Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Two Dollar Shop kitsch triumphs

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The Waka Pavillion. Photo / Supplied
The Waka Pavillion. Photo / Supplied

It seems a bit one-eyed criticising Ngati Whatua for lack of taste when they come up with a plastic-coated "tupperwaka" in which to host their Rugby World Cup guests.

The local tribe is just sticking to the Two Dollar Shop theme that's already been kicked off, by the Rugby Union with its giant blow-up rugby ball, and by the Government with its undulating, plastic-sheathed Queens Wharf slug.

Whatever memories our guests take home about the new Super City of Auckland, having visited a city with style won't be among them.

We've seen to that.

Tackiness will be waiting to greet them at every turn.

At the spaghetti junction entrance to the motorway system they'll encounter motorway architect Rod Slater's endearing monument to Two Dollar Shop kitsch, a 7m-high illuminated model of a pohutukawa flower.

Erected by Transit New Zealand in 2006 as a parting gift after a four-year, $195 million phase of construction, it was the sort of farewell present you slip under the bed after a visiting aunt has left town.

But this one was so firmly in place, and so public, that the old Auckland City gritted its teeth and tried to ignore it.

Now comes news that Transit's successor, the NZ Transport Agency, has dismantled it but not to lay it to rest.

It's restoring the faded stamens, all 105 of them, to their full yellow and red glory, complete with new LED lamps and fresh uplighting.

But for any visitor who might miss the glowing floral sex organs, there'll be no missing the larger-than-life bronze statue of rugby great Michael Jones diving heroically across the line to score a magnificent try against Italy in 1987.

This piece of 1930s super-realism has just got the go-ahead from park authorities and will greet visitors to Eden Park Stadium.

Like the pohutukawa and the temporary waterfront waka, this piece of "art" seems destined to be dropped into the city landscape without recourse to the usual community checks and balances put in place by civic authorities to try to ensure that we have a liveable city.

Just a few weeks back, Mayor Len Brown hosted an "Unleashing Auckland" talkfest that centred on the need for planning if the city was to achieve his goal of regional leadership.

Yet in the space of a few days we learn, in quick succession, of a large temporary waterfront venue and two large public art works, all of which seem to have bypassed the planning processes - and in the case of the sculptures, gone nowhere near the council's Public Arts Panel.

Labour Party associate Maori affairs spokesman Shane Jones' fiery attack on "a plastic faux waka", which he dubbed a tupperwaka, has to be seen in the context of his coming battle with Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples for the Auckland seat of Tamaki Makaurau in the November general election.

A week ago, a Horizon Research Maori Panel poll showed Mr Jones, on 42.1 per cent, rapidly closing in on Dr Sharples on 47.8 per cent. Dr Sharples was behind the $2 million Government waka expenditure.

Personally, I've got nothing against $2 million of Government assistance to ensure the Maori presence at the World Cup is somewhat wider than the onfield manpower and the haka.

It is, after all, less than the cash Prime Minister John Key suddenly found available to returf the Christchurch stadium.

What the waka row does draw attention to is that, with only a little imagination and taste, the Government could have adapted the two old wharf sheds on Queens Wharf and done away with the need for both the controversial $10 million slug and the $2 million waka.

Between them, Sheds 10 and 11 had a combined floor space approaching 7000sq m.

The temporary slug-like structure the Government calls the Cloud has an inside floor area of 4455sq m and room for 5960 people.

The planned waka will hold a further 1000 people standing.

In other words, the old sheds, imaginatively renovated, could have more than handled the same size crowds and then some, in an environment much more spacious and redolent of Auckland's history as a trading port.

Not only that, both of them would still have been there after the party was over, not packed off to some storage facility, which will be the fate of the new structures.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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