Jim Hopkins on current issues

Jim Hopkins is a Herald columnist

Jim Hopkins: Let's seal the deal before they backtrack

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The capital will soon be awash with cyclists drinking mung bean soup and singing folk songs. Photo / Natalie Slade
The capital will soon be awash with cyclists drinking mung bean soup and singing folk songs. Photo / Natalie Slade

Whoopee! Break out the bubbly, Ethyl! At last, finally, after years of spurnification and neglectitude, we have cause for celebration, my little Patagonian water buffalo.

They've gone potty up north, Ethyl. Track raving bonkers; mad as hatters, daft as loons, totally ga-ga, off the rails, out to lunch, round the bend and up the creek without a paddle.

But they will have a pedal, petal, indeed plenty of pedals, at least in Wallywood. The capital will be awash with cycles, bi and uni. There'll be pedallers galore, all singing Albanian folk songs and sharing their mung bean soup.

Nor is it bikes alone that have captivated our northern comrades. They've gone all Thomas the Tank Engine for trains as well. Can't get enough of them, apparently, in Wellington and the Super Cilly. Yes, my little quotidian apocalypse, there'll be trains galore in Auckland too. Because the dotty electors there have also decided to get off their chuffs and on to their choo-choos.

Which is why you should be flinging your corsets in the air, Ethyl, my aardvark.

Come! Unlimber your stays, old girl. Let loose the love handles of happiness. We should be rejoicing and giving abundant thanks to the lovely Brown twins, Mr Line Brown in Auckland and Ms Celia Green-Brown in Wellington. They have given us a macadamous opportunity.

They don't want roads, you see, or new ones, anyway. Won't have a bar of bitumen, either of them. Mr Brown's hell-bent on Rapid Rail - surely the perfect oxymoron - and Ms Green-Brown wants walking buses and Morris dancing and steam trams running on beetroot juice; anything, in short, but roads!

Roads are filthy, dirty, smelly things with cars on them, for heavens sake. And cars are vile! Bugs to be squashed, that's what cars are.

No matter there's a revolution under way that will totally transform road transport. No matter that the car has been a liberating invention, emancipation with an engine, giving millions of people more opportunity and choice. The Mayors Brown don't want 'em, won't touch 'em with a dipstick, and their electors clearly think this is a spiffing wheeze and quite the way to go.

But it won't be. The trains won't go where they want to or will go when they don't want to and pretty soon most Wellingtonians and Super Cillizens will realise they're on the wrong track. Voting for trains is like demanding the health system bring back leeches immediately! "Look, we had leeches 200 ago and there wasn't none of that binge drinking and teachers' strikes what we've got now. We want leeches!"

It's the nature of technology to continuously improve itself. Tribe A invents the floating log and calls it a canoe, Tribe B comes up with the sail. Trains were the first iteration of mass transport. Cars were a more autonomous way to move. They offered more options. That's why we like them, your worships!

The irrelevance of trains is obvious in the Super Cilly. Auckland is a creature of the car, amorphous and sprawling, sparsely populated. To work, trains need dense, compact settlements. Auckland is neither and that's that and there you have it. Except they won't. The super Cillizens don't want roads. They want to be brave little Thomases in a tank engine of their own.

It's the best news we've had in years, Ethyl. 'Tis an ill wind, pumpkin, and a rare cloud that hath no silver lining. And the silver lining for us is pure tar seal. If Wallywood and Auckland don't want roads, then fine, we'll have 'em. What was yours will be ours. They'll make up for all the ones we haven't had these many decades past. So any roads you don't want, just wrap 'em up, whack a stamp on them and send 'em to Ethyl, c/o the wop-wops. We'll look after them, drive on them, start businesses, produce exports and generally have a yabba dabba doo time. While you're waiting for the train.

'Cos things are a tad Flintstonial beyond the city limits. In the south, for instance, simple peasant folk have been toiling away for years, handcrafting volts for the national grid, milking sheep, shearing cows and doing their disproportionate bit for the export drive. But do we get flyovers, Ethyl? Like heck! Do we get viaducts, tunnels, six lanes and a median? Has a grateful government said, "Here, have a motorway, on the house"? Absolutely not. The odd passing lane, parsimoniously allocated and that's it. The big dosh has gone on projects in Auckland and Wellington.

Second-class citizens with third-rate roads, that's what we are. But not any longer. Saved by the poll, Ethyl. Rescued by the dementia of others. Thank you, Auckland. Thank you, Wellington. Like urchin infants, we'll take your cast-offs and wear them well. We like roads in the regions and we'll look after any the north doesn't want. Because you know your station but we know their place.

- NZ Herald

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