Voting opened yesterday for Auckland local body elections. Ruth Spencer lists bylaws that should be implemented immediately.
The entirety of the bylaw legislation could be replaced with one simple phrase: "A person must not." It's the phrase used most often in our current bylaws. It covers everything, leaves no room for argument and, honestly, don't you wish people wouldn't?
But there are some arcane bylaws that just seem too restrictive. Take the Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw (2013), Section 9, Part 2, point 5, sub-category b, paragraph ii: a person must not use an aircraft to set down or pick up any carcass from a park or beach, at least not without written prior approval from the Council. This is the kind of bureaucracy gone mad that can really put a damper on spontaneity. When the urge strikes to set down a carcass at Muriwai by dirigible (a great date night idea or rainy afternoon activity for the kids) waiting for the permission letter to arrive takes some of the joy out of it.
Then again, some things are not legislated at all. While a person must not lose control of any animal under their control in a public park (9.2.5.b.i) there's nothing preventing that person from losing control of any children, a nuisance we see daily. A mayoral candidate campaigning on this platform could really get somewhere, possibly by hovercraft, skateboard or rollerskates, which constitute vehicles (5.1.Vehicle.b), but not by perambulator or pedestrian-controlled lawnmower, which don't (5.1.Vehicle.c.i-iii).
As we move into the next phase of Auckland's management, it's time to consider whether the bylaws serve us as we deserve. After all, a Nuisance, which most of the laws aim to prevent, is defined as a person, animal, thing or circumstance causing unreasonable interference with the peace, comfort or convenience of another person (Health Act 1956, Section 9). You can probably think of a million things unreasonably interfering with your comfort every day. Unfortunately we can't designate every other citizen an actual nuisance but we can start to legislate against the worst offenders. Let's have a look at some new ideas for bylaws that would make Tāmaki Makaurau a nuisance-free zone.
1.The Driving in the Rain Bylaw, 2019
A person who shall remain nameless but is probably you, is terrible at it. Everyone is. Whenever it rains in Auckland we develop temporary vehicular insanity. Pouring on to the roads in our contrivances equipped with wheels, tracks or revolving runners (5.1.Vehicles.a), we drive like maniacs. Let's stop, look and listen to some new bylaw suggestions.
a) All road markings must contain embedded LED lighting. Surface water reflecting a light grey sky makes white road paint impossible to see and multi-lane roads become a Mad Max-meets-Waterworld maelstrom in which the biggest truck or most aggressive flamethrower wins. LED lighting will keep everyone in their lanes and could be themed to match whatever colour the Sky Tower is. We'll black it out for All Black tests. Wait, that's a terrible idea.
b) A person must not change lanes during active rainfall. If it doesn't stop before your exit you'll just have to carry on to Hamilton. You can't be trusted.
c) A person must not be invisible. Put your headlights on. No, not on full, you need to pull the thing back … not that thing, the other … you know what, turn them off.
2.The Cafe Cabinet Bylaw 2019
This new addition to the bylaws contains self-explanatory suggestions to protect consumers from the visually tempting but ultimately disappointing cafe cabinet selection.
a) Cafe cabinet to contain signage indicating the time and date the chocolate eclairs first went in.
b) Cabinet should include items suitable for children that don't have a chocolate marshmallow fish stuck into them already. Further, any Children's Menu must include items that do not require a deep fryer. Where a fryer is required, items are not to be served directly out of it at temperatures usually reserved for Nasa shuttles (5.1.Spacecraft.b) re-entering the atmosphere.
c) Selection to include ONLY items that stand up to microwaving or heat-pressing. Banned items include but are not limited to:
i. Lettuce in wraps or paninis.
ii. Avocado in wraps or paninis.
iii. Actually all paninis, for goodness sake, it's 2019.
iv. Croissants, pies or any other pastry not improved by either hot moistness or moist hotness.
v. Hidden lava-hot tomato.
vi. Cranberry sauce, just as a matter of principle.
d) Those little fruit tart things to stop looking so jeweller's-window-enticing when they're basically a milky vegetable.
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3. The Charity Mugger Bylaw 2019
No matter what our current charity donation schedule, an extrovert in a branded T-shirt can make us feel like we're the ones personally giving all the children dropsy or whatever it is today.
a) Stop it and get out of the supermarket doorway, I need quinoa.
b) I already gave, prove I didn't.
4. The Cellphone Use Bylaw 2019
Some long overdue legislation for public smartphone use. Everybody is on their phones all the time and that's fine but let's keep it to ourselves.
a) This bylaw includes elements of the Headphone Act 2018 such that:
i. A person must not perform their enjoyment of a podcast by way of nodding, chuckling, eye-rolling or muttering. Podcasts must be enjoyed internally only.
ii. Large wireless headphones are cooler than wired earbuds, sorry 'bout it
iii. If you didn't hear that hovercraft (5.1.Vehicle.b) approaching because you downloaded Taylor Swift's latest release this morning, that's on you. No correspondence will be entered into. Get well soon.
b) Nobody wants to be forced to watch that video on your Facebook feed while you anxiously scan their face for signs of amusement.
c) A person must not have the little texting keyboard clicky sounds turned on.
d) A person must not use the sweet little Ting! text alert even though it's the best one because we all have it and it's becoming very stressful to think we have texts when we don't.
5. The Local Area Facebook Group Bylaw 2019
Part of every community but serving little purpose other than to make people not want to move there, the Local Area Facebook Group is overdue some legal guidelines.
a) A person must not post "why are those police helicopters overhead" more than weekly, and a person must not reply "there just doing there job" (sic) in any circumstances.
b) Free desirable items advertised for FIFS pick-up are not to include an old mattress and the phrase "must take all". The penalty for forcing people to dispose of your old mattresses to be having photos of the mattress stains posted as the page profile picture.
c) It is suggested that people replying to babysitting ads change their profile pictures to one without the Woody's.
d) Greenhithe is not permitted to have a Local Area Facebook Page until all the current lost cats are accounted for. No further cats to go missing.
e) Herne Bay, ditto. You know what you did.
6. The Wheelie Bin Bylaw 2019
There is nothing so contentious as a wheelie bin. Out too early, out too late, out too far on the footpath. Technically fitting the definition of a vehicle (5.1.Vehicle.a) and like Auckland traffic, not going anywhere, they're a nuisance in and of themselves.
a) A person must not spray paint their house number on their wheelie bin in large, drippy numbers that imply their neighbours are wheelie bin thieving ratbags.
b) A person must not thieve their neighbour's wheelie bin like a ratbag.
c) A person must not set down a carcass in their neighbour's bin, by any means including aircraft, unless they froze it until bin day and there was honestly no room in their own bin.
d) A person may either store their wheelie bin close to the neighbour's bedroom window OR empty their wine bottles into it at odd hours but not both.
e) A person must not crouch suspensefully at their window and then cheer when their bin is emptied into the truck, it makes the rubbish collectors nervous.
7. The Animal Bylaw 2019
There are already many animal bylaws covered in the Animal Management Bylaw 2015, which includes a specific focus on bees and beekeeping. A person must not allow bees to fly into the heads of passers by (Keeping of Bees Control – Flight Path Management (1)) or poop on their neighbours (Keeping of Bees Control – Bee Excrement Management (4)). There are some handy suggestions for avoiding these mishaps: one is to put your hive on a shed roof but the council admits it might be tricky to get up there to beekeep and/or change the bees' nappies. One of the particularly complicated bylaws to comply with is Keeping of Bees Control - Management (2): Every person keeping bees in an urban area must maintain honey bee colonies with a calm temperament. With the best intentions, in this stressful world, can any of us promise this? Breaking this bylaw brings its own terrors: the fear that someone may catch you swearing at a bee and thus becoming a criminal for life.
a) Animal means any member of the animal kingdom, including any mammal, bird, finfish, shellfish, reptile, amphibian, insect or invertebrate, and includes their young or eggs and the carcass or its constituent parts but does not include humans or dogs except Bruce, ya filthy beast.
b) The above is not intended to recommend eggs, invertebrates or shellfish as pets, but go for your life with bees as long as you're really calm even when you're being stung or pooped on.
c) A person must not refer solely to the animal kingdom when bees are clearly an animal queendom.
d) It really says that about dogs. Why are dogs not included, it seems like this could use some clarification.
8. The Public Transport Bylaw 2019
The only way to free up some of the congestion on the roads is for more of us to use public transport. Trains, buses, ferries and dirigibles are a crucial part of our urban landscape, or should be. There does, however, need to be some best-practice guides for their use.
a) A person must not get on to a public transport vehicle unless the departing passengers have got off. It's a train, not a game of Chicken.
b) A person must not view the presence of a bar on the 10-minute Devonport ferry as a challenge.
c) A person must not put their feet on empty seats, which are, of course, reserved for large bags.
9. The Public Art Bylaw 2019
One person's art is another's wheelie bin filler but, seeing as it's taxpayer-funded, regulation is appropriate to prevent public art from becoming a public nuisance.
a) No thank you, we don't need one of those judgemental hand statue things.
b) If children made it, the proper exhibition space is a parent's fridge
c) Any art described as "reflecting all of us, no matter our culture" doesn't. The only exception that bronze cardboard box on Queen St with the pūkeko. Watching some idiot kick it is hilarious, no matter who you are.
d) A person really, really, must not make, acquire, or otherwise inflict on us a grumpy hand statue thing.
Legislation is like liquid eyeliner: the more you fiddle with it and try to fix any overruns or wobbly bits, the more it turns into a disaster that makes you late for work. While we, as citizens of Auckland, demand clarity and consistency in what a person must not do, we must also be compassionate. Sometimes people just have a carcass to drop off at a beach and that's okay. Or not. Probably best to pick a side on these pressing issues and vote accordingly. May the bylaws be ever in your favour.