Hard News by Russell Brown


Assault by Monstrous, Cancerous Used Condom Destroys Auckland. And so on ...

I had to think twice about venturing again into the waterfront stadium issue - it's just all a bit mad, frankly - but I do feel bound to point out that we appear to have a new height for anti-waterfront stadium hysteria, from yesterday's meeting of the margins of the political right and left. Enter children's author Tessa Duder:

"That gently glowing, translucent, floating white cloud will certainly be a 10 to 12-storey wall along much of Quay St - a monstrous, cancerous protrusion into the harbour."

In a voice choked with emotion, she said she would have great difficulty taking her grandchildren to North Head or Mt Eden and trying to explain the object marring their view.

"I will have difficulty holding back my tears."

I'm sorry, but isn't that just a bit silly? How exactly will the view from Mt Eden be spoiled by a 37m-high structure replacing an ugly private wharf? To "loud applause", Duder also said that this "latest assault" would bequeath an "environmental disaster" which would "fatally compromise the gradual redevelopment already under way."

Okay, I do want to know how this impacts on plans for that part of Auckland's waterfront, so I went and downloaded the Auckland Waterfront Vision 2040, which scopes out the next 30 or 40 years of the waterfront.

And, so far as I can see, there aren't any plans. There's a plan to develop a plan - an update of the old plan from 1989 - but any change in use of that area is "a medium to long-term consideration until port operations consolidate eastwards." And Captain Cook Wharf will be used for port operations "for the foreseeable future." The report holds out the slim hope that:

"There may be a shift over the long term to non custom-bonded activities (such as tugboats) which would give the public access to the area."

Well, whoop-de-doo.

Yes, there are unsatisfactory elements to the waterfront stadium plan, particularly as regards process, but I really don't understand the hysteria that leads to a national stadium being described as a "cancer" or (from ARC councillor Robyn Hughes) a "giant used condom". And I think that stadium opponents skip very lightly over (a) the waste of money implicit in spending $400m upgrading a badly-located, privately-owned Eden Park whose future potential is virtually nil, and (b) the reality of plans to open up Auckland's waterfront. From what I can see, I may well be dead before anything happens, and I don't plan on doing that any time soon.

Interestingly, the Weekend Herald's three flagship op-ed columnists all came out strongly in favour of the stadium on Saturday. Fran O'Sullivan's column concluded thus:

What is surprising is that Mallard's political opponents have done their volte-face and bought into the nay-saying arguments.

Just days ago National's Murray McCully was saying his party would support the project with provisos but it certainly was not a deal-breaker. Now National's leader Don Brash has turned into the party pooper.

I wouldn't be so concerned about Brash's reservations over the stadium's costings and deliverability in time for Rugby World Cup 2011 if I was convinced there was not an ulterior political motive at work in spawning this week's negativity as far as some of his colleagues are concerned.

My soundings disclose that some of Brash's colleagues want to use the stadium controversy to cause the Government political embarrassment. Defeat the project and give Helen Clark another bloody nose, is how one National MP described the tactics.

Some other Auckland-based National MPs would rather champion the project but don't want to embarrass Don in case it is read the wrong way.

Meanwhile, more of what's wrong with the National Party, from (of course) Murray McCully:

Helen Clark continues to suffer from the affliction that brought so much trouble over the pledge card affair: An inability to distinguish between public property, and that of the Labour Party. Last week’s ceremony to unveil the Armistice Day memorial in London was a classic. In earlier times, such events were treated as occasions for bi-partisanship. But having grudgingly invited Dr Brash to the London event, Clark’s people ensured he was carefully away from the official action.

Neither did the best turnout of royals for a New Zealand event in many decades (the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and Princess Anne) deter our anti-monarchist leaders from having a cheap shot. The lefty-muso Dave Dobbyn, noted for his adherence to the Clark cause, was engaged for the event. And from the dozens of songs he could have selected for the event, Dobbin sang "Welcome Home". Noted, of course, for the line "the empire is fading by the day." How very very classy.

Would it be rude to point out that the day anyone needs lessons in "classiness" from Murray McCully will be a strange one indeed? That anyone who could write the passage above has a bit of a nerve complaining about a "cheap shot"? And that, when the final accounting is done, Dave Dobbyn and his songs will find a more elevated place in the hearts of New Zealanders than Mr McCully ever will?

PS: Someone else who needs lessons in decent behaviour: Deborah Coddington. Keith Ng writes a detailed, measured - and in the circumstances, quite good-humoured - critique of her lazy and inaccurate 'Asian Angst' story for North & South. How does she respond? By claiming to have been the subject of intolerable ad hominen attacks, then dismissing her critic as an "insane blogger" who no one listens to anyway (yes readers, you have spotted an irony there). Not only does she fail to address any of the legitimate criticisms of her story, she introduces more "facts" that aren't really facts at all. I hope the pinot growing in the Wairarapa goes well for Ms Coddington - because she's certainly stinkin' up journalism at the moment.

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