild than to renovate. A little fear in the public sector wouldn’t go amiss. Starting with performance based job security.
I know that many people who read what I write think I’m just a grumpy old whinger who is tilting at windmills. I accept that Kiwis, by nature, prefer to go with the flow. In some respects I like that about us. My worry is that in doing so we fail to notice that the flow is now hopelessly polluted. Every creek is now shit creek. And too few of us realize we do in fact have paddles and it’s time we used them to stir things up.
Where is our pride? Take a look around Auckland city and ask yourself what recent civic or commercial construction gives you pride.
Do you find the Auckland waterfront and skyline inspirational or just a testament to mediocrity?
Is Sky Tower really the height of our architectural aspirations? Sorry folks, by any measure it’s freaking ugly, as is every other humungous flying saucer on a pedestal in cities all around the world. Nothing more than an architectural/engineering dick measuring contest — or should that be dickhead measuring contest?
Where and when was the public meeting that agreed what this city really needed was a Sky Tower? Yeah, that’ll put us on the map.
Let’s not forget the casino where the addicted and delusional go to chase rainbows. Now there’s a much-needed public facility. The only sure bet being that the construction of the casino was a bonanza for some.
And now we’re getting a revamped convention centre where armies of middle management types can gather to waffle like council workers around a pothole, talking a lot but doing fuck all, then in the evenings get pissed and do the kinds of things that will need to stay on tour.
It’s fashionable for Kiwis to pull the piss out of Aussies but take a walk around Sydney and you’ll see how good high density residential and commercial buildings can be when some aesthetic standards are applied. I’m not saying it’s perfect but it’s a damned sight better than our recent efforts. Barangaroo and the new waterfront park at Miller’s point are impressive to say the least.
Whereas in Auckland, with the notable exception of some of the newer university buildings, most of our more recent constructions look like a Tupperware designer created them on a bad day.
These abominations are the products of so-called Property Developers — a misleading descriptor if ever there was one. But someone in power approved these buildings and that’s what confounds me.
In the hands of avaricious, tasteless barbarians our city has been converted to an ugly place and it’s getting worse. If Nelson saw the Auckland street named after him today he’d wish he were blind in both eyes.
The people who approved the buildings on that spectacularly ugly boulevard most certainly were. At the very least they were myopic. Nothing built there deserves to stand the test of time.
Backhanding, backslapping, self-congratulatory cronyism, long lunches and shortsighted profiteering have turned Auckland into an eyesore.
It’s time we saw the light – but be quick; if you live in Waimauku the light could go out at any time.
Come on New Zealand, we can do better.