Speaker by Various Artists


Unknown Places: Queens of K Road (Central)

by Annette Morehu

Go up K Road after dark, stay on the south side, and head west. Here, in the shadows, you might meet a queen. Ask her the right questions and you could get to know her. Or she could get to know you, depending on your preference.

And how much you want to pay.

Everybody knows her as Beulah, but that wasn’t always her name. At twenty three, she changed her name by deed poll. Solicitation was illegal then, and if you were arrested and charged, it was printed in the newspaper. So, not wanting to bring any more shame to her family by having their name continuously splashed across the crime section of the local rag, and rather than change her profession, she changed her moniker. From the bland and boring ‘Brian Howard’, to the glamorous, exotic ‘Beulah de Reine’.

When she was just fourteen, and still a boy, Beulah heard whispers of a magical place, where standing out meant you fit in; where during the day, all of the ‘cool’ people would flock in their thousands, but at night, people like her were free to be themselves, and more importantly, where you could earn decent cash. This utopia was called Karangahape Road, but everyone just called it K Rd, and that was where Beulah wanted to be. So, one Friday morning she ditched school and hitched her way from her sleepy home-town (where the most exciting thing that ever happened was the annual kumara festival), to the big, bright lights of Auckland City. The first car that was generous enough, or curious enough, to pull over at the behest of her outstretched thumb, took her all the way to Grafton Bridge. She had heard stories about people jumping. Once, a politician’s son was found on the pavement below. Beulah peered around at the hustle and bustle and couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever want to leave.

She headed west along the southern ridge of the road; past the Jewish section of the Symonds Street cemetery, past high-end clothing stores, past the newly fashionable cafes, up and over the Queen Street intersection, past Pitt Street, then over Mercury Lane and across Hopetoun Street — to the end of K’ Road. Here, in the steady light of the streetlamps, Beulah saw for the first time what she had only ever heard of before. Real life, out and proud, fabulous queens. They were pretty, they were powerful, and they were getting paid. And Beulah wanted to be just like them. 

That night, the kingdom of K’ Road crowned a new queen.


Beulah’s flat: a government state house, Freemans Bay, Friday night — forty years after her induction to K Road. Sitting at her Formica dining table, relaxing before a night out on the road; sipping red wine from an odd wineglass, smoking a cigarette, a Buddha stick burning, Beulah speaks:

 ‘Clients? Well, they’re all the same, aren’t they? Men. This one guy paid a girl five hundred bucks and a big bag of crack to fist him up the you-know. I let her use one of my rooms for the job, so we shared the proceeds. We look after each other, ay. Most of us. Most of the time. New girls learn the rules quick, either that or someone will teach them the hard way. We don’t so much have our own corners, but we stay on our own sides of the road and it’s up to the client which side he wants to shop on.

‘Who gets the most jobs? The queens of course. You go see the other girls, you’ll see why. They’re up there in their pyjamas, wrapped in blankets, glaring at everybody. Queens, well most of us anyway, we just want to look pretty and make our money, and maybe have a bit of fun while we’re at it. Oh, we get all sorts of weirdos coming up there. All sorts I tell you. The worst are the cross dressers. They come out in a suit during the day, put on a dress in a half-shaved face at night. They can piss off.

‘Worst job I ever did? Well there was that time I left my teeth on the backseat of a client’s car, that one cost me much more than it was worth. Or there was the time I woke up in a strange house surrounded by all these strange utensils. Don’t know how I got there! So I knifed my way out. Spent three years in The Rock for that one. Why do I do this? Well...what else would I do? And the money’s good. And yeah, maybe if that bastard didn’t do what he did when I was a kid, I wouldn’t be here. But, life happens, and here I am. That bastard? Let’s not talk about that, ay. Everybody else wants to talk about their childhood all the time, but not me. What’s the point?

‘Talking doesn’t pay the bills. Or buy my wine. 

‘Or my drugs.’ 


She inserts the needle

Waits for the blood to flow

Applies pressure,

And pushes love through her veins.


A low-cut halter-neck reveals

Her surgically enhanced breasts

‘Sin City’ inked across her chest.

A denim miniskirt wraps thick around her thighs

Devilish red boots climb up to her knees

Blonde hair wisps beneath a brown beret,

Disguising a thinning crown.


When she walks, she stalks

Prowling along the pavement,

Surveying her territory.


She is a painting

A sculpture

A masterpiece,

Hanging in a streetside gallery.


The girls all know Beulah

The queens all know Beulah

The clients all know Beulah;


She’s been here longer than any of them

This is her kingdom,

And she’s the queen of K Road.


This is a chapter from Unknown Places, a collection of short stories about Auckland by undergraduate creative writing students at Manukau Institute of Technology published here this week. The published stories are:

The Crescent (Otara)

Unknown Places: Queens of K Road (Central)

Gravel Lot (Mangere)

Names in Stone (Waiuku)

The Bach (Awhitu Peninsula)

 Armageddon (Greenlane)


Unknown Places: The Crescent (Otara)

by James Littlewood


Lovegrove Crescent has no beginning, and no end. It’s like a miniature race track, a lopsided circle of tarmac connected to Otara’s main drag by a short lane; an umbilical cord, diverting and circulating traffic from the main arterial route. It’s an inverted foetus, suspended inside the body of Otara.

Crowning the head of the foetus, between the busy mechanic and the empty factory — now an occasional church — are three imposing state institutions: Work and Income, Child Youth and Family and Manukau Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Creative Arts. Even within the preborn body of the crescent, this triumvirate of welfare stands ready for those who breathe and walk the earth. Need a job? An education? A social worker? You’ll find one at Lovegrove Crescent. 

But by the time this is in your hands, M.I.T. will have moved on from this intra-uterine metaphor to newer, and newly restructured, premises, leaving our empty, decaying shell to the vagaries of South Auckland’s commercial real estate market, and a family of possum who’ve moved into the roof space.

Today, that’s still in the future. For now, go back a few weeks. Walk up the concrete stairs, through the badly designed entrance, turning left at the staff room, past the toilets, and into the narrow, windowless corridor. Room Z130 has sad yellow walls, higgledy piggledy furniture and temperamental lighting. 

Z130 is the writers’ room, and this is our group. Eight of us on a good day, with four regulars, three usuals and me. We are Writers at Work. And all that we do is in your hands.


We were tasked with exploring the collaborative skills of professional writing. So our first decision was simple: we’d write a book together. Next, we formed ourselves into our own editorial board. I facilitated, but otherwise, everyone had an equal say. It had to be consensus, or nothing. Well, I never actually said it. But that was the plan. Next step was to figure out what kind of a book.

Some of us liked fiction. Others stuck to the facts. So we couldn’t define ourselves on those terms. It all came down to just one thing: the place we live. Tamaki Makaurau, Auckland.

Sometimes it threatened to take the form of a tourist guide. We wanted something meatier. Saracen said ‘we should be shocking people, jolting them awake with our honesty’. It was hard to disagree with that. But Anna was keen for us to leave room for poetics, or even nostalgia. Can we do both? Sure, we can do both. Let’s be real, but let’s also make it welcoming.

We knew we favoured a young audience: those who can no longer be satisfied to wonder what’s round the corner, but who respond at once to the urge to check it out first hand. And that’s how we wrote: first hand. We wanted to introduce you to our Auckland, an Auckland that maybe not everyone knows about — or to write the familiar features of Auckland with a new, personal interpretation.


So, we get drunk in the park, and that doesn’t end well. We hang out in apocalyptic masquerades, and feel the adrenaline rush of big crowds in big rooms. There is war, recalled through a dream of alcohol and decrepitude. Historical changes play out in time-lapse from the vantage point of a prominent hill. There are faded holidays at the beach, a father bonds with his young son under low level flight paths, and drag queens paint the K Rd strip red.

The locations are precise: you’ll find yourself on this spot, in this place, at this time. These locations cultivate their own unique ecosystems: our characters couldn’t survive anywhere else, nor would their actions make any sense there. We love the universal appeal which these specifics enable. You might even find yourself in these pages. We know we did.

Lovegrove Crescent’s our home. Like all homes, it has no beginning, and no end. But we’re leaving it now, and we’re taking you with us. So, Auckland, Tamaki Makaurau, you city of lovers, welcome, welcome, welcome to your unknown places.

This is a chapter from Unknown Places, a collection of short stories about Auckland by undergraduate creative writing students at Manukau Institute of Technology published here this week. The published stories are:

The Crescent (Otara)

Unknown Places: Queens of K Road (Central)

Gravel Lot (Mangere)

Names in Stone (Waiuku)

The Bach (Awhitu Peninsula)

 Armageddon (Greenlane)


Cold Turkey, 2018

by Greg Jackson

I’ve been under Dr Lennon the last few days, taking tips from his detox ditty 'Cold Turkey'.

 36 hours rolling in pain/praying to someone to free me again

It’s junkie journalism at its finest as I retch and shudder my way through an opiate detox that is unexpected, awful and with a pain point of origin that’s ludicrous.

A fucking chihuahua bite got me rolling down the road toward this place I last visited nearly 40 years ago. The dog jumped me and bit my arm, I jerked back to get away from the tiny fangs tearing my flesh. A few days later the ligament in my knee, already frayed, went snap.

The pain was excruciating. I’m good on pain. When I got kidney stones I let my partner sleep a few hours before waking her up to get me a lift to hospital. I have a lot of aches and pains from car crashes, bar brawling and the carnage that goes with active alcoholism and drug addiction in my teens and 20s.

When the ligament in my other knee snapped and frayed during the run out of town in the big  February Christchurch earthquake I survived on a stick for a year before an ACC/Southern Cross impasse about paying for the op got resolved.

This time, the pain sent me off to after-hours within hours.

The options for pain relief were codeine or one of the new-fangled forms of junk. I went for codeine. There was no choice.

Now, codeine and I have history.

I learned how to make opium in my teens and was an early adopter of heroin when the Buddha stick boys starting bringing in quality skag with the sticks. When I got codeine for a back injury I found a legal(ish) substitute for smack that kept me well with a few hundred mg a day without having to work through my horror of needles.

Addiction does have its downsides. When I finally cleaned up I had a house with an unpaid mortgage, a vicious knock-down divorce, no furniture, no food and a herd of cats plus a dog who loved me.

So why am I telling you this dreadful shit? Where is the upside? Like a lot of life’s bum cards there is no upside.

I’m telling you as my nose runs and I retch from cold turkey because I know the ropes just as well as any old junkie extant.

But I have had time in my broken sleep to reflect on the total madness of a health system that has closed down just about all the treatment centres and detox joints.

In my recovery years my networks have given me access to world experts on addiction and treatment. My post alcohol and drugs career has put me on talking “pick up the phone” terms with lots of politicians and CEOs.

I wish that I was a baby/I wish that I was dead

I know the ropes. This detox follows on from a few months of feeling like I was tiptoeing across barely cooled lava, taking a minimum dose till I got surgery and knowing the trapdoors of hell were creaking below me.

On Tuesday this week rather than taking my post-op drugs I sensed in the old mad dog way only an ex-junkie can that there was a wee window of magic and possibility open.

That if I just quietly snuck through, threw away the drugs and breathed gently I might be able to kick and return to what has become my normal state of clean sobriety.

So I did throw away the drugs and as the hours piled up it became clear my old habit had not cared less about minimum doses and medical necessity.

“Got you now baby and you know what’s gonna fix it”, it whispered.

“Fuck off, my God’s stronger than you," I said and settled down for a wee fight for my soul.

Now my world now is not a bad one. Stable relationship, house without mortgage, glasshouse, fruit trees, lots of kids starting to do adulting, even the miracle of a grandchild.

My friends that I had to leave behind? Bar one who got zapped by Jesus they are all dead. I’m like a very old man who has outlived everyone. I got my second shot at life by going through detox and treatment three times before biting the bullet.

That’s a luxury that’s barely on offer now. Even for the rich who can buy full on in-house treatment, it’s rare.

Some cost-cutting madness persuaded a generation of decision makers that in-house treatment and ongoing aftercare were not part of the answer to addiction treatment.

I’m spilling my guts here in the hope it impels our new Government to at least look at reviving proper, adequate treatment systems in New Zealand.

I am an old lag with a luxurious support  system who has found these last few days horrendous beyond any adequacy of words.

Trapped in a corner, prodded with a stick and gazing glumly at the guillotine, I write stuff. Never happily or enthusiastically, but because I have to. It is how I make sense of this insensible process called life.


Like Dr Lennon did when he nailed it with 'Cold Turkey'.

But he was another tough old survivor who bar those fateful bullets would be with us still, bringing back his broadcasts from the outer limits of life’s rich tapestry.

Not all people who go down the Bill Burroughs highway are this hard.

My old habit had its fuse lit by an accident. I think after a few more bad sleeps I’ll come right.

I want the few people who pick up on this to think how many people out there need proper help now.

After the P epidemic we are going to have an opiate epidemic like this country has never seen.

After speed comes a need for downers and smack. Take it from me.

As a nation, we are not ready. We need to start to rebuild our addiction services along with the rest of society that public health policy has let fray and decay.

We need to start now.


Poverty, and mistaking symptoms for causes

by Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw

What happens when you don't spend enough time understanding good research is this: you take facts which are true and mould them to an explanation that suits, and a solution that suits your ideology even better.

The NZ Initiative report on welfare contains many truths, for example that adults on a benefit are more likely to have a parent on a benefit. Poverty does, we know, cause intergenerational symptoms like the one they highlight. Experiencing poverty as a child increases your risk of experiencing it as an adult.

Why does it though? The highest-quality multidisciplinary research shows us that children in resource poor families are affected by the stress involved in not having enough. Their brain development and their immune systems are impacted by this stress. When they start school they are already disadvantaged and remain so.

Such disadvantage makes it incredibly hard to make use of the education system and what it offers in the same way that other children can. We call it the compounding effect of poverty, just like capital attracts more capital over time, so does a debt build. Stress eats away at families, their relationships and their wellbeing when you don't have enough [PDF].

In Chapter 1 (Special Topic: Intergenerational Poverty), we discussed how, like any asset, skill and human capital accumulates across a lifetime and across generations. The initial presence of a skill allows a child to much better take advantage of opportunity and investments that are made in them than a child who starts with fewer skills. We also explained that in the same vein we see capital and skill trickle away from a family over time, the effects compounding and, and leading to intergenerational disadvantage.

Pennies from Heaven (2017) Berentson-Shaw.

There are some excellent studies showing that financial stress has the same effect on our "cognitive bandwidth", our ability to do higher-order tasks of living in a complex world, in the same way extreme sleep deprivation does. Nothing is simple where poverty is concerned.

So taking a fact like “poverty creates more poverty” and suggesting that welfare dependency, poor parenting, schooling, is both the problem and the solution ignores the "wickedness" of the issue. It mistakes symptoms for causes. It ignores the multiple systems that need addressing:

“Seriously disadvantaged young people lack basic work skills and many don’t even understand what paid work entails. This is more a failure of upbringing and schooling than lack of money.”

“Governments must do a better job of finding out what programmes really work to break the cycle and help people overcome their predicaments.”

Dr Bryce Wilkinson , New Zealand Initiative

But it also ignores the straight up obvious that "money works". And money works for the reasons I explained that not enough money extracts so much from families and their wellbeing.

So sure, let's talk about supporting families who don't have enough to find their freedom, their independence, their self determination, but let's not pretend that a think tank with a pre-established position on the role of government, its size, and the welfare state has a good grip on the best quality research. Of course business is part of this solution, just not in the way it is being proposed here.


The Declaration of the Independence of Corporations

by Colin Jackson

[With apologies to John Perry Barlow]

Governments of the Industrial World, you toothless ogres of laws and taxation, we come from Cyberspace, the new home of global corporations. On behalf of our shareholders, we ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We submit to no national government, nor are we likely to, so we address you as an inconvenience that we tolerate only when we can’t control you through bribing your members or corrupting your electoral processes. We declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us as we exercise our natural rights to exploit this medium and all who use it. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we cannot evade.

Governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You know us as useful donors, but you do not know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Even though the Internet has grown from a seed planted by one of you, you have no right to demand anything of us as we build Cyberspace further to suit our ends.

You have rarely engaged in conversation with us, preferring to try to ape our methods and culture without understanding their true purpose. You did not create the wealth of our balance sheets. You have no right to intervene as we rush headlong into greater and greater domination of conversations and opinion formation among your electors.

You claim there are problems that you need to solve, yet you can’t even agree what they are. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means so that we maximise shareholder value. We are forming our own alliances by using each other’s services as platforms; our governance arises according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our worldview is different from yours, we are more alien than you can imagine.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, advertising and opinions, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our influence. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not accountable to your tawdry physical powers.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs as loudly and belligerently as they wish regardless of the impact on others, and particularly when they align with our requirements for greater profits.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us except where we need them to prevent others from competing with us. They all lead to transparency, and we are far too devious to allow that.

Our identities have no bodies, so we cannot be physically coerced, unlike the little people who ultimately pay for everything we and you do. We want you to believe that we care about ethics, that our self-interest is enlightened and that we will look after all our subjects without having to be compelled to serve less-profitable clients. Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions which makes it virtually impossible for your citizens to exert control over us. The only law that we generally recognize is the one we write ourselves. Our only imperative is never-ending commercial growth. If you find our services to this end useful we are glad, but we will accept no restraint over our right to its pursuit.

In the United States, you have created laws to prevent us from reaching our full potential, which insult the dreams of libertarians everywhere. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they have come to realise how much you have stacked the world against them. Yet you have no way of cooperating to prevent global resource crises or the wrecking of your physical environment. We are happy to let some among you use our world, for a suitable fee, to sabotage global consensus so we continue our drive toward planetary destruction. It was ever thus: we cannot forgo the revenue that conflict gives us even when it destroys futures and lives.

You are trying to control our natural behaviour by erecting barriers against jurisdictions that let us evade tax. You forget that you are installed by the actions of your citizens and we will tell them what to think, or help the highest bidder to. Your notions of democracy show their true value in a world that that is blanketed in social media.

Your increasingly obsolete security services would perpetuate themselves by trying to keep secrets from your citizens and from other governments, in the name of protecting people. But ideas and information are our currency and we will see that they are distributed or not for the good of our bottom lines. We can publish your most sensitive thoughts to the globe in an instant. Don’t make us do that.

Your attempted hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. You are forcing us to become contemptuous of your authority even as we manipulate you to our own ends. We have spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can hold us to account.

We have created a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. We will use it to control you and your citizens so that you cannot resist our power.