So I thought I'd ask Georgina Beyer to run for mayor of Auckland. She'd be the perfect candidate, I thought. In this day of Schwarzenegger, Kennedy and Clintonite dynasties, fame automatically puts you high up the political ladder. Look at former Midnight Oiler Peter Garrett, defected to the Australian Labor Party with a plum, safe, inner-city Sydney seat. Yep, I thought, Georgina would definitely give Banksie a run for his money.
Georgina would also be following in the honourable footsteps of other great madams, such as Carmen's run in Wellington in 1977, and Sally Stanford in San Francisco in 1976 (1). Of course, Georgina herself made history back in the 90s when she won a Council seat and then the Mayoralty in the small town of Carterton (which eventuated in her Parliamentary win in 1999), all world firsts for a transsexual woman.
Though Carmen didn't win her run in 1977, her policy platform was remarkably prescient:
Hotel bars open to midnight or even 2.00 a.m.
The drinking age lowered to eighteen
Prostitution made legal
Nudity on some beaches
Homosexual acts decriminalised
Sex education in schools for fourteen-year-olds
Carmen was ahead of her time! Today in 2004, quite remarkably and with no fanfare, all of the above are now true. One's head spins imagining the great things Georgina could achieve. Unfortunately, she respectfully declined my request:
Thank you for your kind email... There has been some speculation that I intend to seek election at the upcoming local government elections, but I can assure that this is not the case. I have been involved in politics, both at the local body and the national level, for nearly 12 years and feel that the time has come for me to take some time for myself. ...I am not ruling out a possible return to local body government in the future, but will not be looking at that for at least the coming term. Once again, thank you for your interest.
Georgina Beyer MP"
I was disappointed - but not at all surprised - by Georgina's response. I'd even made a little website for her campaign, and had asked the Topp Twins for their support (they seemed keen). Apparently the above was a form letter; Georgina had also been asked to run for Mayor of Wellington, and also for her local constituency of Carterton.
So where does that leave Auckland? Whither the Land of the Jafas?
With a population growth of close to 1 million more people in the next 25 years, the future seems yet to be written for our country's largest polis. Will it continue to sprawl outwards, mirroring the ethnic spectrum of suburban auto-dependent Los Angeles? Will downtown Auckland ever really succeed as a metropolitan centre, or be "theme parked" into "America's Cup" land (Viaduct Basin) and "Asian Student Land" (Queen Street) whilst big box Foodtowns and Warehouses invade inwards? Will the Eastern Motorway sprawl on outwards, eventually creating another North Shore City out at Beachlands and Maraetai and Coromandel?
In Auckland Tamaki Makaurau today, in our largest and most defining of metropolises, where is that ever elusive "Vision Thang"?
On the "Georgina for Mayor" website, I did develop a number of ideas, which I'd like to share. Here, in no particular order, are twenty one or so ideas for creating a Vision Thang for Auckland Tamaki Makaurau, a vision beyond theme parks and sprawl and cultural blandness:
1. Host an annual Hero Parade, supported in a four-way partnership between the Council, Central Government, private sector sponsors, and community groups. Hold it, perhaps, as part of a wider Auckland Festival? (2) Invest in it to attract back all our queer creatives who are defecting to Oz in droves.
2. Appoint City Cultural Ambassadors in movies, music, art and the stage and for Pacific and Maori cultures. Give them a stipend to travel the world and spread the word on how innovative and fabulous Auckland and New Zealand are. Brazil has them, why don't we? (3) Any ideas on nominees?
3. Reafforest One Tree Hill in bush so that kiekie can grow on Maungakiekie. End the debate on what tree should go on top of this landmark volcano, and plant lots of trees (of course, avoiding all the landmark archaeological sites). Build an ecological centre there to study the kiekie (a parasite plant).
4. Build Inner City Light Rail in a "figure 8" loop to Ponsonby, Mt. Eden, Newmarket and Parnell. Charge a flat fee of $2 to get on to the "loop", with an "open pass" for the day of purchase. Build sheltered stops along the line, and reduce Ponsonby Road to one lane to squeeze in the trains (which should leave just enough space for bike lanes).
5. Build a ponga-lined Aotearoa Boulevard in the eastern suburbs from Glen Innes to Mt. Wellington (but don't build the Eastern Motorway). There's an existing alignment there already, so why not build something attractive and appealing? You might not mind getting stuck in traffic if there's all those pretty native trees to look at, right?
6. Open the Sir Peter Blake International Airport at Whenuapai. It works for JFK in New York, and Ronald Reagan International in Washington DC, so why not Auckland? Sir Barry couldn't argue with that, could he?
7. Electrify commuter rail and build links to Onehunga and the two international airports. This would require creating a through line for rail traffic at Britomart, connecting to the Sky City, Civic Centre, and K Rd underground stations. The line would link back up at Mt. Eden.
8. Send a delegation to Sweden to ask them to open an Ikea in Auckland Tamaki Makaurau. I stole this idea from a post to Public Address (4), and its a good one. They have them in Oz, why not here? Of course, its probably coming soon to Botany Downs; but why not have one slap dab in the middle of the city for all those chic apartment dwellers?
9. Change the name of the city to Auckland Tamaki Makaurau (ATM for short). Our civic employees would then have the honour of working for "Auckland Tamaki Makaurau City Council", which I guess is a bit of a mouthful. But we'd soon start calling it ATM for short, a cheeky and affectionate moniker for our gorgeous "city on the make". Someone could start an urban street rag with the name (for all those new dashing young commuters).
10. Build an underground railway line from Britomart to Mt. Eden (Maungawhau). See point (6), above. The Sky City station would be somewhere down at "Parking Level 6", with a travelator at street level across to Queen Street. Civic Station would exit at Aotea Centre. K Rd Station would have an escalator gallery up to street level showing all the latest Queen City fashion (drag or otherwise).
11. Introduce night buses and Sunday trains (yep, also stolen from Public Address). Apparently there are rumours the Sunday trains are already running. Night buses would be a fascinating idea in a city that's about to introduce 24-hour drinking establishments.
12. Build a (sheltered) bikeway and walkway over the harbour bridge. San Francisco has it on the Golden Gate, Sydney on its famous coathanger. New Yorkers couldn't live without their walkway across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Why have we waited so long? Then maybe we'd also put in a little suspension foot/bike bridge across to the Bayswater marina, for aerial views of those protected birdlife and easy access to the golden North Shore sands.
13. Finish the ring road to West Auckland and Albany (Ok, also stolen from Public Address). Mark Broatch says European cities have ring roads, so why don't we? But build it properly. None of those half-pied "Pakuranga Expressway" disasters. Take the billions we're gonna waste on the Eastern Highway, and squander it on a decent motorway from Pakuranga (with a multi-directional interchange at the Southern Motorway), across to the southeastern to a decent new interchange at Pt. Chev. Then, zoom zoom zoom you're on your way to the Sir Peter Blake or your road trip up north.(Why did we get rid of those titles, anyway?)
14. Embargo all development encroachments on major parks (over 50 ha.). I stole this from Brian Rudman (see below). It might also be a good idea to institute some planning to expand city parks, and build cycleways and walkways connecting them together (see 17).
15. Appoint Brian Rudman as a Planning Commissioner. I don't know why anyone didn't think of this sooner? Yes, ATM City Council would have a truly "independent" expert on planning matters, and we'd finally see some sensible planning decisions being made in our biggest burg. Then maybe we won't mind all those planning decisions being made without any public input.
16. Develop a Sustainable City Plan. Waitakere has one. Its called the "Eco-City" brand. Apparently Mayor Fletcher was going to put one in place until she was so insensibly ousted. Supposed "lack of leadership" and hormones had something to do with it, apparently. Oh, and given Banksies recent keenness for V8s, testosterone as well methinks.
17. Create walkways and cycleways across the city. Somehow the Greenies settled for bikeways and cycleways adjacent to the Eastern Highway, which have now been given the boot. Thank God. Like, who wants to do a nice leisurely cycle adjacent to a Motorway? Um, the throngs adjacent to the Western Motorway every weekend? Not blimen likely. No, we need an innovative plan for cycleways and walkways, like sensitively designed ped/cycle only bridges across Auckland's myriad waterways (see 11). Connected, over time, like a lovely spiderweb upon Mangrovia...
18. Build a rail line along the Western Bypass. Long-term plans, but build in capacity now for the rail line to eventually go in place. Then there'd eventually be a fantastic figure "8" Isthmus Loop to go with the inner city one. People like simple concepts, as long as they're down well!
19. Summer siesta. Start a corporate club whereby employees can work 10.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. in Summer. They get to work, and miss all the traffic. They go out for cheap set lunches, and lounge around in outside al fresco settings for an hour or two, before wandering back to work for a 1/2 hour siesta. After a dip in the Waitemata. Or pop home, on clog-free freeways, for a family focused, school holidays lunch. (yep, idea ala Mark Broatch)
20. Traffic Lights. Strategically get rid of all those roundabouts that only promote fast moving traffic and pedestrian / cyclist headaches. Our British planners seem to have a love affair with roundabouts (they were recently planning a four storey one below Parnell, ick!) but this affair must end. I, for one, simply loathe the Greenlane interchange. Give pedestrians decent greenlight crossing time cycles. End roadway colonisation! Enter phased flow onto motorways!
21. Put in more civic art. Maori art. Tohu along the highway from the airport (with the western bypass, you'll be able to get to both of them without exiting at all!). Waterfront art in the harbour resembling the reed structures our tangata whenua ancestors used to live on at Lake Papaitonga at Levin. And maybe even an 80 storey high "Whare Rangi" apartment development piercing the sky in tones of red, white and black. Heaven knows, they're already building one at this height on the Gold Coast.
21b. I couldn't resist. One extra just for fun. An international architectural design competition. Select a plum public land site (um, just below the harbour bridge, maybe?). Think of some fabulous public institution to put there (Um, an Opera House? A museum?). Then set up a competition for international architects to work with a panel of Maori, PI and Pakeha architects and designers to come up with something fabulous. Something groundshaking. Calatravas. Johnson. Rogers. etal. Like they did in Milwaukee (5). Like they did in Bilbao. Both cities which, by the way, are smaller than Auckland...
21c. Oh, and build a lifestyle motorway to Taupo for ski weekends. Oops. I forgot. They're already doing that. Its called the Waikato Expressway...
Drive around any suburban street in Auckland, and if it weren't for the iconic Sky Tower (6), you might as well be in any other western style sprawling burg. Isn't it time there was some vision and direction for Auckland Tamaki Makaurau, some vision of a World City scale? Jafaland repeatedly gets listed at the top of the lists of quality of life surveys; isn't it time we started putting some plans in place that reflected and protected these unique values?
Instead, we're doing transport planning based on a 1955 motorway plan. Has anyone even read this plan? I have. Did you know it included a four-lane double deck motorway on the CBD waterfront, right in front of the Ferry Building, straight across the Viaduct Basin? It was a sad day when Mayor Robbie's underground railway plan was trounced, but its still not too late for Auckland, I think. His statue stands in Aotea Square, waiting.
Perhaps one day Georgina will change her mind. Perhaps one day, someone might think about actually implementing some of the ideas I've listed above.
We need to look at the model of successful European cities and the capitals of near-neighbour Australia, and build a new vision drawing on the best of these; yet based around our unique sense of place and cultural heritage. Our Maori-ness should be at the forefront: not just another "ethnic minority" to "perhaps" consider for inclusion. Auck Land: the demographic capital of Maoriland. (7) Its our point of difference.
Auckland Tamaki Makaurau is the largest city of our great burgeoning nation. A melting pot for a new millenium: spirited Maoritanga, chuckling Kiwiana, hedonist Polyfornia, and a heady dash of Middle Earth celtic rurality and Oscar success. Auckland needs vision to take its place as the preeminent city of Aotearoa New Zealand. At current trends, its CBD will turn into a theme park surrounded with car clogged ethnically fractured suburbia. It truly time for visionary thinking, and for a new generation to assume the mantle of civic leadership.
Otherwise, we're all simply Lost in the Land of the Jafas.
NOTES & LINKS:
(1) Sally Stanford, onetime San Francisco madam, gave up the world's oldest profession in 1948. In 1972, she was elected to the Sausalito City Council and in 1976 she was elected mayor. http://www.well.com/~wh/70s.html
(6) Even our Sky Tower is cookie cutter. There's a replica in Macau. And it's bigger.
(7) Maori Flag: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?thesection=news&thesubsection=&st oryID=3582829
LOST IN THE LAND OF THE JAFAS originally appeared on Naked in Nuhaka at http://www.ahikaa.com/naked/jafas.htm
ABOUT NAKED IN NUHAKA Leo Koziol (email@example.com) writes essays on ecology, identity, culture, place and planning in Aotearoa NZ in the 21st Century. Nuhaka is located on the East Coast of the North Island of NZ. Mr. Koziol often makes visits to ATM (some of his friends actually haven't left for Melbourne or London). Recently, in a certain inner-city Ponsonby cafe, he was discussing some of the ideas listed above when a cafe connoisseur seated nearby exclaimed "I couldn't help but overhear what you were saying..." Intense conversation ensued, to which she exclaimed "You should run for Mayor!" Mr. Koziol replied, "I'm sorry; like Georgina Beyer, I'm far too busy with my own community." (www.manawairoa.com)
ALL CONTENT (C) LEO KOZIOL & RAUTAKI GROUP CONSULTANTS 2004