Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: In defence of the JAFA

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What's your impression of Auckland?
What's your impression of Auckland?

It's not news that the rest of the country loves to hate Aucklanders. I'm pretty sure it's because they think we look down our noses at them which I reckon isn't really true. Much as non-Auckland-based New Zealanders like to believe we Aucklanders spend a lot of time thinking they're inferior to us, the truth is we're not generally obsessing about them at all.

We're too busy sipping our lattes and being stuck in traffic to worry about anything south of the Bombay Hills. It's just a myth that developed to give those in the provinces a good reason to loathe us. And anyway, there's no homogeneous "them" for us to sneer at: Cantabrians are as different from Southlanders as the Waikato people are from the folk in Hawkes Bay.

But because they think we're up ourselves some out-of-towners don't hesitate to deride Auckland whenever the opportunity arises. Perhaps they really want to have a go at the people but make do with critiquing the place.

The three main criticisms centre on the traffic, the weather and Auckland's perceived physical inhospitableness.

Now I concede the first point. The traffic can be diabolical. If I have to venture onto the motorway before 10am or after 3pm on a weekday I pretty much lose the will to live. Ditto if I need to cross town in rush hour. So I won't argue about the traffic thing. Let them chalk that up as a win.

But an outsider's perception of our weather is invariably incorrect. "It rains a lot up there, doesn't it?" I've lost count of the number of times someone from the provinces has asked me this. And then I try to describe a typical "rainy" Auckland day by saying: "Well, it rains frequently. So you could have a day that you considered rainy but when you actually reflect on it you'll realise it rained briefly maybe three times but for no more than more than 15-minutes in total if you added them together."

By the time I've finished explaining that the other person's eyes have glazed over and I suspect they may have lost the will to live. Maybe they were only making conversation and perhaps I'd offered too much information. But I won't stand by and have our weather falsely maligned.

I've played tennis outdoors hundreds of times over the past twelve years and it's been rained off maybe five times. Sure sometimes there's been light drizzle and occasionally we've played between deluges but it's mainly fleeting inconveniences rather than precipitation of note. Friday was a classic example. There was torrential rain when I woke up and at 8am my daughter's class trip to take photographs at Highwic historic house was cancelled. About 10 minutes later the rain stopped and it was brilliantly sunny for the rest of the day.

One of my favourite uncles has a low opinion of Auckland. He flies up regularly from Palmerston North (I know: don't get me started) for a meeting then flies straight back. From this he has decided that Auckland is a barren, concrete wasteland. I try to suggest to him that the journey from the airport to Onehunga and back again just might not be indicative of the very best that Auckland has to offer but his mind is made up. In his view Auckland is busy, sterile and comprised mainly of motorway. I suspect a lot of people have formed their opinion of the place on equally spurious evidence.

But then I'm biased too because I've always been a little bit in love with the city. When I was 15 I'd read about Auckland in the NZ Herald and dream of relocating. Mind you, anywhere would have probably seemed like an improvement on Hastings. I've lived in Auckland for 22 years now but I'm likely to be regarded as just a visitor from Hawkes Bay by those born and bred here. Never mind. I consider myself an honorary Aucklander at least and I'll defend the place against unfair slurs if I have to.

Do you think people from elsewhere in New Zealand sometimes get the wrong idea about Auckland? And if you're from outside of Auckland, what's your impression of the place and those who inhabit it?

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