Deborah Coddington: It's a super city already - just leave it be

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I had to go to Auckland for my daughter's first solo exhibition, and long may Air New Zealand's Masterton to Auckland route continue. Now I can leave the vineyard at 6am and, with a tail wind, be in Auckland two hours later. Beat that timing Westies, or ye who live on the North Shore - you'd still be queuing at check-in. Departing from a small aerodrome means no pesky security scanners or in-flight attendants squashing hand luggage into overhead lockers, so the gift of fresh farm eggs and ripe grapes make it safely to Sidik, my friendly taxi driver.

I must leave my animals for two whole days, and the QC has a list of feeding instructions, but hey, I have many friends to see in this great sprawling metropolis, it's no great hardship.

What is so broken about Auckland that Key, Banks and Hide want to fix?

What caused Bob Harvey's grovel to the nation? "Auckland owes New Zealand a real apology for dropping the ball for the past 50 years," he sighed last month. "On one of the world's greatest landscapes, we created a mess. Basically, Auckland is a dog."

Most would agree that "petty squabbles had stifled what should have been an economic powerhouse and held the country back" but will creating a super city with one dictator - pardon me - mayor, fix anything?

Sorry Bob but Auckland is bigger than its people. You've tried hard but you can't trash the landscapes. From our apartment I look out across the glittering harbour as far as Coromandel. Town planners and councils have done their best to ruin this glorious view, allowing ugliness to be erected, but it's still breathtaking. So why create a super council?

The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance was chaired by Hon Peter Salmon QC who specialised in town planning and resource management. Need I say more?

Has everyone who lives in Auckland become so cynical, so busy they're inured to its beauty and see only the faults?

Maybe it goes with the territory. I lived there for 15 years and was so busy I didn't have time to appreciate the city's finer features. At one stage I worked fulltime and had four children at four different schools. But now I'm a tourist, and I can see why it was rated just last month by Mercer as the world's fourth best city to live in.

Cattle on Mt Hobson, ancient olive trees in Cornwall Park, and I always stop to read the wall of quotes in the Vero Building for inspiration: "Come on Jack. My God, he's done it, Jack come on, Lovelock wins, Hooray."

Former Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash told me Auckland women are prettier, and that's still true. What is more, they dress more creatively than young women all over the world.

But so much shouting into cellphones - I thought that went out with the 80s. And everyone rushing and pushing, including a former chairman of the Business Roundtable who shoves an occupied pushchair out of his way to get through café tables. That's a metaphor for the Auckland CBD; pushchairs must make way for productivity. No room for babies. No smiles for strangers. No time to stop and smell the flowers.

I love Auckland but sadly it's now become a city of pampered people who take for granted what their rates provide for them.

They should be careful what they wish for. Why is it my business? We own property there. We pay rates so we contribute to your coffers, but because of our so-called "democracy" we don't have a vote.

Where we do have a vote and pay rates we have no council rubbish collection - I pay to take our trash eight kilometres to the transfer station every week. Our road is unsealed. We collect rainwater. We don't have council sewerage, but septic tanks, so put nothing down the loo which we haven't first eaten.

What we do have is community. We look out for each other, so Peter Dunne, keep your thoughts of a Wellington super city confined to your side of the Rimutaka hill.

But one hour from Auckland is a community very similar to Martinborough, only smaller, in grave danger of being marginalised out of existence by Super City Inc. It's Kawau Island, 400 houses eight kilometres off Warkworth in Rodney District.

Kawau circumstances are unique. It has a standing committee called Kawau Island Advisory Committee - neither a community board nor a ratepayers' association - with statutory legitimacy and a formal advisory role.

It has a real voice. This well organised community, patiently endeavouring to see the Minister for Local Government, is determined not to fall off the local government radar. But the natives are getting restless. It's a story still unfolding.

- Herald on Sunday

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