When I boarded an Air New Zealand flight from Honolulu to Auckland early in July, I had the choice of two newspapers for my pre-take-off reading. I naturally selected The Dominion Post over whatever the local publication was called - Aloha Advertiser? Hawaiian Herald? Mai Tai Times? But I did idly wonder why a flight to Auckland was offering a Wellington newspaper rather than a copy of the more geographically apt NZ Herald.
As it turned out I was fascinated by the fresh insight I gained into how Wellingtonians feel about the country's largest city and its inhabitants. It would not be exaggeration to say that some of them hate us with a passion.
But what have we ever done to them? Not a lot as far as I can tell. The fact that our city is big, beautiful and burgeoning is sufficient to bring out the green-eyed-monster in certain curmudgeonly inhabitants of Wellington.
One letter to the editor in that issue of the capital's daily newspaper was headed NZ Post closes shops yet Auckland booms and ended with "This in a week when the Government announced Auckland wouldn't just get a $3 billion rail system but also a second harbour bridge". Oh behave, Auckland. Have you no shame?
Headed "They'd sell their grandmothers", a second letter asked: "Why ... pour billions into Auckland's infrastructure black hole at the expense of the rest of the country?" and ended with "Auckland a super-city? More like a super-sponge." Ouch.
In the same issue was a piece by Sean Plunket entitled Even if the chips are down, capital appeals as safer bet. He noted that Auckland's airport is bigger than Wellington's, the drive into the city is longer and concluded that "on logistics, Wellington wins hands down" - in the process alerting Aucklanders to the fact that a hitherto unannounced competition is underway. Thanks for the heads up; it's the first many of us had heard of it. (Plunket also recorded that Auckland has more Asians. This is true but the relevance is uncertain. Regardless, wouldn't that simply be a function of its larger population?)
Earlier Rosemary McLeod wrote a scathing piece entitled We like Wellington because it's not Auckland in which Paritai Drive was described as an "exercise in breathtaking ugliness, obscene obsolescence, venal vulgarity, all-round tastelessness and precious pretentiousness". Evidently our weather is "disgustingly sultry" and our "favourite pastime is comparing real estate values". Who knew?
Even the Wellingtonian Sir Bob Jones noted this trend for hating on Auckland. In his opinion piece entitled Envy of Auckland consuming the capital, he wrote "the Dom[inion Post] has been up in arms, one moment boastfully defending the capital and then, confusingly, laying it on thick with 'woe is us' articles".
Comments in response to this piece told the Auckland-haters just what they thought about the capital and those who live in it. Wellingtonians are a "bunch of bureaucratic heathens, pretentiously sipping lattes on the pavement all day," said one. "Wellington is a fake economy. It exists for the most part on the back of Civil Servants getting large salaries from our taxes," said another. Others wrote "Wellington is a welfare economy, dependent on big government" and "Isn't Wellington's real problem that it is nothing more than the filing cabinet of the country ... with awful weather to match?"
My favourite response was from a Waiheke Island reader: "From our point of view, we hardly ever think about the other cities in New Zealand. So it is a kind of unrequited hate." And indeed, this unrequited hate reveals more about the world view of certain Wellingtonians than it does about Auckland and its inhabitants. To obsess unhealthily about another place is symptomatic of self-doubt, an inferiority complex and a serious chip on the shoulder. It's very unattractive and, perversely, serves to make Auckland even more desirable - if only because it isn't home to such negative, small-minded people.
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