Random Play by Graham Reid

The ratepayer is revolting

So there I was in bed with the paper this morning as builders with sledgehammers and saws started to rip the final two sides off our leaky home -- for which we have to fork out about $90,000 in advance of what we hope is a generous settlement.

I was reading about the looming rates rise in Auckland, and the talk of my council substantially underwriting the Eden Park redevelopment just at the end of our street.

I said to the wife, “Looks like we might not be able to afford to live in Auckland much longer.”

And I wasn’t joking.

Aside from my already damaged bank balance with the leaky building (and ironically one of the groups we are litigating against is my council), I have considerable concerns about the upgrade of Eden Park for a few reasons -- and one of them, oddly enough, has to do with what the guitarist Ottmar Liebert (due in Auckland for a concert soon) said to me on the phone the other day.

I was interviewing him for the Herald and one of the topics that didn’t make the final cut in our long and digressive conversation was about how people listen to music these days.

He observed there is increasingly a two-tier thing going on: there are the huge stadium-filling acts like the Rolling Stones, U2 and Madonna; and there are the acts (like him) who play to smaller audiences in acoustically comfortable theatres.

He didn’t mention rowdy rock bands of the kind that roar through places like the Kings Arms, but that’s not his thing so we’ll put that aside for the moment.

What he asked, quite properly, was just how much longer will those mass appeal acts in stadiums be around?

Maybe their time is passing.

Okay, we can’t predict the future and maybe in five years or a decade there will be someone like … well . . . you know, someone who can haul in 60,000 punters.
But maybe not.

When there was the outcry to upgrade the Civic Theatre many people banged on about the work being necessary because otherwise we would continue to miss out on shows like Cats and Phantom of the Opera and all those other Andrew Lloyd Webber blockbusters.

Well, we all know what happened to that particular Golden Age of Musicals, don’t we? The Civic has hardly been cramming in thousands for sell-out shows to such things. Those days passed.

Of course the Civic was thoroughly deserving of preservation and renovation . . . but Eden Park?

I have already conceded in these postings that I am not a slavish sports follower, but I did spent one season going to every Blues game at the park, have been into a couple of corporate boxes, sat on the terraces for a few games, and so on.

Nope, I wouldn’t cross the street -- and that’s all I have to do, literally -- to see the cricket, but let’s be honest about that one: unless it’s a big one-dayer most people don’t either. They stay at home in their thousands for three days tests and provincial games.

And the rugby?

Okay, the World Cup is coming -- but it is a one-off, albeit a big one.

What those behind the Eden Park revamp have gone for is the “legacy option" I am informed by the media: that means they want to build something that will last and be there for decades.

But catering for who and what I am asking?

They have previously approached locals about getting permission for sort of family-friendly concerts and bandied about the name of Sir Paul McCartney (who declined to go to Australia in the wake of 9/11 and, at 64, I suspect won’t be embarking on another world tour which takes in this far-flung part of the planet).

I didn't object to the odd concert there, but that idea seems to have gone the way of all flesh. So we are left with the question: if ratepayers are being asked to stump up at least $60 million (which looks worse when you write it as "at least $60,000,000") then what is it for?

For a decent stadium for the World Cup certainly (although most ratepayers won’t be there to see where their dosh has gone), but what use for it afterwards?

Not concerts. Not too many cricket events I am guessing. For a few extra rugby games a season?

I dunno, from my perspective in bed this morning that just didn’t seem to add up to a particularly good bang for my buck.

I'm a simple soul. I just want someone to tell explain clearly to me what ratepayers -- many of whom do support rugby, of course -- are going to be getting after the World Cup out of, and at, this new and improved "legacy".

Some answers please?

Finally: It’s all on for my talk at the Auckland City Library tonight about travel and travel writing. It’s free, should be amusing (I know “a joke” which I will tell), and I am looking forward to it. Second floor from 6pm. See you there I hope. (But please, if you are from the Rugby Union that might not be the time or place to get in my ear about the “legacy option”.)