Island Life by David Slack


Driving around Mt Eden, looking for a bed.

Forget about the men who sit around John Key's cabinet table. If you want action, if you want decisiveness, if you want certainty of purpose, Judith 'Crusher' Collins is your man.

The talkback callers love her because she sorts people out: the boy racers, Barry Matthews - well maybe not Barry - and now the crims. Stick 'em in a container. It's the only language they understand etc.

This is sublime politics. The rednecks think she's one of their own, but we greenies know what's up. She's playing the most artful of games, and we are really warming to her.

Look again. Crush the boy racers' cars; take one in every ten cop cars off the road, convert used shipping containers into prison cells. Judith's a tree hugger! Finally I understand why the police let us onto the harbour bridge. Their minister is anti-car! She loves the bikes, prefers to walk, and dies a little every time her driver holds opens the BMW door for her.

This is what you overlook when you deride a greenie as loopy and fanciful: they're thrifty, frugal, and bursting with common sense. And this is where I now let the air out of the tyres. I'm not going to bag Judith's Collin's stick-them-in-shipping-containers idea. I have to say it: this might not be a bad idea.

You will find chapter and verse on this web page, by someone who has collected examples from all over the world of containers being adapted to other purposes including, but by no means limited to, the following:

emergency shelters, school buildings, urban homes, rural homes, large houses, apartment and office buildings, artists’ studios, sleeping rooms, stores, shopping malls, transportable factories, mobile exhibition spaces, telco hubs, bank vaults, medical clinics, radar stations, abstract art, data centers, experimental labs, and relocatable marijuana gardens

Here is a house made out of six of them.

As ever, so much lies in the language. If you call them containers, it just sounds cruel. But this here is what you call an inter-modal steel building unit.

There is another alternative, and Brian Rudman has been quick to notice it. He suggests you could buy accommodation for less than replacement cost in downtown Auckland. Stick the overflowing prisoners - the ones near the end of their sentence - in some of the CBD apartment blocks. All very well, but I fear Mr Rudman is speaking from the comfortable remove of the middle class. Has he been inside one of these places? I have. I'm not familiar with the fine print of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but I'm pretty sure your typical Auckland city apartment violates some minimum standard.

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