Hey readers, welcome to the Bach in Ponsonby. This will give you an idea of what’s to come, but essentially it is a different view to most of what you hear and its based on close knowledge of our biggest city from someone who actually lives in a small rural village so sees things a bit differently.
Some years back Helen Clark, (possibly our most able PM) set about Closing the Gaps, in her case she meant health and other statistics of Maori compared to the rest of us and currently our new leader talks of income gaps.
The gap they don’t recognise that this blog will address is the gap between town and country, rural and urban. This is a gap in understanding and challenges residents of Auckland whose only real thoughts of the country are often resentment at the JAFA lines tossed at them by our country cousins and which are retorted to with equally dumb dismissal of them as unsophisticated yobbos.
This gap isn’t helped by the fact that virtually all of our media is big city based. Writers vary from the often thoughtful Simon Wilson and John Roughan at the Herald to the vitriolic ranting of self-promoters like Mike Hosking.
The big fact is that rural NZ exports earn the country’s income that is mostly spent in Auckland.
Auckland contains 33% of our population and enjoys 38% of our GDP spend but earns a paltry 8% of our export income and most of that is services like education, so in fact almost nothing from Auckland goes out across our wharves.
Auckland is touted as the engine of our economy when in fact it is the consumption capital of NZ.
This doesn’t mean we don’t like Auckland. In fact that is the reason to have the bach in Ponsonby, driven by much the same emotion that causes well-to-do Aucklanders to have a batch in Coromandel or up north by their favourite beach. The bach in Ponsonby offers views of Auckland’s crown jewel, being the Waitemata Harbour and its iconic building being the Sky Tower.
To show how important the Waitemata is, a very similar bach could have been bought with no harbour view for around half a million less than the one with the harbour view. Around 100,000 Auckland dwellings can get a glimpse of the harbour so you can fairly accurately value the harbour at being $50bn on that basis, yet in spite of that and promises from various elected officials to save the harbour, some very weird things are happening in Auckland.
A lot of foreign business visitors visit Auckland and within a day or two they all raise the point, “Why is the most valuable land in NZ at the bottom of Queen Street covered in a layer of used Japanese cars?”
Very good question! They don’t have to be there, they could easily come in somewhere else like Tauranga or Northport as the ships are Roll-on Roll-off vessels that don’t need heavy cranes. “Oh, and while you are on about the RoRo ships, how come those ugly things can park up in the middle of downtown Auckland when locals need a resource consent to build anything that might have a visual impact”.
Another good question! “What is council’s response to this?” Err, they are going to build a 5 storey carpark there so you can see even less of the harbour” You have to be kidding is the common response.
Those parts of Auckland’s harbour edge where locals can see, use and engage with the Waitemata are a joy. The Viaduct Basin to Westhaven with bars, walkways and outdoor common spaces are much loved by locals and visitors, just as the Tamaki drive from Parnell eastwards is a tonic for those who use it. In between, you may as well be in Penrose for all the connection you have to the harbour. Did you know they are still unloading coal there, of all things in this supposedly new age of green thinking that even the National opposition is including in their statements?
So what to do about it?
Various well-meaning groups talk about saving the Waitemata, but council elected officials seem blinded by the annual $50m dividend from Ports of Auckland, yet anyone involved in commercial property can see that the 75 hectares of port land has a value between $2bn and $6n so that dividend doesn’t seem like much of an investment really, barely beating the old Post Office Savings bank.
Talk about it, share this blog, get active on this issue given the local body elections are later this year. Bring back the harbour should be the rallying cry. That’s a good step to making Auckland the most liveable city. We might even move there full-time (not really but whatever).