Listening this week to a tax-funded talker explain his role in Auckland's planning palaver, I heard something I didn't know.
Auckland, with a third of New Zealand's population, makes this country unique, he reckoned. Apparently no other country has such a high proportion of its population in one city.
The latest immigration wave is mostly to Auckland. He said the city is now 24 per cent Asian and the ratio will rise to 40 per cent within 20 years.
That was no surprise to an audience of North Shore tennis club presidents and he went on to talk about co-ordinating sports administration. My mind went on a tangent.
Geographically and demographically we still think of ourselves as a population stretched thinly through a land of a long white cloud. In fact New Zealand has become a concentrated metropolitan place, the most concentrated in the world, he'd said. We're a tadpole with a tail, and the tail may be fearing its fate.
The metamorphosis might be more evident to people outside Auckland than it is to those living in its overpriced houses and congested traffic. It might help explain the result of the Northland byelection.
"Neglect" is probably too strong an explanation. As the results came in last Saturday night I looked for a comparative figure for Winston Peters' candidate at the election last year and there wasn't one. New Zealand First didn't have a candidate there last year, or at the election before that, or the election before that.
If Northland voters seriously felt neglected they would not have voted for a man who has shown no interest in them at the three previous elections. They probably voted to be noticed, which is not quite the same thing. They could safely elect a mercurial attention-seeker because the byelection would not change the government, but political parties need to find out now whether all provinces are starting to feel they are living in Auckland's shade and might vote for attention in an election that matters.
It might be some comfort for the provinces to see this week that Aucklanders are starting to impose their own restrictions on the city's growth. Seldom has there been a more decisive public outcry than that we are seeing against extensions to Auckland's port.
Lengthened wharves thrusting another 100m towards Devonport simply cannot happen, whatever the legalities of permits issued under the council's plans. The council has realised its citizens are simply not going to allow it.
If it comes to a choice between a wide harbour and a constricted port unable to dock the latest cruise and container ships, Aucklanders will happily send the ships elsewhere.
Marsden Pt or Tauranga may be further from Auckland than ports serving metropolitan centres overseas but if New Zealand's population is more concentrated than any other, abnormal things may happen until a more normal dispersal of population is restored.
Another force constricting Auckland's growth is the "Super City" council, not so much because its planners want to keep the city within designated boundaries, the Super City is a regulatory dead weight on its economy.
The Government wonders why its accord with the council for faster building consents in selected housing areas is not yet producing much construction. It has no idea what it has created in the Auckland Council. I had no idea until my tennis club applied for a bar licence.
First we needed a building consent which became a saga beyond belief. The clubhouse is a single level pavilion with ranch-slider doors along the front wall. The council insisted on illuminated fire exit signs over the two doors least likely to be used in an emergency. The equipment left little change out of $10,000.
To ensure the fire alarm was working we had to hire something the council calls an IQP (independently qualified person) to test them every month and inspect them every year for something called a BWOF (building warrant of fitness).
Last month a letter reminding us the annual inspection was due, said, "Council does not provide templates for a BWOF; please refer to the Building (Forms) Regulations 2004, or obtain a copy of the IQP."
The inspection was done and the IQP decided the BWOF needed to include an electronic door lock we have had for years. This too now requires inspection at further expense though we use it every day.
There must be a thriving private sector of "independent" pilot fish living off the regulatory whale. If one small application could generate this much red tape I shudder to imagine what property developers face. An engineer told me they don't bother to fight it. They find it quicker to comply with each request and add the cost to the price of houses.
This will strangle the city eventually, the country can be assured.