Sir Bob Jones
Commentary on issues of the day from the property tycoon, author and former politician

Bob Jones: Envy of Auckland consuming the capital

State Services Commissioner Ian Rennie. Photo / NZPA
State Services Commissioner Ian Rennie. Photo / NZPA

Reading my morning Dominion newspaper is a treasured start to my day, despite my recent criticism of its occasional inane front page "news" creations. For a start, we get four crosswords and six on Saturday, reason alone enough to subscribe. But ever since the Prime Minister's ridiculous and promptly retracted remark that Wellington is dying, this following similar silly comments from Sir Geoff Palmer last year, the Dom has been up in arms, one moment boastfully defending the capital and then, confusingly, laying it on thick with "woe is us" articles.

Reacting to this and depending on my mood, I range from a Pol Potist approach towards the authors of these unjustified alarmist articles, to hilarity at the world-class platitudinous hogwash by diverse commentators.

When in its defensive mood the Dom goes on and on about Wellingtonians having the highest incomes, the lowest city debt levels, being the least religious, buying the most books, having the lowest unemployment and the fastest growing tourism industry, enjoying the most restaurants and coffee-houses per capita, having the highest percentage of university degrees, having CBD rail access to the suburbs plus the top rated research university and so on and so on in this vein.

Then abruptly this chest-beating switches into deep despair, much of this induced by the Government's attack on the Public Service. Observing that Wellington job loss numbers are actually rather insignificant, as State Services Commissioner Ian Rennie repeatedly does, falls on deaf ears.

"It's all the Mayor's fault", is another cry, although what "it" is or how she's supposed to solve these never specified "problems" we're not told. She's an easy target because she's a goose, but so are most mayors.

We need a full-length international airport is another cry, this led by passionate Wellingtonian, developer Ian Cassels. I tease Ian about this, such as by asking the deviously tricky question, why? "Businesses will set up here instead of Auckland and more students and tourists will come from overseas," he asserts. All of that is guff. If my knowledge of businessmen is any guideline, a 50-minute flight from Auckland is hardly a deterrence. They'd crawl across broken glass if there's a quid in it. But deeper analysis shows an extended airstrip ain't a goer.

We need a super-city like Auckland is another current clamour, albeit principally coming from two probable super-city mayoral candidates and seemingly opposed by everyone else, that is to the extent they care, which they don't.

Connoisseurs of claptrap will relish these recently published comments from the region's mayors regarding boosting Wellington. First from Wellington's Mayor: "The city needs to maximise the capacity to collaborate between business and sectors to help move the economy forward".

There's a million-dollar prize for anyone who can decipher that gibberish. But it gets worse. "Wellingtonians need to start backing Wellington", this meaningless inanity from the Upper Hutt Mayor. "There needs to be local government reform. We can all sing from the same song sheet." That wisdom from Porirua's Mayor. "The region needs to work more collaboratively," proffered Lower Hutt's Mayor, and finally, from Fran Wilde, the Regional Council chairwoman: "Integrated strategic leadership will move us forward," which translated means let's have a super-city with her as mayor.

Reading that vacuous nonsense will now make you appreciate the merit in Pol Pot's extremist no-nonsense approach. He'd quickly have had that lot's skulls lining his mantelpiece. Given this tripe, you'd think there was a civil war raging in Wellington, whereas in reality everyone is happily going about their business, untroubled by all of this noise. At its root lies a single factor, namely envy of Auckland's population growth and its corresponding commercial expansion.

If that's what you want then shift there, I say to the capital's handwringers, which promptly induces an outpouring of infantile abuse about Auckland, interspersed with how wonderful Wellington is.

Consider this childishness by Dom columnist Rosemary McLeod, who should know better. Comparing the capital with Auckland, she wrote: "We do not en masse botox. Wellington women have lips that look like mouths, not bee-stung baboons' bottoms ... mahogany suntans ... Paritai Drive venal vulgarity ... precious pretentiousness ..." and on and tediously on - 800 words of envy-ridden insults without a shred of fact.

For my part I love the variety of our towns and cities. Waking in our small towns as I often do has a delightful Under Milkwood quality, watching the town stir and come to life. I had three delightful days in Dunedin recently and I've spent at least a decade of my life in always enjoyable Auckland. New Zealand's small population spread over the world's 30th biggest country has led to a kaleidoscope of variety in our towns and cities which should be cause for celebration and not jealousy of Auckland, as has shamefully broken out in the capital of late.

- NZ Herald

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