Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Self interest cramps our style

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One anti-plan protest predicts a housing development on Grey Lynn's green patch. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
One anti-plan protest predicts a housing development on Grey Lynn's green patch. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

I'm sure that when the first nomads were being persuaded to embrace agriculture, they were faced with the sort of opposition the Auckland unitary plan is encountering: "I like going around in circles." "Why should I wait for something to grow, when I can just go out and forage?"

Something similar is happening here as this perfectly reasonable proposal shuffles towards a half-baked compromise that will appease many individuals but do nothing to ensure a brighter future for the city and generations to come.

You know it's all over when they wheel out the acronyms. I was advised to think not Nimby but Qimby (Quality In My Backyard). It's the "my" that worries me. I'd like to see Qieby (Quality In Everyone's Backyard) but my acronym is clumsy so will struggle to gain support.

Part of everyone's backyard round here is the park, a much-loved community space. I use it every day. It's an unpretentious, no-frills facility.

If it were any more modest it would be wearing a burqa. That's what some of us like about it.

There's a bit of sculpture, the league clubrooms, play equipment at each end and a children's pool that's been a big part of my summer for years. I took my youngest daughter there when she was a child, and now I take my grandchildren there.

Last weekend my attention was drawn to a handbill posted in the park. It was typical of the level of unitary plan debate in general: self-serving, scaremongering and misleading.

It claimed that "Mayor Len Brown wants to take this end of Grey Lynn park and turn it into a housing estate." A busy road and the obliteration of the pool would inevitably follow, it went on to say.

We don't have time to examine the unskilful use of propaganda - personalising the debate to make it about the mayor; or consider the use of "housing estate" - you know, those places where the bad stuff happens in the British crime shows.

It looks as though Len Brown will have to fight the Battle of the Unitary Plan one paddling pool at a time, wrenching his opponents' floaty toys from their cold dead hands.

I'm kicking myself, of course, for being so naive after all these years as an Aucklander to think that a sensible, reasonable, modest plan for growth in the city might have a chance of success.

Auckland is a city composed of thousands of petty fiefdoms able to act co-operatively only to protect their own little patch.

I would take the complaints of the propagandists more seriously if they accompanied them with even the slightest expression of interest in improving the quality of the city as it deals with its inevitable growth. Until now all I hear is the wailing bourgeois self-interest that has always driven development in this city, like the snarling of a dog protecting a bone hardly worth having.


Every so often, you see a story in a legitimate news medium that is so outrageous it just has to be a hoax that has slipped past a nodding editor - such as that of the 18-year-old up north who asked to go back to jail for the last month of his home detention because he was bored and had run out of Xbox games to play. Surely, a joke?

Usually there are clues in such cases, often in the form of humorous names, planted in the text as a wink to the sceptical. But I've looked all over this one and Constable April Fule, Sergeant Paul Ng Maleg and Inspector Harvey N A Laff are nowhere to be seen.

- Herald on Sunday

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