Island Life by David Slack

I Want John Banks To Be My Mayor

Don’t click back. You haven't arrived at Aaron Bhatnagar’s blog by mistake. The headline is genuine, but not for the reason you might imagine.

If you live at the Devonport end of the North Shore, there's a good likelihood you spend more time in downtown Auckland than you do in any of the suburbs north of here. Our nearest courthouse is in Albert Street, which beats the next closest one - in Albany - by some distance. Thousands of us spend most of our working day on the far side of the bridge, and we're as likely to be eating, drinking or watching music or movies over there as we are doing something over here on any given night.

The administrative functions of North Shore City Council seem to be drifting northwards, away from us, and the new geographical centre of the North Shore seems to be drifting with it. This is all splendid news for the growth of North Shore City, but at a certain point, it seems only fair to ask whether we down here at the abandoned end should still be a part of it.

Our local paper made the good point a couple of weeks ago that it might be time to reconsider the city boundaries. So how about it, Mayor Wood? Goodbye Devonport, helloooo Silverdale?

The paper got a couple of eager letters in favour, and I've been trying out the idea on a few of the neighbours. There seems to be a good bit of enthusiasm for it. I haven't actually struck anyone saying That city with the mayor who wants a four billion dollar motorway - I want in on that, but I have struck a few people grumbling that apart from a costly rescue of our decrepit sewer and drainage system, there doesn't seem to have been any very significant spending of our rates dollars down here.

Whether we'd get any better deal from an Auckland Council is hard to say, of course. Perhaps we could put the entire thing up for tender. We're already being managed by remote for the most part - why not go the whole hog? Tim Shadbolt might see us as a handy boost to his rating base.

Okay, that's getting a bit far-fetched, I'll admit. But while I'm tossing far-fetched ideas around, I might as well mention another one I've nursed for years, because if you could actually make it work, it could be quite a nice dowry to offer the ACC.

If you've ever taken the ferry over to Devonport, you'll have noticed that a good chunk of the shoreline facing the city is occupied by the Navy. Any aftershave-coated real estate agent could line up a buyer for that land before you could say new Audi. And in point of fact we're talking fleets of Audis for that particular stretch of property. It's a BIG chunk of land and the views are all harbour.

Given that we live in a remarkably benign geopolitical climate, we theoretically don't need a Navy, of course, but giving due deference to realpolitik, I'd suggest the smart option would be to hang on to it.

But does it actually need to be in Auckland? Why not put it some place else where the land is less expensive? This very suggestion came up just a few years ago. Picton loved the idea, and so did Whangarei. The navy could see some benefits too - a good chunk of their personnel are finding the rising cost of housing in Auckland a real problem. The idea of moving to, say, Whangarei looked not all bad. Studies were duly done, but unfortunately the decision in the end was: stay put.

I reckon it's worth another look. Mate, you want to see what they're paying for land around here. What follows here is an entirely uncosted proposal by someone who is neither a developer nor an engineer, and who has no intention of risking even a single one of his hard-earned American dollars on any opportunity to participate in any such venture.

Should you proceed with this most excellent idea, you will be doing so on the basis that you acknowledge that in respect of these plans, I scarcely know what I'm talking about. Should you actually be an engineer or developer, please by all means let me know if this is as you might say, a runner.

Enough with the preamble. Here's the idea.

One. The Navy flogs the land (including dockyard) and uses the proceeds to move to a new home at some other accommodating port.

Two. Developer whacks up apartments along the entire site, said apartments to be limited in height to the cliff line behind them, thereby leaving views from - and of - existing heritage homes unmolested.

Three. Developer flogs off these apartments with marvellous views to punters at usual egregious margin.

And why will punters pay through the nose for them? Because it shall be a condition of the resource consent that said developer shall construct a connecting under-harbour tunnel to the bottom of Queen Street, containing a walkway, with one of those travelator things you get in the big international airports.

Okay, these things aren't cheap, but just think how much you'll be able to charge for the apartments, Sparky. Harbour views, a short stroll to Queen Street in all weathers, none of the noise you get in the central city, and a location that can never be built out, even with Auckland City's daft building laws.

And this is a dowry for Auckland City why? Because effectively you're sticking - who knows - maybe a few thousand extra rate-paying residents in the middle of the city at no significant additional load on the transport system. They’ll be doing their commuting on the travelator, as will a shitload of people in the Devonport and surrounding area, I can confidently promise you.

This will, of course, create parking and traffic issues and Fullers Ferries would hardly be likely to thrill to the idea. But these are - as Dustin Hoffman said so correctly in Wag the Dog, mere details. Cut Fullers in on the action, make some more parking spaces - no sweat. And even if it might sound a bit out there, just remember, you’ve also heard this year about a 4 billion dollar motorway that probably won't be able to pay for itself, and a V8 race in a city that's plagued by traffic arterial sclerosis.

If I were Candidate Banks, I’d be in like a robber's dog.