Deborah Hill Cone

Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill-Cone: Utopia, whether we want it or not

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Why do we all have to be the same? Council zealots' dream ignores real life in communities they want to change.

Auckland Transport is determined to change the nature of our street by getting rid of residents' carparks for heritage homes. Photo / APN
Auckland Transport is determined to change the nature of our street by getting rid of residents' carparks for heritage homes. Photo / APN

There's the big house where they play hacky sack and have fundraisers for Cambodian orphans. Hopefully they've forgotten Spotty killed one of their chickens.

There's Scott, who lets all the neighbourhood children use his amazing huge garden. There is Alana, who spoils my children when they scooter down the pavement, and Hermione, a virtuoso piano player; we enjoy hearing her practising in the afternoon.

This is my community and I love it. All the more so because when I moved into our street no one seemed to mind that we weren't a regular nuclear family.

There are a few eccentrics around here and that is fine. But as regular readers of this column will know we've been having a fight with Auckland Transport which is determined to change the nature of our street by getting rid of residents' carparks for heritage homes.

It recently agreed to a meeting. It was an eye-opener. Oh, the managers from Auckland Transport seemed reasonable enough. They explained this was a policy from on-high and, sorry old chump, it didn't really matter what we say.

We could talk to our local board, but the council's not obliged to listen to it anyway.

But it soon became apparent that part of the reason for this curiously uncompromising position on seemingly trivial issues such as ours is that they're being played out in the middle of a much bigger game - the council's first Unitary Plan, due in March.

I was not aware until last week what enormous changes are being planned. Along the Parnell/Newmarket ridge, there will be big apartment buildings, up to 14 storeys high. In the past developers had to provide carparking, but not any more. Therefore people like me need to be re-educated that it will simply not be practical to use a car.

It seems there are some idealogues at the council who have a utopian dream of the kind of city they want to create and are hell bent on a mission, whether we want it or not.

And presumably deputy mayor Penny Hulse and chief planner Roger Blakeley are relying on developers' contributions to fund their nifty public transport plans.

There are arguments about whether they are right or wrong in their Huxleyian projections; whether a million new people will be happy living in apartment buildings without cars.

But even if their dream is considered a desirable future, the process of having it imposed upon those of us who don't want it is going to be terrifying and dehumanising.

Like Harry Lime in the film of Graham Greene's The Third Man the social-engineering bureaucrats see us simply as little dots.

Lime: "Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs - it's the same thing. They have their five-year plans, so have I."

The council's plan is for 10 years. What frightens me is that it does not recognise that we don't all want to live in the same way. Some of us are looking after infirm 90-year-old parents or children with special needs or dealing with other messy real-life problems which fantasy citizens without cars don't have.

I'd been worried about my carpark; now I was wondering whether this oppressive city is going to be the kind of place I want to live in at all.

As my octogenarian neighbour Dorothy said when we were told we all had to conform to the council's policy because it was uniform Auckland-wide: "But why do we all have to be the same?"

- NZ Herald

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