Via Jarrett Walker, I recently ran across a provocative article by Aaron Renn in the Guardian: “In praise of boring cities“. Renn takes his fellow urbanists to task for the narrowness of their vision about what makes a good city:

Those of us who love urban areas’ walkability, variety and novelty often have a tendency to universalise – not to say sacralise – our values and tastes. But in an ever more diverse world, different people are going to have different ideas about the good life. We need to be more tolerant of those who make different choices… Some people like stability, predictability, rootedness and a lot of what suburbs have to offer. There’s nothing wrong with that. We frequently fail to recognise that our own personal preferences are in most cases just that. And too often in urbanist discussions, that means white hipster preferences.

I’ll be the first to agree that some of Renn’s examples are pretty over the top. The hipster chefs in Portland who were arrested for brawling over whether their pork products were “local” enough: definitely absurd. And as I’ve written in the past, I fully agree that we should:

That being said, I’m both an advocate for cities and a professional working on urban policies. And you know what? The advocates are pretty diverse when compared to the people who are making most of the decisions about transport and urban policy. That’s not a criticism; just an observation.

The face of transport thought leadership
The face of transport thought leadership

Moving on, Renn also calls for more focus on getting the “boring” elements of urban policy right: sound, affordable housing, good public services, including transport, and economic opportunities:

What’s more, to say a place is boring is to implicitly acknowledge that it’s getting the basics right. Getting your water shut off in Detroit certainly adds soul and excitement to that city, but I’m sure it’s an experience most residents would like to forgo. Cities can’t truly make a name for themselves as merely a “me-too” collection of attributes that everyone else is doing. But the uniqueness of a place comes on top of a foundation of getting the basics right. You can’t have the sizzle without the steak.

Unfortunately, part of what drives people to choose so-called “soulless” cities is that they excel in the basics, like reasonably priced housing, policing or schools. DC’s violent crime rate is 10 times higher than in “soulless” Arlington; “boring” Zurich ranked seventh in Monocle’s 2014 quality of life survey. No amount of artisanal chocolatiers or challenging art can make up for failing to give your children a crime-free walk to school. Cities would be well-served by putting as much focus on getting vanilla right as they do in creating those exotic flavours so many of us love. The boring parts of cityhood are just as important as the sexy ones.

I have three thoughts about this. First and foremost, I agree that we need to focus on doing dull well. In Auckland, right at the moment, that means:

  • Getting the city’s frequent bus network up and running, with the bus lanes and interchanges needed to make it go – which will extend good public transport services to many parts of the city that have historically been under-served
  • Putting safe walking and cycling infrastructure in place rapidly and effectively – which means a lot of dull intersection rejigs and the like
  • Ensuring that our urban planning framework will allow people to construction new dwellings in the places they want to be, without onerous restrictions like minimum parking requirements.

In fact, if you look back at Transportblog’s posting history, we’ve always been more concerned about boring but consequential topics. We’ve written much more about how important it is to have a functional public transport system that serves lots of people than it is to have novelty projects.

Which leads me on to a second point: When Renn directs his ire towards hipster urbanists who like streetcars, he fails to notice that transport agencies and politicians – you know, the people making the decisions – are often peddling much worse projects. The NAACP, an African-American civil rights organisation, may have opposed a streetcar in Cincinnati on the grounds that it would foster gentrification and eventually displace existing residents. But let’s not ignore the fact that ramming freeways through predominantly African-American inner city neighbourhoods has done much, much more damage.

In transport policy in particular, there’s a pernicious tendency to invest in expensive motorway projects that offer great ribbon-cutting opportunities. Unfortunately, many of these projects don’t offer especially good value for money. And they squeeze out funding for smaller, more beneficial projects, including maintenance and renewals of existing street networks.

Finally, some of Renn’s points about “boring” versus “exciting” cities don’t travel very well. Due to decades of neglect and deliberate anti-urban policies like inner-city freeways and discriminatory “redlining” mortgage policies, American cities are genuinely more decrepit and dangerous anything we’ve got down under. For example, Oakland, CA, a city of 400,000 people near San Francisco, has twice as many murders a year as the whole of New Zealand.

In other words, New Zealand’s cities are doing the boring stuff comparatively well. There’s certainly room to do dull better – and Transportblog will always argue for it. But it’s also okay to get excited about the hip and sexy things happening in our cities!

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  1. Is it me or does that picture show more of the problem we have with transport rather than solutions in regards to these “Thought Leaders?”

    Seems to be missing women and non white ethnicities?

    Looks like something straight out of a 1960’s history book than a 21st Century summit on Transport

    1. And why no beards. Everyone knows hipsters are thought leaders, hipsters have beards, ipso facto at least a few of the thought leaders should have beards.

    2. “Is it me or does that picture show more of the problem we have with transport rather than solutions in regards to these “Thought Leaders?Seems to be missing women and non white ethnicities?”

      It’s just you. It’s an advertisement for a conference with typical advertising puffery to extract over $1000 from the punters. The individuals pictured are no more “thought leaders” than they are shamens (or is the plural shamen? I should look that up sometime). To term the conference a “summit” is just hyperbole. Here’s a quote from the website of the company that organises these transport conferences:

      “The Transport NZ Summit is a great opportunity to raise your profile in the transport sector. If the transport industry is your target market and you supply products and services to this sector then this is the ideal event to sponsor or exhibit at”

      …get the picture? The indignation of those who claim that they are not representative of Auckland is perplexing. One of them is the COO of Napier port, another is the grain and seed chairperson of Federated Farmers, FFS! As a group they are not formulating Auckland transport policy or claiming to represent a cross section of the population. The whole thing is a commercial talkfest of the type best avoided by rational and/or fun-loving individuals.

      Relax and have a beer (now there’s an area that has shown remarkable diversity over the last few years). I can recommend Yakima Monster from Kumeu. If my memory serves me well it is as good, if not better than any American pale ale I ever drank in the US.

    3. Gosh someone held a conference 3 years ago and didn’t even consider gender and ethnic balance! Lucky this blog exists or people might not have thought that was relevant.

      1. It’s pretty poor form mfwic to not consider ethnic or gender diversity in putting together a conference. I have spoken at several and can report diversity has a measurable impact on the outcome. I don’t want ‘group think’ by definition that’s not why I go.

        And it is a bit of a worry more broadly for NZ if they haven’t managed to appoint anyone from Maori/Pacific, Asia or non-Anglo Europe or other backgrounds to these ‘thought leader’ roles. In one sense you might be right – if diversity was lived and breathed in NZ then you wouldn’t need to consider it in putting together a conference, it would happen as a natural consequence.

        1. ‘It’s pretty poor form mfwic to not consider ethnic or gender diversity in putting together a conference’ The Green party consitantly organise conferences without diversity. Unless you are Gay/Lesbian, white, vegan you never get invited.

        2. I imagine their events are open to members of the party. From your comment I suspect it’s not your intention to join.

        3. Funny, I’m none of the above and I get invited, and I’m not a member or even vote for them. Maybe people don’t invite you to their functions because you are a nasty person?

        4. Have another look at the page and you will see that most of the people on there are sponsors. So someone presumably thought it a good idea to stroke their egos with a picture on the front page. But the bigger picture is some of us think merit counts for something regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion and some of us pretend merit counts but actually count up, categorise and judge people according their sex, race or thoughts and then bleat about it even if it was three years ago.

        5. And some of us think that if a long page full of “thought leaders” includes 0% women when NZ has 50%, and 100% whites when NZ is at most 70% white (and Auckland less so) – then that shows that something is WRONG, despite all the “Meritocracy!” defensiveness.

    1. Old, half-dead white men, thinking old, half-dead white thoughts, gets you an old, half-dead white city. Whereas Auckland is a young, brown, half-female, and positively alive Asian city. What sort of thoughts would the “thought leaders” be having if they were younger, female, and less uniformly white?

      Think of a typical exec as pictured here – male, middle class, driving to work in a flash car, on his own. I’m betting they neither car-pool, nor bus to work. Now think of a young mother, perhaps pregnant (again), with toddlers in tow, and a pram or stroller and shopping as well. Which of these people is more likely to have to use the bus? I’m sure we would design cities (and buses) differently if we turned the tables.

    2. Seriously? Do you believe what you just wrote. Sexist, ages, racist nonsense. Think you ticked all the bias boxes in one go. Same as Guys nonsense below.Where is the moderator on this?

      1. Ricardo this moderator is white, middle aged, and male, but perhaps a little less insecure than you. I agree completely with Guy’s comment: Grey people making grey decisions make for a grey city. Of course not everyone in any group are the same and there are people who fit that description who have and are fighting to change the dreary group-think of this generation. And we can see the results all around our city now. But still doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be better with more diversity at the decision making table. Got to call how it is.

        1. Patrick if I were to say black poor welfare and bludging you would have palpitations. Most middle class white males pay the taxes, rates, run the businesses and have the experience of life to offer much more in the way of good ideas. I get disappointed by the slagging off on this blog of people who do not share the pro PT and cycling views that you and others have. This article starts with comment about everyone having different views. And that they are all valid. Contributors that want roading to work or a focus on core infrastructure are routinely put down. Is this blog site only about cycling and PT?

        2. Oh but there really is nothing duller than moaning from the centre. Moaning and victim-playing by those for whom everything is organised, whose views are reflected back at them everyday, whimpering that dull conventionalism isn’t afforded enough respect. Really_just_tiresome. Please try to present an evidenced, nuanced argument rather than just whine about ‘the direction of the blog’. Dullsville.

        3. “Most middle class white males pay the taxes, rates, run the businesses and have the experience of life to offer much more in the way of good ideas”

          And to claim racism, sexism, etc in the same post. Quite an achievement.

  2. An allied problem to perceived “boringness” is the issue of non-growth. Auckland is exciting at the moment, at times anyway, because it is in a period of extreme growth. There are cranes, and trucks, and proposals to dig tunnels. Exciting stuff, funded by promise of future growth. Much harder however, is keeping a city interesting when it is full, complete, and not growing. Zurich is a bit like that – probably not growing much, with the city centre largely complete since god knows when, (although when I was last there they did have a growing problem with heroin addicts at the train station….). It is far harder to keep a city interesting when it is not powered by growth, when it is not eternally changing. Growth by nature cannot be for ever – yet that is the state we seek – and ultimately, logically, one day it will end. And reverse. Detroit, I imagine, is now a very interesting place once more as it retreats…

    1. Guy I like your thinking. The question is perpetual growth (both economic and physical infrastructure) feasible? Can cities like Mumbai, Cairo, Cape Town, Lasaka et all continue to grow? How can other growth be cutrtailed or even stopped? What are the limits to their growth or will they just collapse?
      Chicago school of economics don’t seem to ave an answer.
      Is a steady state economy possible?
      In the sixties we debated the uptake of technology creating the liesure society and i really did not foresee the ownership of the technology producing such a disfunctional society.
      I believe we need to look at these aspects of the cities growth and the ability of the inhabitants to interact and support one another.

    2. Ivan Illich wrote a scenario in the 70’s ( I think it was in “Deschooling Society” where he was critical of a World Bank loan to Brazil for the building of a motorway from Buenos Aires to Brasilia (which was to be the new capital). He felt that it was a loan whose repayment would be borne by the low and middle income citizenry the majority of whom would not be able to afford to ride in a bus on the completed project. He felt that for he funds committed they could afford to give every village in Brasil a mountain mule (a three wheeled motorised vehicle steered by a tiller with a low pan to carry loads) and to build 6ft side road bed to link all the villages. This would create local employment, increase inter village trade and commerce, reduce slum growth and increase indigenous health and wellbeing.
      So what are the alternatives to centralised perpetual growth?

      1. Buenos Aires to Brasilia? It can be driven – 3,038 kms at 36 hours. But how come the Argentines don’t get a say?

  3. Auckland, and I think most other cities in New Zealand, have their unique selling points. I think for Auckland our double habour is fantastic and it’s great that we are starting to make the most of it. The suburbs will always have their place in Auckland and for many it’s the best form of living for them. But as this blog has made the point over and over again it’s about having choice. Too often the planning rules and the like have forced Auckland into one model. People also like the novel big items rather than the boring day to day stuff but that’s true for other fields like defence and health.

    And before people put the boot too hard into white middle class males let’s also remember that probably the best ideas in the world have also come from this group.

    1. Yeah, the old white guys are now turning their attention to wrecking our harbour.

      Gee I’ve just noticed Gerry there as a keynote speaker as a transport ‘thought’ leader.

      1. I never said that middle class white men were/are perfect but some of the best ideas – in general not just transport – have been thought up by individuals that people like to disparage today by the phrase “old white guys”. I can’t see how it is been inclusive by disparaging one group to elevate another.

  4. I don’t think many intelligent people, who analyse the issues, have a problem with major PT projects like the CRL or the new network.

    There’s a lot to be said, however, about the sort of “hipster” projects AC and their CCOs are peddling for the inner city.

    The current LTP peddles a lot of these “hipster” things – the extra flavours – before we have the vanilla right.

    Instead of putting a park on Victoria Street, or closing down Quay St, what if…
    1. We could have more frequent recycling pickups?
    2. We could have “ring and collect” inorganic collections? (part of the WMMP admittedly)
    3. We could have faster response times to dog attacks/barking, and more proactive dog education patrols on beaches?
    4. We could have faster response times to noise complaints?
    5. We could have building and resource consents processed in 15 statutory working days, not 20?
    6. We could have a faster AT response to illegally parked vehicles (imagine a fleet ready to hit EVERY 4pm clearway instantaneously. I imagine the time savings would exceed most motorways)

    There are plenty of areas where we could do “vanilla” a lot better.

    1. Have you ever seen the “Bear Patrol” episode of the Simpsons?

      Not sure why you would want those things, going to weekly recycling collection would exactly double the cost of collecting the same amount of refuse, for example.

      1. Of course, what madman could possibly want the drummer at 1am stopped after 15 minutes rather than 30. How stupid of me.

        1. Yep, I sure want to pay through the teeth for an army of noise control officers to sit around in rapid response patrol cars on every street corner just waiting for a once a blue moon event within a two block radius. Do you realise how many staff they would need stationed all over to be able to respond within fifteen minutes? Talk about a moronic waste of money.

        2. Oddly enough, my friend, you could probably halve the average response time to noise control incidents for about $1.5-2m per year.

          Over 100 years it would cost less than 1/10th of the CRL 🙂

        3. PS there are 50,000 noise control complaints a year. Not quite once in a blue moon.
          Amount of utility generated would be impressive.

        4. So someone living in one of Aucklands half million residences might expect to call in a complaint once every ten years on average?

          So a mere $20 million to save 15 minutes of inconvenience once a decade? Bargain!

        5. Let’s do the maths! I assume by your nom-de-plume that you’re up for it. And I’ll take all your figures for given. So we have:
          * 50,000 noise complaints a year
          * 30 minute average response time
          * $1.5-2 million to halve the average response time (i.e. reduce the time people experience excessive noise by 15 minutes).

          So in other words, we’re reducing the number of hours of excessive noise that Aucklanders experience by 12,500 per annum (50,000 complaints * 15 minute reduction in time / 60 min/hr).

          You claim that the cost of avoiding these 12,500 hours of noise is $1.5-2 million per annum. In other words, each hour of avoided noise is expected to cost between $120-$160. ($1.5m/12,500 hrs or $2m/12,500 hrs). Or $30-$40 per complaint, if you prefer to see it that way.

          Now, the average hourly wage in Auckland is around $28. So on average, it would be more cost-effective for Auckland Council to pay noise complainants to sleep in an extra half-hour in the morning. This would cost, on average, $14 per complainant rather than the $30-$40 that your proposal would cost.

    2. ” We could have a faster AT response to illegally parked vehicles (imagine a fleet ready to hit EVERY 4pm clearway instantaneously. I imagine the time savings would exceed most motorways)”

      Well ,careful what you wish for.
      In the old ACC in the ’80s it used to be like this, with a real hands off approach to towing of vehicles by ACC – as a result the towies would queue up by the dozens along key routes, waiting for the 4pm Clearway time rollover.
      Then it would become all (towie) hands dealing to the errant motorists.

      And towies would simply cruise the streets looking for illegally parked cars, when they saw one, they’d pull U-turns in the middle of the rush hour to “claim” the job (often ending up fighting with each other for who got there first).

      There were so many towies out there, that they used to cause jams as bad as those they were seeking to remove by towing.
      And if you ever got towed you’d never know who’d taken your car – so you had no idea where to to go to retrieve it and council had no idea either as they weren’t involved.
      Basically council washed its hands of the problem and let the market sort it out.

      And if all this sounds like the deregulated taxi market today – you’d probably not be mistaken.

      Eventually council took things in hand and a law change meant to tow a vehicle from the public street required a parking warden be present to write the ticket first and council (and police) gradually came up with some better system for allocating jobs than fist fights.

      Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far the other way? Maybe.

    3. How many people are affected by noise complaints every day? Compare with how many are affected by poor transport. I think I know where the priorities lie…

      1. And what about resource and building consents? How much value could an extra $10m towards those departments create – more staff, faster processing times, quicker development.

        We aren’t talking about not doing the CRL, we are talking about not spending $$$ on hipster projects like the Vic Park Linear Park or more crap at the Wynyard Quarter for bearded milkshake drinkers

    4. It’s funny the things you dismiss as “hipster” are all using public resources more effectively- playing movies in a public park, opening a street for people, etc. I sense a real contempt for public life tinged with a generational bias. It wasn’t long ago when these sorts of events were a regular function of cities and city life. I think movies at Wynyard is one of the best things to emerge from the New Auckland. I enjoy it with my kids and my in-laws and overseas visitors.

      1. >> “… one of the best things to emerge from the New Auckland.”

        Funny that New Auckland is mostly a function of Old Auckland — what with its waterfront, streetcar suburbs and grids. I’d warrant that the complaints about New Auckland are coming from Old New Auckland, which was the rest of Auckland, built entirely in the private motor vehicle’s image. I for one look forward to a New New Auckland which shares the fruits of the New Auckland (i.e. Old Auckland) with all of Auckland, Old or New. A New New Auckland for a New New Zealand, I say!

        1. ‘I for one look forward to a New New Auckland which shares the fruits of the New Auckland (i.e. Old Auckland) with all of Auckland, Old or New. A New New Auckland for a New New Zealand, I say!’

          Indeed. Precisely what we’re doing here. You’re welcome.

  5. That line by Orson Welles springs to mind – on the difference between the Borgias in Italy and Switzerland – on the one hand you have opera, literature, Michaelangelo, with greatest art and architecture in history, amidst 500 years of bloodshed – and on the other hand you have peace – and the cuckoo clock.

    1. Except Welles never said it, he wrote it as extra dialogue in “The Third Man”.

      The actual quote:

      “You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

      Wikipedia says, that Green [Author of the book] said that Welles [Screenplay] told him that the line was actually from “an old Hungarian Play”.
      So the idea is not original to Welles, and was acknowledged by the phrase “You know what the fellow said”

      I think we can now, in light of recent discoveries about Switzerland’s dark past during WWII, rephrase to the line to not just “The cuckoo clock.” but:

      “The cuckoo clock and layers upon layers of banking secrecy to protect and fund every despot, dictator and megalomaniac ever since.”

      1. Except also that the cuckoo clock is not Swiss. It was invented in the Black Forest, Baden-Württemberg.
        Great movie though.

  6. The excerpts provided above make a lot of sense. It’s refreshing to see such perspectives.

    I find it rather ironic that Peter states he agrees with the statement “Have a conversation about cities that incorporates diverse viewpoints”. As someone who is not afraid of providing an alternative perspective I find the cult like nature of this blog discourages discussion of diverse viewpoints. The moderators don’t help either led by chief attack dog Patrick Reynolds who jumps down the throat of anyone with an alternative perspective.

    [Editor’s note: This is in violation of user guideline 4: “General moaning about the blog and its editorial direction is extremely boring.” Please stop whinging.]

    I was also amused by this statement:
    “In fact, if you look back at Transportblog’s posting history, we’ve always been more concerned about boring but consequential topics. We’ve written much more about how important it is to have a functional public transport system that serves lots of people than it is to have novelty projects.”

    Boring but consequential topics are not limited to PT reliability. This blog should be taking a lead role in attacking the councils decision to stop mowing berms but there isn’t even a squeak. Another boring but consequential topic is the issue of financial management, a topic that gets shut down every time it is raised.

    We frequently hear on here that we should be measuring a city’s success by the variety of eating options and shops available. A good city should be far wider than that.

    Finally I totally disagree that NZ cities are safer than the US. I’ve walked around Chicago late at night and it felt safer than many parts of Auckland. The difference for me is that crime in the US isn’t random. If you don’t piss someone off they don’t go after you. In NZ anyone can be a target, predominantly at the hands of Maori/PI criminals.

    [Editor’s note: I considered deleting this paragraph, as it is in serious violation of user guidelines 1 (“Treat other members of the community with civility and respect”) and 8v (“Sexist, racist or other offensive comments”). Stereotyping one-third of Auckland’s population as “criminals” is destructive to any attempt to foster a broader conversation about cities.

    However, I have let it stand as an example of the kind of comment we will delete or expunge in the future. It’s unhelpful and unfair.]

    1. Jeeze, no wonder you feel put down if you think our biggest issues are barking dogs and lawn mowing, and you talk about financial management in the same breath as saying the council needs to quadruple it’s noise control staff and mow people’s lawns for them?

      1. I mentioned dogs and noise control, not him

        And I wasn’t saying “less $ for transport”, I was saying “less $ for hipster projects” so we can have fewer kids bitten by dogs, faster resource and building consents, more people sleeping better and being more productive, fewer people getting food poisoning through better restaurant monitoring, and less urine pissed into doorways by our transient inner city population.

        Of course, much more important that a few people can drink their PBR while watching The Breakfast Club on the bigscreen down at Wynyard.

    2. You know TRM, the name of this blog should clue you in about it – the name on the tin says what it does: ‘Transport’ – its not “RatesbustersBlog”, “CrimeStoppers” or “IHateLenBrownBlog”

      There are of course many facets to how Transport and any city interact, not least via its Urban Design and land use. So its remit even when focussing on transport is strictly not just about making PT run on time or for less money.

      But whether Council does berm mowing (or not), whether it is guilty of alleged Financial Mismanagement or not, or even whether Len Brown is still suitable as a mayor or not, are not this blogs stated business.

      There are plenty of other blogs who do go on about these things, some ad-nauseum – those ones tend to have animal names in them, so you can go there if you like, or you can start your own.

      1. Can’t we just tell the right wing trolls to shove it? They don’t need to come to this blog. There are plenty of others.

        1. Noooo, I love this blog and its dialogue between different and mostly somewhat informed commenters. Whale Oil and other nasty places are just homes for really politically ugly people. Here, there is (mostly) really good intelligent discussion. Which is why I gave up my blog – – as the conversation just wasn’t happening. Transport Blog may not be about grass berms, and may not always be about Transport, but it’s good.

        2. Dialog, exactly. Sometimes it gets heated, but you can always dip out if you can’t handle that.

    3. We fully supported the councils move to stop mowing berms. Why should those on the isthmus have their berm mowed while residents of the North Shore, West Auckland and South Auckland have to mow them themselves. It was a case of stop mowing the berms on the isthmus or start mowing them everywhere at much greater cost to ratepayers. We have said that that people should be able to plant out their berms though if they don’t want to mow them

      1. > Why should those on the isthmus have their berm mowed while residents of the North Shore, West Auckland and South Auckland have to mow them themselves

        Or to put it more accurately, before amalgamation, those on the isthmus had a council that did the job of maintaining council-owned public space, and those in the North Shore, West and South Auckland had dysfunctional councils that didn’t maintain their public spaces in order to keep rates lower.

        Frankly, to my Wellingtonian mind, the obvious solution is to not have berms at all. If the council can’t afford to maintain giant super-wide streets with pointless “decorative” grass strips in them, maybe we shouldn’t build them in the first place?

    4. “Real Mathew”, in Papakura which was a City tha was taken over in the amalgamation we had low rates and no lawn mowing. we had pay as you go rubbich collection and we are now subsidising a service that we do not have and have nto asked for. I believe that there are othe suburbs/cities in the same situation. Berm mownig is not somthing that I see as a sity repsonsibility. I come from a rural back ground where the famr owner was responsible for his road frontage up to the road centre line (historically anyway) and going a bit further back he sued to maintain the raod as well. I find it very hard to be sympathetic to your views.

    5. “predominantly at the hands of Maori/PI criminals.”
      Really mods! This guy has got to be given the boot for this; it’s disgusting.

      1. Hi Harry

        I agree that these kinds of comments are not on. Around one in three Aucklanders is of Maori or Pacific descent, and I think it’s highly inappropriate – to say nothing of inaccurate – to stereotype thusly.

        I let the comment stand – with a note disclaiming that it’s against blog guidelines – but any further comments in that vein will be deleted.

        Lastly, I really appreciate the fact that several people have weighed in to disagree with the negative stereotyping. To my mind, the best antidote to bigoted speech is more speech.

  7. Love it! Those of us on the left are trying to marshall the fleet against the right, when we get these idiots trying to fire on their own. Especially with red herrings and strawmen to debate with.

    Re the white men, I am one of them and we’ve said enough, and done enough damage to the world to last for millenia. If nothing else it is time for others to get a go, maybe heal the planet a bit and come up with fresh ideas.

    Of course the unsexy improvements to transport systems and cities get overlooked – almost by definition. This is attributable to the decline of the state. And by decline I don’t mean withering away as some might fantasise. Politicians focus on the trivial and the salient because they have no other obvious talents. The key question is why the bureaucracy, or the public, let them.

    1. Hi Riccardo… as I’ve written before, I don’t think good urban policies are a left or right thing. Or a skin colour thing either, for that matter. Good ideas can come from any quarters! And, increasingly, I’m optimistic that they will!

      1. Thanks Peter, I acknowledge that you don’t think that, but our right wing trolls see it that way so you will have to be forearmed and forewarned of that. As for skin colour, we have already had at least one of them claim he can’t walk through Auckland due to [shock horror] all the Maori.

  8. The question of boringness struck me pointedly at the recent Open Streets event on Quay St. The event seemed to be two steps forward and one step back — the retrograde movement being partly due to its effusive self-consciousness, its presumption of novelty and fear of being boring. There were clowns on stilts, a brass band, and loads of self-congratulatory staff, all breathlessly screaming, “look ma, no hands!”

    Moments when we claw back bits of public space from motor vehicles are indeed welcome. But do they need quite so much dressing, in the form of celebration and entertainment? What if reclaiming public space was business as usual — not a spectacular event — causing no one to bat an eyelid? What if we had enough confidence in the place-value and natural interest provided by an open public space — even for kids — that we didn’t feel the need to overcompensate with circus attractions?

    Of course, at the event on Quay St, underneath too much icing, we subtly lost half the cake (in spatial terms, nevermind temporally). Let’s have more cake and less icing. Rehabilitating city streets should be so common it’s boring.

    1. Ha, yes! It was a bit ironic having an Open Streets day with more pedestrian congestion than vehicular congestion.

      I guess I’m a “look on the bright side” kinda guy. I’m glad that enough people are enthusiastic about the idea (and out in the city on the weekend) to make it a success. And, like you, I think that we need more people-focused streets and workable public spaces – with or without the hullabaloo.

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