Whenyou consider all the factors, and tick them off against what other centres have to offer, there's only one answer that makes any sense as to why people live in Auckland: potential.

It's not for its vibrant nightlife. Wellington has better entertainment, more social energy and an ambience of fun on any night of the week " all neatly available within a half-mile radius of Courtney Place.

At the other end of the scale, Tauranga offers miles of quiet boulevards fronting pristine ocean beach, just the sort of sit back and relax environment retirees seek, with none of the downsides of the rat race they have escaped or avoided.

So there's no special reason to be an Aucklander if you're young or old.


Which leaves the family-raisers and career-climbers, all the demographic "middle" New Zealanders who are drawn by dreams of realising their potential, to grapple with the nightmare logistics of traffic jams and mega-malls and zonal schooling.

Yet with rents at least double and house prices triple those of any provincial centre, plus the daily grind of a maybe 90-minute (each way) commute, is holding down a decent-paying job really sufficient attraction? Or recompense? Assuming you are employed, and paid well enough to cover the inflated bills.

The "economies of scale" argument is mythic: a can of peas cannot cost 50c more in Auckland simply because there is "more demand" " an individual only eats so many cans, no matter where they live - while the logistics of mass supply would indicate they should be paying 50c less.

Where does that extra dollar go?

Ah. At this point, you start to see why the hopelessly out-of-control Auckland "growth economy" is not something any politician wants to poke a stick into: there's far too much easy money being made by those atop the metropolitan pile.

And it's that "chance to succeed" and join the top dogs that is the real driver behind people choosing to live in Auckland - because they don't see those opportunities available anywhere else. That only one in a thousand do succeed, while the rest stress on in debt-laden servitude, doesn't faze the Lotto-mentality behind them flocking to the Big Smoke.

But it doesn't suit the rest of the country to feed Auckland's insatiable hungers. And surely, if you're the government, you're there to do your best to ensure all Kiwis have a reasonable shot at success, no matter where they choose to live.

Isn't it about time we made these perceived opportunities available to the rest of the nation, through substantive regional initiatives rewarding business and workers for relocating out of Auckland? A week or so back, I asked Lawrence Yule, in his capacity as Local Government NZ president, if he'd had this discussion with ministers; he said yes, and that he thought they were beginning to listen and tentatively agree.


Nothing any administration has done, post-Muldoon, indicates that. Indeed, the short-sighted Budget plan to sell off "unwanted" public-department green space to help overcome Auckland's housing crisis " though John Key still insists there isn't one " shows Lawrence is being told porkies.

Central government doesn't care about growing the regions simply because there's too much money being made, in too many ways, from Auckland's rampant growth. The "mini capital-gains tax" is just an extra income source, not a fix.

Trying to devolve that growth is in the "don't start" basket; better the provinces become a dull patchwork of dairying, forests, mines and service towns, with our best sent off to be grist in Auckland's rapacious mills than offered a viable alternate future at home.

That's the right of it.

Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet.