This must surely be a record of some kind. Auckland Council's newly expanded development arm, Panuku Development Auckland, is to launch the next stage in the regeneration of Wynyard Quarter, next Wednesday, with 90 minutes of "blessing of development sites".

That's longer than a rugby match. Longer than it took, all those years ago, for assembled clergy to bless and crown the Queen.

After starting at the unholy hour of 6am, those at Wednesday's drawn-out ritual on Auckland's waterfront will finally get to the much-needed refreshments and the speeches at 7.30am.

Whatever happened, they might well ask themselves, to the traditional donning of gumboots and quick turning of the sod with a shiny new spade?


This morning it was the same. Not content with the traditional mayoral ribbon-cutting, Auckland Transport has chosen to celebrate the stage two completion phase of the Beach Rd Cycleway with a dawn karakia as well.

In an increasingly secular society - the 2013 Census recorded 41.9 per cent of us as ticking the "no religion" box - you have to ask what makes the bureaucrats and local politicians think it appropriate to impose this layer of casual spirituality on to our public life.

When I was a kid, no public ceremony seemed complete without the local vicar or non-conformist minister - but never a Catholic priest - popping up to mumble a prayer or two.

As a little heathen, I was mystified on the eve of my first Dawn Service at the Auckland cenotaph to see a couple of Boy Scout mates taken aside and told they couldn't join the rest of us on parade.

I learned later that the Anglican bishop was presiding that morning and Catholics were forbidden to attend any service conducted by heretics.

Over the following half-century, the sway of the godly has rapidly declined. In recent years, I can't recall a man or woman of the cloth being rolled out to officiate at a civic occasion. In a secular, multi-cultural nation, that seems eminently proper.

The trouble is, while the old Christian denominations have all but abdicated their part in political affairs, the bureaucrats, with the blessing of the politicians, have seen a "spirituality"gap which they feel impelled to fill.

Call it Treaty of Waitangi guilt if you like. Mixed with a desire for a little exotic ceremonial. The end result is that these days, politicians don't seem to be able to open an envelope in public without the help of a hovering kaumatua, intoning karakia. I don't speak Maori, so I don't know what's being said. But I'm told many are Christian in nature, seeking godly blessing, while others invoke gods and spirits of pre-European times.


If people are moved to seek spiritual assistance in their own time and place then good luck to them. But this 21st century epidemic of local and central government event organisers inventing ersatz spiritual ceremonial to pad out the public ceremonies of what is one of the world's most secular, rational societies needs to stop.

It's not just Auckland Council. Universities and government departments have elaborate rules embedding the blessing into any ceremonial. There was an outbreak of it, too, during the build-up to the Rugby World Cup in 2011. Tourism New Zealand's giant rugby ball was blessed on Queens Wharf, while at Aotea Square, the All Blacks' ceremonial headgear got the same treatment. It seems to be on the public ceremonial check list, alongside order the bubbly and the sausage rolls.

As a ratepaying, taxpaying non-believer, I find this compulsory religiosity at civic events wrong. Cloaking it in a Maori skin and invoking the sins of the Treaty doesn't change that. If bureaucrats and developers want to thank God before beginning a project, then they should retire by themselves to a nearby church. There are plenty around, all dying for someone to cross the threshold.