Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Protecting privilege in Epsom

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to TracyMac,

    I grew up in times when state housing was in almost all suburbs – “pepper-potting”. It was tough being a poor kid at a prosperous school, but if you weren’t the only one, it wasn’t too bad.

    Importantly, those schools were well-resourced and you got to see some of how “the other half lived”. And learn some of the cultural stuff around being middle-class – the language they use, the customs. Even, at a young age, networking. In short, going to a middle-class school was one way to boost upward mobility. Although without middle-class parents or income, it’s merely a start – but better than nothing.

    Pepper-potting was what let John Key go to the same school as me, Burnside High. There was state housing scattered through the nearby suburbs and I think the result of that was good for everyone at the school.

    But I recently had a discussion with a couple of Māori friends about pepper-potting and was quite shocked to discover they had a very different view – they felt it had broken up their communities and cut them off from their culture. So it is complicated sometimes.

    As for those NIMBY wankers in Epsom, the only time I was seriously bullied at school for being “different” was at Epsom Normal Intermediate School.

    Interesting. You’re not the first one I’ve seen mentioning that school in a negative context.

    And I got to go to a kid’s birthday party where the house had a swimming pool AND sauna.

    Heh. Yeah, I remember going to the properly rich kids’ houses …

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Meanwhile in Chchch, the 'legacy' of Hekia Parata's tinkering has resulted in Shirley Boys' High and Avonside Girls being shifted out of Shirley/Richmond and away from the Avon - co-habiting on the old QEII Stadium site in the North Eastern bog areas.
    People living in Avonside and Shirley are now out of the proposed new 'school catchment zones' for these schools!
    This may have come about based on a 2009 proposal to build a high school in that area, but that was before teh earthquakes and surely didn't factor in Shirley Boys and Avonside being taken out of the equation.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Kim Meek,

    Since Apr 2009 • 1 posts Report

  • Craig Young,

    Brilliant article, Russell. One of your best ever!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace,

    I went to watch Question Time in Parliament today. It's so nice and still slightly unreal to see Jacinda as PM and those three parties in Government working together. A question came up on this issue and among various exchanges Phil Twyford said 6 units would be specifically for disabled people. I don't know exactly what this means as I would hope universal design be incorporated into all new builds and therefore accessible to everyone - but 6 disability specific units still sounds good to me. Phil Twyford and David Seymour had a bit of an argument about it all with Phil's comments largely aligned with what Russell says on this post. But soon after David Seymour came over to the Government side and had a long intense chat with Phil Twyford (that didn't look like an extension of an argument) to the extent that Chris Hipkins who was next to them and trying to give a Budget speech all about education, asked them to shut up. I wonder whether they were trying to arrange a public meeting?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I would hope universal design be incorporated into all new builds and therefore accessible to everyone

    We deserve more than 'hope' - when will this be a compulsory standard?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Sacha,

    Good question.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Disability advocates have a history of being 'nice' and look where that has got a movement easily eclipsed by others representing far smaller numbers.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Downbeatdan, in reply to simon g,


    Hamilton • Since Jul 2007 • 12 posts Report

  • william blake,

    I wonder how many people in Epsom have rental property portfolios, that charge 'market rents', that result in poverty, mental illness and the need for state intervention in the property market.

    Since Mar 2010 • 380 posts Report

  • TracyMac, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Regarding the effect on pepper-potting on urban Maori communities, yes, it makes a significant difference when the faces you see around you are mostly brown, and the culture is embedded in THE community culture as a whole - not just the "other" or a token. I'm not at all surprised their experience wasn't that great - obviously pakeha cultural dominance is just that, even with variations due to class/economic difference.

    There's a simple but cool site (http://ncase.me/polygons/) that animates the Schelling model of segregation. It's purely mathematical, with only one variable and all the avatars having the same tolerance levels. But it came up with an interesting notion that while higher tolerance for difference leads to less segregation, it needs to be coupled with an intolerance for a lack of diversity in a community to create a lasting effect (not that minority groups have much choice about their tolerance levels either way). The model also emphasises in one of its examples that when moving avatars around to achieve a good mix, they should be moved in pairs - not alone. Isolation, even in the attempt to "improve" things, is not good. Interesting how a simple model can point to some truths.

    In reality, I do feel that there are definite tipping points before a community can be properly inclusive (and by "inclusive", I mean where cultural differences are not subsumed - the "salad bowl" rather than the "melting pot" of optimistic metaphors). In the old model of pepper-potting, where the housing was sometimes a bit denser than the surroundings, but not that much, it would not have reached those thresholds very often.

    The best school experience I had in that sense was at AGGS. The catchment area wasn't too gentrified yet in the 80s, and a lot of girls from Queen Vic went there for their Bursary year. As a poor pakeha, I felt a bit daunted by the Old Girls and historical context of the school (like the Madrigal Society!), but the fact there were plenty of people in my boat - all the state and council housing in Freeman's Bay - made it fine once I noticed. And it was really diverse in terms of ethnicity.

    Maori and various Polynesian cultures seemed to get a lot of prominence and celebration - I hope those students felt so too. Maori and Poly students certainly had strong pride, but I don't know to what degree they felt it related to the school. Ironically, I didn't realise just how competitive the secondary schools' kapa haka events could be until I was at AGGS. Or, that there was really such a thing as "middle-class Maori", other than a few teachers I'd had previously. That woke up a lot of my ideas.

    So yes, these new public housing efforts must ensure there are enough people around "like them" to make a strong community without running into the issue of ghettoisation and "sink estates" a la crappy places in the UK/Europe. A challenging balancing act, but I do feel it's possible.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report

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