The port dispute is three pronged, and it's important to look at these three prongs separately because if you don't, they all blend in together. Once that happens, you can't argue a clear case either way.
The first part is the council. We can again look to the Auckland Council for its lack of leadership and broken promises. I noted many of those standing on the waterfront on Sunday were citing Len Brown's promise of reports and discussions before anything was allowed to go ahead.
More fool them.
Len, as we have discussed in these columns before, is a fantasist. He is a bloke who says stuff that either isn't accurate or is never going to happen. Ask him about the rate rises capped at 2.5 per cent or the tolls and taxes he needs government support for, but never had and will never get.
So to hang on what he says shows an extraordinary naivete or that you haven't followed his progress in office.
Yes, the council has let those who don't like any of this new activity at the port down. If you believe in open democracy, there hasn't been enough of it, and in typical fashion those who voted one way have panicked upon seeing the weekend's protest and are now backtracking. If there is one thing I like in a person it's consistency. Do your homework, make your mind up, and stick with it. People respond to strong leadership. I think the emotion we're seeing in Singapore this week shows decisive and consistent leadership is a well-respected trait.
Prong two is the protest movement - those who believe the harbour is being wrecked. They are wrong to the extent that it is already wrecked. Not all of it. But a lot of it.
In an ideal world, the port wouldn't be where it is, it would be like Port Chalmers. Port Chalmers is beautiful in its own way. I lived in Port Chalmers and you knew what you were dealing with and what you had.
It was supposed to be there, it didn't look gerrymandered like Auckland. It had a seaside community feel, houses looked over it, it had a sense of pride about it. Lyttelton is the same, it's a port town.
Auckland is just a dumping ground. Auckland greets tourists on cruise ships, who've paid small fortunes for their staterooms, with views of Mazda Familias. It's embarrassing. But it's too late - those sorts of decisions should have been made 100 years ago and they weren't, so we have what we have. But I do have sympathy with those who deplore all of this.
Auckland is a water city, it's a place where the harbour plays a vital role in our sporting, recreational and spiritual lives. The bits that sparkle are as good as anywhere, and there is a half-decent argument that the more you expand, the more you detract from all that is magical.
But here comes prong three.
Given we have the port where it is, given that isn't changing, we have to counter-balance our desire to boat, play and recreate with the powerful argument that we need a place to do business. Furthermore, we need an expanding place to do business.
In a sense, we should be pleased the port needs more wharves and land, because it means it's growing ... and it's growing because we are doing well.
Ports are the cutting edge of an economy. Yes, containers piled high look ugly, and they may well block the view of the apartment overlooking them, but they're money. The cruise ship is parking next to a carpark, but that carpark is business. It's jobs, it's the supply chain that keeps the economy ticking over.
What you're in danger of saying in opposing the port's expansion is that you don't like or want growth. Yes, if we could pick the port up and magic it elsewhere, brilliant, but we can't. And even if the council opened every meeting to the public and we debated it until we ran out of breath, you still couldn't argue that an expanding port wasn't good for the city.
I had a couple of emails this week from those who oppose all this and their views represented tangibly that as much as you may not want another couple of wharves jutting out into your aquatic playground, there is no sensible alternative.
One said move it to Tauranga, the other suggested Whangarei. If you apply that logic, then why don't we close the airport down and direct flights to Hamilton? After all, there are lots of people living under the flight paths, which must be annoying for them, and it's only getting worse because Auckland Airport is booming and - like the port - that will just mean expansion and more flights and more people to clog our motorways.
Someone else said to me that although the port was doing well, there is a thing as too much progress. Really? Is there? That's the argument? We can be too good and do too much? To me that argument smacks of everything being too hard, therefore don't deal with reality, just be upset by it. Being upset by things is a pastime these days.
Protesting change isn't hard, it's the answers and the alternatives that are hard. Protesting gets headlines but expansion pays the bills. Anger is a common commodity easily displayed with a placard on a Sunday afternoon, but it's a cop-out if that's all there is to it.
Be angry when the alternatives are obvious but ignored. Be angry when the expansion makes no sense. But just being angry, having divorced yourself from any real solution or alternative, is the easy way out. We oppose too much for the sake of it, without working out what the downstream consequences are. As much as we should celebrate our harbour and its natural beauty, we should also celebrate our economic success. Auckland is booming. By any measure, it's on fire. In jobs and growth, in migration, these are golden economic days ... the port is part of that.
And dare I say this, but that view is actually the view of the majority. No, I don't like the look of the port and where it is, but I do like success and I understand its contribution. If it didn't have to be there that would be good, but it does, and it is. And that's the reality that most of us have worked out - it's just we didn't make a placard and gather on the wharf at the weekend.
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