A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday.
I've always had a soft spot for Rainbow's End. It can't be easy being a theme park in a small country like New Zealand and yet for nearly 40 years, Rainbow's End has soldiered on. I say "soldiered on" because there's a slight vibe with Rainbow's End these days that reminds me of surviving wet Kiwi winters with Codral before they ruined it by removing the pseudoephedrine.
"Soldier on with Codral, soldier on, SOLDIER ON!" sang the old pseudoephedrine-boosted TV jingle and by jingoes we did. The same could be said for Rainbow's End. It feels a bit under the weather, but it also feels like it's snuck through Customs a bit of the ol' pseudo from that pharmacy in Bangkok and is making the best of things.
All of which is a preamble to me saying I genuinely hope Rainbow's End survives well beyond what will be its 40th birthday in 2022. There's no indication it won't and annual visitor numbers are estimated to be within the ballpark of 400,000, but I believe it needs to do more than merely adding a new ride every couple of years or so.*
Plant some trees. I was at Rainbow's End for the first time in over a decade about six months ago, and one of the things that struck me was the fact we could almost constantly see outside the theme park.
As in, there are very few times that Rainbow's End makes you feel enveloped in another world because wherever you look you can still see the Southern Motorway or the banal office blocks and car parks of the Manukau CBD.
Once upon a time, when I was smaller and there were more green fields in that part of South Auckland, Rainbow's End felt like an escape. It was never going to be Disneyland, but for a kid from Massey in the early 90s, it might as well have been. I loved it. As the years have gone by, Rainbow's End has retired some old attractions and added several new ones, but the effect of seeing mundane urbanity right next to a park that's trying to be something, is deflating in the same way a magician revealing his tricks is.
Back to the trees. Is there any way the perimeter of Rainbow's End could be planted with a species of fast-growing, tall trees? Some species of bamboo can reportedly grow as rapidly as 4.5m a year and up to heights of around 40m. Boom! Ring Rainbow's End with beautiful bamboo and unless you're at the top of the rollercoaster or the 18-storey Fear Fall, you won't be able to see out.
A bit of repaving, a bit of paint and perhaps the slow introduction of some kind of coherent theme will help too, but I believe those trees would be as valuable — probably more so — than any new thrill-seeking ride. Soldier on!
* Afterword: Rainbow's End has spent about $15 million on refurbishments in recent years, including a new entrance area. I got a kick out of reading in a Herald article from March 2018 that the park's new CEO, Karen Crabb, has taken to having business meetings while riding the Log Flume! Very cool.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com