In this post, I want to talk (somewhat informally) about how we define the “average Aucklander”, before relating this discussion to the people who contribute material for the Blog. I finish with a plea for help.

I’ve been pondering these issues for sometime, due to Peter’s excellent post about submissions on Auckland’s Unitary Plan as well as Emma’s compelling call for greater involvement from women in urbanism. In these two posts, Peter and Emma highlight how two large groups of people (young people and women respectively) have tended to be marginalised from debates on urban issues in Auckland. I think that’s sad, and will ultimately hold Auckland back.

To this end, the other day my ponderous digits were prompted into action in response to a Twitter exchange that unfolded (relatively innocuously, as they usually do) between Ben Ross and George Wood. This exchange went as follows:

Here, George invokes the notion of “Mr and Mrs Average road user” and asserts that they feel hard done by. George was then engaged in a Twittersation by several people, such as GA, which commented as follows:

The interesting thing about George’s second tweet, I think, is that he moves from talking about “the average road user” to “Aucklanders” in general. This rhetorical shift seems to suggest that George equates the needs of the average road user with the needs of the average Aucklander. I then jumped on-board as follows:

Now, I acknowledge that George is a politician, and that his views seem likely to represent a certain constituency, however small. Where I — and several others — took issue, however, was with George’s suggestion that he spoke for the “average Aucklander” without providing precise definitions and/or supporting evidence.

The chart tweeted by GA supports an alternative view. It summarises responses from a relatively large number of Aucklanders on transport priorities, which I understand were gathered as part of the Council’s consultation on the Long Term Plan. This data suggests Aucklanders want “more of a focus” on everything, i.e. the green bar is taller than the red bar for all response options. Perhaps more importantly, Aucklanders expressed the largest net positive support for buses and cycling, not roads or highways. While responses to an opt-in survey of residents are not perfect, it does at least provide some insight into people’s preferences. And it differs substantially from the views expressed by George.

In response to these comments, George unfortunately doubled-down on his anecdotal line-of-reasoning. I think George’s reluctance to step outside his own personal bubble was a missed opportunity for all of us, because upon further digging — and notwithstanding the complexity of people’s preferences — I found some evidence that tends to support George’s view, such as the following chart (source).

That is, Auckland Transport’s monthly monitoring report finds that the percentage of Aucklanders satisfied with the quality of roads has — in the 9 months from Jun-16 to Sep-17 — declined by 10 percentage points. While this decline is not huge, and probably to be expected given the growth the city has been experiencing, it is an indication that the average Aucklander is increasingly dissatisfied with the state of our roads.

Is this evidence to support a change in transport investment priorities? And an increase in road investment in particular? Personally, I think that’s several bridges too far. The main reason is because the above data relates to a single question, whereas the LTP allowed people to choose between alternative priorities. When given the opportunity to choose, more Aucklanders appear to prefer increased priority being placed on non-car transport modes. That seems to me to be a much better indication of people’s preferences.

That said, I suspect the LTP consultation was completed prior to the above drop in satisfaction levels with the road network. On this basis, perhaps there is a need to commission new research into Aucklander’s preferences for transport priorities. That’s about as much as I’m prepared to concede to George on this point.

In doing so, however, I want to reflect again on one of the key messages of Peter’s earlier post on Unitary Plan submissions, which he found were skewed towards certain demographics. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if similar — if not worse — skews affected the feedback on the LTP, as well as George’s anecdotal conversations with “average Aucklanders”. For the record, here is some data on Auckland from Statistics NZ (source):

The two most notable elements of this list, I think, are ethnic composition and median age. In terms of ethnic composition, Auckland is extremely diverse. For this reason, I’d encourage politicians like George — who aspire to speak for the average Aucklander — to ensure that they engage with a sufficiently diverse range of people.

In terms of median age, we find that — and despite all the talk of an ageing population — Auckland remains a relatively young city. I note that the Bloggers, as a group, have a median age of 35.0 years, with ages ranging from 22 to 55. That is, the median age of the Bloggers is about the same as Auckland as a whole. That suggests that when it comes to age, the make-up of the Blog is similar to Auckland as a whole. While George didn’t provide any data on the demographic composition of the people he engaged with, one has to wonder is it representative of Auckland’s median age?

I say this not because I believe that ethnicity or age are necessarily causal factors that drive preferences: People of different ethnicities and ages can, of course, have similar preferences, and vice versa. Demographic indicators can, however, be correlated with preferences. As an example, the figure below is extracted from NZTA research (source), and shows how annual vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) per capita varies with age and over time.

Here we find that people aged 15-34 years are driving less now than they were in 1989-1990, whereas people aged 35-75+ are driving a lot more. Indeed, the increase in VKT among older age groups has probably been a major contributor to historical growth in New Zealand’s vehicle travel demands in recent decades, whereas the reduction for younger cohorts goes the other way; it has been a drag on growth in VKT. Due to these correlations, if George’s self-selected sample of Aucklanders is skewed towards people who are aged older than 34, then he’s probably going to get a distorted view on the relative importance of vehicle mobility to Aucklanders.

As noted above, the median age of the people contributing to the GA Blog is relatively well-matched to the average age in Auckland. So it’s not true that the make-up of the Blog is slanted towards younger generations. What seems more likely to be true is that younger voices have, hitherto, been relatively silent in discussions about Auckland’s future. Against this background, older people — such as George — may feel that Blog is “biased” to a younger audience. In fact, I’d suggest the Blog simply corrects for a historical deficit.

On the other hand, there are some areas where the demographic make-up of the Blogger’s is decidedly unrepresentative of Auckland as a whole, and which we are actively looking to address. In particular, we are actively seeking additional input from people with the following backgrounds:

  • Gender, specifically women; and
  • Ethnicity, specifically Maori, Pasifika, and people who have migrated to Auckland from overseas.

On these two dimensions the blog is way out of whack with Auckland’s demographic profile. So if you, or someone you know, is passionate about Auckland and who might add to the representative diversity of our ilk, then please encourage them to reach out to us (details here). We really want to facilitate a broader discussion on Auckland, and welcome people with a diverse range of backgrounds and views.

To finish, the main point of this post was to encourage us to take a moment to think about how we conceptualise the “average Aucklander”, and whether this aligns with demographic data. This is especially important for politicians like George: Before you express strong views on behalf of the “average Aucklander”, please reflect on whether you have truly and genuinely engaged with a representative group of Aucklanders. A group of people who, for example, have a median age is around 35 and who are ethnically diverse. I believe that Jacinda Ardern has reflected on these issues, which is perhaps why she is so popular (NB: Dame Anne Salmond reflects on related notions in this article). The same need for diverse representation and input applies to this Blog, and it is something that we are actively working on.

In the meantime, we’d appreciate your help and patience. Go well.

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135 comments

    1. A few people in this category have told me that the best way to fix congestion in Devonport is to build a causeway from Bayswater to Onewa Road. *facepalm*

  1. The sheer cost of filling a tank is perhaps a bit of a generational divider between that over/under 35s – people who could drive a lot when they were young are now at an age where company cars and families make that habit easier to maintain. I’m guessing younger people don’t have $80 a week to fuel even a Toyota Corolla.

  2. Auckland is no monad and while averages are important they are place holders for range of values. Understanding the distribution, spatial, temporal, ethnic etc…of the “thing” is more important and is often overlooked…or simplified…like an average.

    1. Yes this is the point. It isn’t just money, although that is part of it. There are different demographics, with different values, and it is a question of to what extent they are present in each region. The “Jeremy Clarkson types” who love to drive, probably grew up in an age when driving was fun, and you could buy a place within 30 minutes drive of the city. For them, that was freedom. Cyclists who restrict their driving are restricting their freedom.

      For anyone now under 40 who either rents on the Isthmus or buys somewhere where the commute is 40 minutes to an hour, this is madness. Peak hour driving is not fun. Commuting an hour to work is not freedom. Neither is spending 30 years paying off a mortgage. Saving money riding a bike starts to look sensible.

      In this regard it is interesting that Jeremy Clarkson and co hosts all live in expensive rural homes well outside of London. The lifestyle they dream of no longer exists in any large city. The sports cars they drive make no sense in city traffic. Yet they make an excellent living producing a show that allows its 50-something viewers to reminisce about their past.

        1. Mike, thanks and no, I did not know he had a Golf. But in a way that is the point – the cars featured in the show, and the locations they are driven in, are exotic and appealing because they are NOT average. The Golf is his reality car; the sports cars are fantasy cars, driven in fantasy conditions on roads specially close for filming. The show harks to a bygone era of urban transport. These days no real world city can fulfill that fantasy. Auckland should not try.

  3. I read so far and it seemed like a ‘lets get George Wood’ so gave up reading. I do not know him personally although I have seen him at public meetings and exchanged emails in the past when he was a councilor. I would class him as an ex-politician. In the past when we did interact he was pleasant to deal with even as he politely pointed out I was wrong. In those days he certainly mixed with a broad cross-section of North Shore society over a long period. His knowledge of the average North Shore citizen is probably second to none. I can imagine it may be biased towards people of his own age and as you may be aware in North Shore the retired are dis-proportionally white and female; however he will know families of many generations whereas I wonder if the author spends much time mixing with the elderly? We should be grateful to George and respect him for his efforts representing us on our behalf over many years. Which is not to say every decision made in the past about North Shore local politics gets my approval.

    You have a good subject matter – the under-representation of parts of our community in contributing to the decisions about transport and infrastructure that affect them. Lets keep to that subject and leave out personal attacks.

    1. Really? That’s what you take away from the post? I feel like you’re being very sensitive.

      The first reason is because George is a politician who has put his views out there and failed (repeatedly) to support them with evidence when asked. I personally think it’s extremely important that we encourage our pollies to maintain an evidence-based approach to policy.

      The second reason is that I’m sufficiently open to George’s point of view that i go out and find evidence to somewhat support his perspective, which he wasn’t prepared to do himself.

      Finally, in the post i also comment on the blog’s unrepresentativeness. And indicate it’s something we’d like to address.

      I think you should have another read and in the process ask yourself what sort of standards you expect of politicians, and whether George has met those standards here or not. Personally i think he fails, and that there’s value in highlighting that failure.

      1. You have 12 references to ‘George’ in your text to the point I gave up reading. That is not including the tweets. I think you have a hangup with the guy.

        I no longer have my first email from George Wood but it was in response to an email from me to my then N.Shore councilors which included a dig about my guessing they never caught a bus. George responded (politely) and said he always used a bus to return from Auckland council meetings. [This was topped by Chris Darby who said he was writing his reply on the bus!].
        I cannot remember the reason for that email but subsequently I wrote to him about PoA’s first harbour grab, about a dangerous power pole on my road and finally about a dreadful sewage overflow at the beach. Each time I had immediate replies.
        My last email was 2 years ago asking if he was standing for council – his reply was “”I am not standing for the North shore ward seat but instead have decided to stand for the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board. My reasoning for not standing for the Governing Body of Auckland council is that I have been there six years and felt it would be good to have some new people at the table. I would like to see some new faces around the GB table.””
        So it sounds as if good old George was on your side about representation all along.

        He used to stand for council and get elected and relected – he has walked the walk. So I will take his comment in an idle tweet (not a public press release) that he knows the average Aucklander as acceptable. Someone who chooses to not stand is an ex-politician so why be so hung-up about him?

          1. For local ward only. I’m guessing he was elected (by average Aucklands?); his knowledge of the Auckland council where all the power rests will be useful to his electorate.

          2. A local board member is a politician. Also George Wood is very influential for a local board member. He is the deputy chair of the local board. Half of the Devonport-Takapuna local board were elected as part of “Team George Wood”, so he presumably has a fair amount of influence over them. He is definitely a fair target for criticism.

          3. SB and Bob, check out the info from the last (2013) census, you’ll find that Devonport-Takapuna is not all that different from many other parts of Auckland.

            Median income is $85,800 for the Devonport-Takapuna ward, compared with $80,000 for Waitemata, $107,800 for Orakei and $76,500 for Albert-Eden.

            The median age there is 39.7 years, which is younger than Orakei but older than Albert-Eden and Waitemata.

            By the way the Auckland regional median income is $76,500 and the median age for the region is 35.1, so it’s strange to see the Devonport-Takapuna area being thought of as an outlier. In terms of income and age it is probably most closely comparable to Howick.

          4. Cheers David! I’m incredibly surprised by that. I guess I tend to think about Narrowneck’s multi million dollar villas rather than the Navy, Iwi, and State housing on the peninsula.

        1. No hang up at all, I just think George behaved like a numpty.

          He was the catalyst for this post, hence the use of his name. And in terms of writing style, i find that using someone’s name is more humanising than saying “he” etc.

          I’ve re-read the post and think I’ve been very fair to George.

          1. not sure what you mean?

            In terms of obsession, I’ve never (1) written a post on George or (2) engaged with him in conversation before. George is someone (more specifically an elected representative) who I saw made some numpty-like public statements on Twitter. I’ve only been on Twitter for 3 weeks and so it’s still rather novel.

            Just so you’re aware, I understand George helped drive forward the Northern Busway when he was mayor, and that is something he deserves due credit for.

            To be honest, it feels like you’re obsessively trying to pin an obsession on me that doesn’t exist to make you feel better about liking George based on one letter!

    2. The article wasn’t at all a personal attack, if you continued to read rather than ‘giving up’ you’d see it is actually using the conversation with george wood to begin an introspective look at what is an Average Aucklander and how can this blog do more to represent the views of all Aucklanders by increasing the diversity of writers. This is no hit piece on George, it merely uses an exchange to develop an issue that we are facing as our city grows.

  4. As he almost inevitably always does, George Dubya is using unconscious bias to promote his antequated ideas. In his case more likely is a conscious bias. Firstly, he is from the North Shore, which my unconscious bias tends to distrust, and secondly he is more than half a decade beyond retirement age so has absolutely no mandate to talk about the average Aucklander, who as you point out is mid thirties and living on struggle street. If there are not viable options to a car, how are people supposed to not use a car? Surely the LRT is set to provide exactly these options so that a car will no longer be deemed a necessary evil. If I lived in Devenport or Whangaparoa I would like Fullers to integrate properly with our public transport system so that I could enjoy a ferry ride every day of my working life. If I lived in Takapuna I would like a tram that would take me to the ferry, a cycleway too, so as to avoid becoming George Wood. If under 18s cannot vote, why can over 70s chair local boards?
    NB I am average in all but income, which in my case is considerably lower (do the older population skew the median income data, or I am just magnificently undervalued and underpaid as I suspect?), but no one has every asked me about the state of the roads (I have spent so much time in less developed countries I would rate the roads too perfect I suspect), and I can barely afford to put $25 per week in a Corolla.

    As that other George (Orwell) almost wrote…

    “All animals are (average) but some animals are more (average) than others”

  5. I’m male over 50 and live in coastal Northcote (although I would never drive a SUV). I also would never vote for George Wood. I have met him – for a while it was almost impossible to attend an even on the Shore and not have him there pushing his bobby horses.
    He’s anachronistic and I would say unrepresentative of the constituency you seem to think support him. Just as not every under 35 is a cycling advocate, wants to live in a CBD apartment votes Green and is a vegan 🙂 Old duffer is the kindest thing you could say about George but don’t ape his mistake by generalising in the same way

    1. Not sure who you’re replying to? I don’t think the post makes any comment on the make-up of George’s support base.

      But generally i agree!

  6. Roads is quite a broad survey option though right? I could be annoyed that my local street has pot-holes and a speed limit not appropriate for a suburban street. In that arguement, then yes I do think that particular road needs more dollars spent on maintenance.
    However, that doesn’t necessarily mean I am in support of all new roading expenditure.
    George (and other local politicians) might be hearing a few people that do complain about the condition of their local street, or that the local streets or roads are ‘too busy’. But does that automatically mean that we spend more on them?

    As it’s been shown and argued on here many many times, it would be the reallocation of spending from new ‘supersized’ projects that could improve the quality and safety of many existing areas.

    1. I’m not happy with the roads in my area – Nowhere near enough cycling infrastructure!

      Where George went wrong with the data, is reading into it. The data was next to useless, as the question/answer was far too untargeted.

      Having said that, facts and figures don’t win arguments very often. Connecting with people does. TED links to a good (and short) video: https://ed.ted.com/featured/hI9YSFHW

  7. One of my teenage nephews of part Asian heritage would get a lot out of reading GA. but I cannot suggest it to him because he’s too young to cope with the reasonably frequent anti-Asian racism. I had been wondering what to do about this, so really appreciate this post, thanks.

      1. NZ has a problem with racism, even more so with so-called “casual racism”. Sometimes the response to racism/discrimination is a balance between being thick skinned and standing up for what’s decent and right. Every situation is different and even though none are acceptable, sometimes we must accept the unacceptable. It galls me to say that.

        Standing up for decency is not being a snowflake and considering the discriminatory state of our nation, it’s something that we all should be doing whenever we can.

        FWIW, I’ve been the victim of racial abuse in the past. Sadly, my partner (Chinese) has been a victim more often.

      2. I really, really, really hate the term “snowflake” and I abhor the ignorant rednecks that use it. They are the 50% of the population that are of below average intelligence…

    1. Heidi, I expect your nephew experiences anti-Asian racism at school and in the street – nothing in a blog can be that bad. Let your nephew read and use his judgement about the thought processes of some of the contributors. Having said that last week my wife read out some quotes from an Australian blog about the sad death of a PNG rugby league star and for the first time in my life I had doubts about free speech. I can remember as a teenager hearing boys competing at saying the most callous, cruel and brutal things possible but I never expected to see them written down.

      Fear of large foreign countries is one thing (fairly rational whether they are USA or Oz let alone an undemocratic China) but then when transferring that fear on to an individual it is irrational and acting on it is racism.
      Last month my daughter started a contract in a fairly senior government role and her boss remarked on meeting her ‘I thought you would be Pakeha not Melanesian’; not racist but a matter of assumption. Casual inadvertent racism is often a matter of expectations. When my son went to a good college in N.Shore it was clear that Maori and PIs were over-represented in the rugby team and Asians in some of the other sports. This doesn’t matter too much but it does matter with academic results and looking for the first job.

      Sorry – I shouldn’t have started on such a big and dangerous subject. There is a wonderful quote from Martin Luther King about having to tell a 6 year old child he couldn’t go to a whites only funfair and seeing the self-confident child trying to grasp that he was considered an inferior person. Thankfully the world has improved in my lifetime; improved not only for skin colour but also women can now open a bank account without their husbands approval and the gay community can celebrate not hide.

      More teenage views is what this site needs.

      1. Just to address the last comment: Yes, we completely agree on the need to engage with young people more, and older people. Basically, we need to expand our range at both ends of the age spectrum.

  8. “Average” here is an emotional term meaning ordinary or “right-thinking”. A similar phrase is common sense as in “Anyone with any common sense knows that…..”
    Talk back hosts do this a lot and so do some politicians, to create a sense of inclusiveness.

  9. “In particular, we are actively seeking additional input from people with the following backgrounds:

    Gender, specifically women; and”

    Love your work, guys, but I doubt you are going to get more women posting here until the comments become less of a macho bear pit, with less trolling and ad-hominem abuse.

    (You watch the ad-feminam abuse I get for this comment… and note similar comments about anti-Asian racism noted above.)

    1. I’m surrounded by women both in my family and most social activities for goldcard holders are 90% female. None of the women I meet are frightened by male abuse. Is infrastructure a subject that is male orientated like say Rugby, Golf, Fishing? Something to do with boys building bridges and towers with their lego?
      As an elderly white male I would point out that female contributions to this blog often are the best argued and most informative. That sentence sounds rather patronising so for concrete evidence read Heidi especially when she is we disagreeing with me.

      1. Bob – could you ask your female, non-white family members, to post replies of their own? And if they say no, ask them why not? It might give some answers to why the blog has a male feel to it?

        1. Good point. They seem to have other interests which among others is work whereas I’m retired. Just been to a senior activity class (geriatric dancing) and was one of the 3 men with maybe 30 women. Should I ask them to post replies or should I ask them why they aren’t persuading men to come to class?
          PS My wife is always asking why I’m ‘wasting my time on the computer’.

      2. Ta, Bob, I’ve got you fooled anyway. 🙂 And then there are all the contributors whose gender we don’t know. There’s one infrequent commenter with a male name but I’d actually bet my hot water bottle she’s a woman. But then what would I know? I thought one regular male commenter was a woman for months.

          1. Judging? I thought we were having a good old barney. 🙂 Or blarney. Depending on gender. Or persuasion. Or not.

          2. The gender of individual commenters doesn’t matter. What does matter is the collective/aggregate of posts/comments by gender, and that is currently skewed towards men. If we’re not putting forward views that speaking for and to a representative cross-section of Aucklanders, then we’re (probably) not having as large an impact as we could.

    2. Yes fair call, and it’s something we’re trying to keep an eye on.

      One question dlp: do you think it’s been better lately? My perception is that it has but I’m interested in wider views.

    3. Out of interest, do you get excessively trolled when making general comments, or is it only when making gender related comments?
      Personally I never even consider gender when I reply to a general comment, and I imagine that is the case for most other male commentators too.

  10. with all due respect the term pot.kettle.black comes to mind when greaterauckland pontificates on diversity. A quick review shows the fast majority of the posts are from males who I take are European and there is a definite bias to the richer socio-demographic areas.
    Not a fan of “George” but greaterauckland needs to look at itself in terms of a diverse offering.
    Greaterauckland used to be much better but appears to have become very macho and anti Asian

    1. I agree despite – a few typos. It is hard to find a non-male post and all seem hipster pakeha males. The concept of greaterauckland is great and transport and urban issues are important. The site seems to have less diversity though than than one of the new housing estates ruining wanaka !!

      1. Harriet’s posts are frequent, and incredibly informative, with loads of research behind them. I always look forward to them. And Emma’s are a breath of fresh air. Actually, I like them all, and take my hats off to you all for putting in such energy and research for our benefit. Thanks, GA.

      2. I would caution against judging our diversity too quickly, because some dimensions of diversity are less visible than others.

        Specifically, the Bloggers tend to be diverse according to some measures (age, socio-economic background, and LGBTQI representation, for example) but not on others (gender, ethnicity, and *current* income). People reading the posts wouldn’t necessarily know our age, LGBTQI, and socioeconomic background, but you can infer gender from names.

        My take on diversity is that it’s not a yes/no characteristics, but instead a spectrum of characteristics. The challenge for us is to try and ensure that the people who contribute to the blog regularly are *as diverse as possible*. When you’re only 5 people it’s quite hard to be representative, but we’re trying to expand/reach out.

    2. Yes there is a definite gender imbalance.

      Is the need for more diversity not something directly acknowledged in the post though? And some other recent posts as well?

      I’m also not sure whether critical self-reflection can also be pontification!?!

  11. I haven’t seen any anti-Asian sentiment here but I guess maybe I don’t read enough of the comments? I would hope it’s not anti-anyone except illogical loonies like the Occupy Garnet Road people.
    I am happy to say that in my line of work there are many young women engineers coming through, and many more senior ones taking positions of authority. My boss is in fact a woman which is great! So infrastructure isn’t going to be a boys-only place for very long, even if it was at the moment.

  12. Very interesting historic demographic data on driving. Young people are driving less than previous generations and boomers are driving more than previous generations. It is a really powerful trend that will impact all modes in the coming decades.

    While I find most GA content interesting, I’ve always found that a lot of the views tend towards being those of a white privileged male. Much like most of the engineering field, the planning field, the design field, and so many other fields. Of course most of the time there is nothing wrong with this because we usually just discuss the data. It is problematic when you try and interpret the data and make recommendations on what action is “best”. I don’t think you need more women or foreigners to post as long as they have a voice to comment on their perspective.

    I note the median household income is 76k, meaning half the families are on less. Probably far, far less.
    As a polynesian who rides a bike it irks me when white council people come to my poor South Auckland suburb to build cycle lanes that no one uses, because they have no comprehension of what it means to be stuck in poverty. The vast majority of cyclists I encounter are MAMILs on expensive bikes. I FEEL like this demographic represents GA posters even if that really isn’t true.

    While there are many kids in my area who do have a bike and ride around, most kids here walk to school, but they don’t ride bikes to school because they can’t afford a lock and the bike gets stolen or it simply gets taken off them on the way to school. Plus they can’t afford to repair the bike when they get a flat tire. About 10 people live in both of the three bedroom houses on either side of my house. They have to own a van or two to move their family around and to buy their groceries. They do shift work. They have multiple part time jobs. They do not have the luxury of time and money to use public transport or a bike. They don’t have the time or understanding of the system to write to their Councillor or board member to try and get the foot path fixed.

    I think more bike lanes are great, but building them in poor areas like mine is a poor investment and it is happening because privileged white folk are making the decisions for the poor brown folk based on what they think is “best”.

    Despite all this I don’t care to submit any posts and I don’t feel I can add much value. I’m much more comfortable yelling abuse at those who post on here. 😀

    Of course a woman’s perspective is vital, but if you post an opinion, prepare to be challenged on it. Not because you are a woman, but because opinions welcome criticism.

    I’ve never really noticed much racism on here. I have faced racial abuse before in NZ, but I tend to ignore it. But I do hear it all the time out and about and try and speak up about it when it is targeted towards others who can’t defend themselves.

    1. That’s a really interesting post, and a different perspective. It certainly highlights the vast differences in demographic between some of our areas. I think your feedback would be very useful to AT when they make their decisions on where to build cycleways and such.

    2. Thanks for the comment Ari and that’s a really useful/interesting perspective. As far as I know, none of the bloggers is a lycra wearing mamil, as is none of us own/ride road bicycles and/or wear lycra. But perceptions are important in this business, and it’s something we’ll keep in mind.

      Your perception of white male privilege is bang on the money actually: Most (not all, mind) of the bloggers are white, male, and above income.

      Good on you for speaking out against racism when you see it.

    3. Thanks for an thought provoking comment. Living in Birkdale I know poor suburbs can become middle-class. Maybe your under used cycleways are an investment for the future. Meanwhile Birkdale would benefit from some decent cycleways but it is really too difficult to add them now – what were narrow roads with wide berms and pavements have had extra lanes for cars added and roads that never had a parked car a decade ago are now lined with cars (infill housing, households with adult car owning kids, car left on our suburban streets so their drivers can catch buses to the city.)

    4. Ari, there are some things you write that I disagree with, and a whole lot of things you write that I completely agree with. Often you write from a perspective I hadn’t considered previously. Your perspective IS different from the MAMILs. And from the train buffs. So is mine. Our comments do help. But plenty of people only read the post, not the comments. You and I should both be writing articles, as a way to pull in commenters, at least, who fit other demographics. Like teenagers. And women who are not stroppy. And Polynesians who do want cycleways. 🙂

  13. It’s an interesting question – what is average? Some things just cannot “average out” i.e. the Quick Facts from Stats do not state that, presumably, 50% of Aucklanders are female, and 50% are male. I cannot be an average of both woman and man, unless I just count myself as, on average, human. Nor can I be, on average, both pakeha and asian and maori, no matter how hard I try, so again, I just count myself as human.

    But when I drive a car in Auckland, at that point I am not average, just one in a million, but at that point I am undoubtedly completely me, and what I am concerned about is my own personal space. The average motorist in Devonport may indeed be concerned with the roads around them being two-laned as they drive to work, but would not, at that point in time, be at all concerned with the state of Favona Road in Mangere Bridge, as I might be, as I try to shop for my children. My own little bubble of my own average concerns also vary with what I am doing – when I am in a car, I want more space for the car – when I am in a bus, I want bus lanes – when I am on a footpath, I want wider better footpaths. My bubble rules my world.

    I wouldn’t say that Greater Auckland is macho or anti Asian – it is obviously written mainly by men and replied to mainly by men, because men seem to be obsessed by doing that sort of thing. But where I would say that it is falling down, is that it concentrates too much on Auckland being on the Waitemata, and not enough on the other half of Auckland on the Manukau. There are more off-ramps and on-ramps in the world than just those in the CBD. There are more bridges than just the big one across the Harbour. There are more things to explore to make Greater Auckland more concerned with more of the Average people, elsewhere.

    Go West, young men.

    1. A supervisor I once had used to love saying of averages: If you have one foot in a bucket of ice water, and the other in a bucket of scalding water, on average your feet would be quite comfortable.

      1. Haha, or if you average 40 drowning Aucklanders and 40 lost in a desert, you don’t need to do anything because the average Aucklander is doing great.

    2. “Nor can I be, on average, both pakeha and asian and maori”

      The way NZ has been recording ethnicity statistics for many years now, yes you can be a member of more than one group. Totals no longer add up to 100%.

  14. Greater Auckland seems to have good intentions but does have a lot of aggression. This maybe reflects the white male make up of most authors. This piece by Stu Donovan is a case study. There are personal attacks on George which seem obnoxious. Of course the policies of George should be challenged but challenge the ideas not the person. To attack the person in this way aggressive.
    Could I request Greaterauckland have zero tolerance to the anti-asian and anti George comments / posts which are becoming far too common. Be gentle.

    1. So critiquing someone’s viewpoint is anti that person?

      I don’t like Jacinda Ardern’s view on Cannabis, I critique that view. It doesn’t mean that I’m anti JA or anti Labour. I just think that they deserve criticism when their views aren’t supported by evidence.

      1. Thanks SB and glad you do that. That is exactly the point – critique the view not the person. I support skypath and cylcleways and do not agree with George’s views on this. However I critique his view not him as an individual. As Bob A states above there are 12 references to George in the original post. The original post is aggressive and appears personal against George.

        1. “When you choose to disagree with Ms Ardern how often would you mention her name?”

          A lot more than 12. If JA had done an interview on cannabis and said some stupid things, I’d critique it by saying ‘JA said this, this is silly because, JA then responded this, this is silly because’.

        2. Hi Romani,

          You may want to read my comments above in response to Bob on this matter, which I expand on here:
          — Upon reflection, I can see that the post actually has two (informal) objectives, which I could have communicated more clearly.
          — First, I hope to convince George in particular that, when people ask for evidence, he should engage because (1) it’s the right thing to do and (2) he may well actually find support for his views. The first point is a matter of decency and/or behaviour: It’s what I expect of my elected representatives. I have no qualms calling George out for failing on this measure, and would do the same for other politicians too.
          — Second, I wanted to highlight that Auckland is a diverse place and that there is a need to try and grapple with this diversity when talking about society’s views. In doing so, I highlighted that the blog is diverse by some measures (age and LGBTQI, for example), and not on others (gender and ethnicity, to name two). I thought this critical reflection would be interesting for many of our readers, and stimulate good debate on underlying issues and potential solutions, as seems to be the case.
          — Finally, personally I use people’s actual names because it helps me to be kinder. If you’ve read the blog for a while then you may have noticed that I frequently use people’s names when responding to comments, and that our user guidelines encourage people to comment under their actual name. The reason I choose to do this is because psychological evidence has found that, especially in online forums, an atmosphere of anonymity tends to enable/facilitate undesirable behaviour and marginalise people.

          So basically, I think you may be (1) missing one objective of this post (expecting our elected representatives to provide evidence for their statements) and (2) misinterpreting a personal decision on writing style (i.e. use of people’s names) as an act of aggression, when in fact the opposite is true. Note that in saying this I am not seeking to invalidate your interpretation, but simply clarify that it doesn’t align with my intentions.

          Of course, I appreciate that you will tend to evaluate *outcomes*, rather than *intentions*. And I will definitely keep the feedback from you and Bob in mind when writing future posts, as it provides useful insight into the diversity of communication styles that exist out there. And ultimately what use is a blog if it can’t communicate effectively to a diverse range of people?!?

          Best,
          Stuart.

      2. When you choose to disagree with Ms Ardern how often would you mention her name? I am sure I would enjoy reading your viewpoint and of course it is relevant to say the prime Minister disagrees but say it too often and you will lose focus on the issue you are concerned about.
        Similarly there is a good point to be made about weighing the personal opinion of an experienced pragmatic politician against various AT public surveys.

        I am very cautious of surveys for three reasons.
        1. Answers are what the member of the public thinks you want to hear. For example someone made up a list of 10 factors in choice when buying a car and the survey had ‘Safety’ voted no.1 importance and colour was voted tenth but when you actually listen to people buying a car the reverse seems to apply with colour more often than not being the clinching point.
        2. When I wrote and complained to either the council or AT about some long forgotten matter they replied ‘The public was consulted’ and my reply was ‘No you didn’t because you didn’t ask me’. So I like elections but really distrust surveys – who is selecting who is to be asked?
        3. They depend on the biases of who is asking the questions. For example just before the council amalgamation my local council consulted the public by asking households which of four costed developments they had planned for Highbury shopping centre we would prefer. But the obvious answer was missing – ‘lets leave it as it is and save public money’. (I have always cynically thought this was their desire to spend all the money before the amalgamation.)

    2. Hi Romani,

      Thanks for the feedback. Can you highlight the part of this post that you felt was a personal attack?

      In terms of using George’s name, I try to maintain a personal/humanizing writing (and conversational) style, which uses people’s names as much as possible. I find using people’s names help me to be gentle, and treat people as people.

      I can see how some people might perceive the use of someone’s name to be aggressive, but I wonder if that says more about them than me? All I can say is that I don’t tend to use people’s names in an aggressive way.

      Best,
      Stuart.

      1. yes these are the two issues that most frequently bring out the crazy racist comments, sadly.

        And I apologise to anyone who has been hurt by such comments, or others. I know it’s not necessarily a good excuse, but I personally don’t have time to write posts, hold down a job, and moderate all of the comments.

        We do work as a team though, and I’ll raise the issue with people and see if we can give moderation of racist and aggressive comments a higher priority.

    1. Your statement it true all over the world but in NZ it is being cynically used to stop a serious debate.

      We have the highest legal immigration rate in the world – what do we know that the rest of the world doesn’t? As an immigrant (multi-ethnic family) and being in favour of immigration I would still point out NZ immigration is out of hand. Think of it like paracetamol that is often good for you but excessive consumption is not recommended.

      Read Prof Christina Stringer’s report on worker exploitation in NZ – it is totally intertwined with immigration as practised by the NZ government. We are living in a society that is tolerating near slavery, fraud and corruption out of misplaced virtue signalling. It is for that reason I always respond to comments like yours. But you can call me a xenophobe and forget it.

      1. That comment isn’t xenophobi though. I doubt Daphne is talking about comments like that. Daphne is talking about comments that complain about the rate of Chinese immigration, or the changing demographics, those are xenophobic. Commenting on worker exploitation, and struggling infrastructure isn’t xenophobic.

        1. Excessive immigration is unwise where ever the immigrants come from. NZ has had very high immigration for 70 years and for most of that time it was from my country, the UK.

          It is not xenophobic to query a system that produces corruption that puts honest businesses at a disadvantage to corrupt employers. As a retired Chinese friend said to me ’20 years ago we ran a fish and chip shop and it was good money for hard work but I wouldn’t do it now’.

          BTW if this Labour government which I voted for keeps its election promise to substantially increase the labour inspectorate then I will stop commenting.

        1. Your link “” list of countries by net migration rate, the difference between the number of persons entering and leaving a country during the year, per 1,000 persons (based on midyear population) “” and the date 2012. Many Kiwis were off to Australia.
          If you define immigration as net immigration then you are right. I cannot remember my source but it was for recent data, taken over several years and I think Luxembourg might have been ahead of NZ but that didn’t seem worth mentioning since its status in the EU and its size makes it rather irrelevant.
          There are many ways of looking at immigration data and the reliable one is granting of permanent residency and that is about 45,000 every year for the last decade. Per capita it puts us well ahead of Australia and roughly triple Obama’s USA. Much that you read is about students and working-holiday visas and based on flight arrival data which since status can alter while you are NZ is rather confusing/unreliable.

          Of course ‘legal’ immigration is one thing. I really admire the Lebanon and Jordan for absorbing refugees by the million whereas we take in about thousand.

          Without the immigrants Auckland wouldn’t be bursting at the seams and this blog would be rather boring if the population was static.

          1. goosoid: and anyone else who bothered reading my comment – I have been searching on the internet and simply cannot find data supporting my assertion about about NZ’s current immigration rate. So please don’t quote my ‘highest legal immigration rate’ unless you can find it from an authoritative source.
            I did discover data for percentage of the population being born abroad and the Vatican city wins hands down with places like Qatar following.
            I recommend reading Prof Stringer’s report if you can stomach the contents. Come to your own conclusions about NZ immigration – my ‘xenophobic’ interpretation is that our immigration rules are great for house owners and for holding down low-paid workers wages. Well controlled high skilled immigration would be good for NZ – we ought to give it a try.

  15. “About 10 people live in both of the three bedroom houses on either side of my house. They have to own a van or two to move their family around and to buy their groceries. They do shift work. They have multiple part time jobs. They do not have the luxury of time and money to use public transport or a bike. ”

    Ari, can I have some clarification on what you’re saying here – that for South Auckland working people, owning a car is a necessity but riding public transport is a luxury? That is, public transport is more expensive (time/money combined) than owning a petrol-driven vehicle? And that given that, even zero-fares public transport would not be used?

    As to bike lanes in South Auckland being white-privileged meddling, here is a contrary opinion: https://thespinoff.co.nz/auckland/23-11-2016/on-cycle-lanes-ethnicity-and-class-why-nothing-screams-missing-the-point-quite-like-slamming-safer-cycling/

    1. I’m most impressed that Ari can tell us that so many people can’t afford bikes that it isn’t worth building cycle lanes at all.

      1. I’m equally interested in the idea that large working families simply have to own a van or two and public transport/bikes are useless. Given that, the only way out of congestion in those parts of town would be to put some kind of ban or tax on cars with less than 3 people in them – require everyone who’s NOT in a large family to car-pool, use transit or bike. Or change things so that large working families can live without vans, which would be more difficult (something about 24-hour PT, moving housing closer to work or vice versa, etc).

        There is a problem with what I call “conservative leftism”, part of which is arguing that working people have it so tough that it is “privileged” to suggest any changes for how working people live and work. Another aspect of this is union officials complaining about petrol taxes or parking charges for low income CBD workers. I think Patrick and/or Brendon H. reposted something on Twitter about how working people have legitimate reasons to be suspicious of housing/transport reform, given what happened in the 1960s (here, the CMJ destroying Newton and creating Mangere/Otara, etc.) But if that leads to an assumption that the way that Mangere and Otara are right now is just fine, that is simply not fine, from either a socio-economic, an ecological or an urbanist perspective. It’s South Auckland’s equivalent of Bright/Prager-ism.

        1. I totally agree. And in most countries in the world, suggesting that cars are the vehicle of the poor while bicycles and public transport are a boondoggle for the rich, would be laughed at.

          Ironically, that usual situation can also be a cultural block as people from developing countries desperately don’t want to ride a bike or take a bus exactly because in their home country that is what poor people do. However, immigrants to the Netherlands ride bicycles much more than in their home country as it is an easy, cheap alternative – so that prejudice against active modes and PT can be mitigated with good infrastructure.

          We have become so auto dependent in the English speaking world in general that the natural order of things has been flipped on its head. How much better off would lower income Auckland residents be if they could save money by transporting themselves by active modes or PT?

        2. In the US, for much of last century, zoning and many other govt measures (such as racist home loan schemes and land acquisition for motorways policies) have been used specifically to exclude black and low income people. This has made some in the black/low income communities suspicious of new planning/public transport/housing initiatives that might create ‘gentrification’ and create another cycle of exclusion.

          There is a bit of description of some of this here -which I retweeted -perhaps that is what Daphne is referring to?
          https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/09/25/snob-zoning-is-racial-housing-segregation-by-another-name/?utm_term=.73c4124f1fa3

          A really good read on this issue is “The Color of Law -A forgotten history of how our government segregated America” by Richard Rothstein.

      2. Why so acerbic? Ari also said why many families don’t bother with bikes for the kids: Can’t afford repairs and/or the bikes get stolen.

        @ Daphne – I know that it’s easy to think “Well if they didn’t have two cars, they’d be able to afford the bikes”, however that’s faulty logic at best and derogatory at worst.

        With regard to cars vs bikes and the economics thereof: Finance on cars is easy (both to obtain and to justify), finance on bikes is not so.

        If there is a mindset that bikes and PT is a “luxury” we should be investigating the root cause of the mindset, not shouting down and belittling those who express that such exists. Ari has highlighted a concern that he feels is common in a certain part of town, we really should look at the issue with an open mind.

        1. Again we see in Jon K’s otherwise excellent comments the assumption that if you disagree with someone you’re “shouting down or belittling them”… there must be a borderline between a macho bearpit of trolling on one hand, and a forum where everyone can say whatever they like without it being challenged on the other.

          1. Agree Daphne – The ‘shouting down’ part was over the top.
            It is very easy when reading a response or comment , to be reading it in a ‘negative way’, sometimes a quick re-read and I’ll think ‘oh, they actually meant this’.

            I love this blog/forum and all the interesting topics discussed, but like almost any online discussion, it can be very easy to mis-read when you cannot hear someone’s tone of voice.

    2. I’d imagine PT for a large poor family in South Auckland would be much more expensive than owning and operating a van. Active modes would probably be cheaper, and I’d imagine bike maintenance education programmes and bike lock handouts would have a good BCR.

      And living close to work is probably desirable but hard to achieve when so much work is short-term and insecure.

      1. I struggle to believe that. A car costs $40 a week before you even drive it. Including fuel in a van it’s a $100 minimum. That buys you a lot of PT, even with a lot of kids. Especially when child fares on the weekend are 99c. Basically a family can buy one child a bike and lock every week that they own one car fewer.

        I appreciate Ari’s different viewpoint, but the maths simply does not add up.

        1. PT IS expensive in Auckland at least with a larger (or even older days “average”) family, $100 is soon gobbled up. Two adults & 4 children 2 zones there and back to visit another family say on HOP weekday is $27.00. There goes nearly 1/3 of your $100. Day pass won’t help that and there is no family pass now.

        2. SB, try the maths again. Let’s say the family has 2 adults and 4 kids, one of them at tertiary level, the other 3 paying children’s fares. Let’s say each member takes 10 trips per week – to and from school or work. Let’s say one adult and the two older children travel 2 zones, one adult and the two younger children travel 1 zone. With HOP fares, this comes to $111.30.

          Now add trips to the shops, church, doctor, hospital, sports, music, friends, recreation, you’re up around $140-$150. Then add a few bigger trips each year. And that’s just for a 4-child family.

          1. You’re maths isn’t wrong, but I’d suggest that if you have to catch PT to schools, a tertiary institiute, and two jobs, then one car isn’t going to cut it. You’d be using two cars, at least.

            Replacing every journey with PT is likely to be more expensive, but replace all of those school trips with an active mode and suddenly it’s way cheaper.

            I’m not saying that people with limited means aren’t planning they’re money well btw. I’m saying that shitty PT and dangerous conditions for walking and cycling force people to drive, even where other options may be cheaper. In particular, if the kids can get to school safely and one parent can catch PT to work (or active modes) then that family can go down to one car and save all of the fixed costs associated with that.

          2. This discussion stemmed from Ari’s comment: “About 10 people live in both of the three bedroom houses on either side of my house. They have to own a van or two to move their family around and to buy their groceries. They do shift work. They have multiple part time jobs.” I think the maths shows that two vans to cover the multiple trips works out cheaper than PT for 10 people.

            And the important point we agree on is that these people would be best served by good active mode infrastructure – because then their costs could go way down. Additionally, they would be served well by cheaper PT, because then the combination of cheaper PT and safer active modes could remove the necessity for the vans altogether.

          3. I’m wondering whether a family pass could be introduced again. With more transit police coming & the fact that paper tickets are still a thing & allowed for with a special gate or the bus driver checking things somewhat. Could there be one that so in cases when all or part of a family travel together there would be one ticket covering them all. Problematic I know but would certainly address the gulf between larger car loads being usually more efficient/cheaper than a PT trip. Without crunching numbers something like 2 adults & up to 5 children for say a flat $30.00 for the day. None of this piddly 2 children limit. This would not help with these families. Maybe this is something to take up with Jacinda Ardern now we know baby is coming along. 😉 Definitely not the average Aucklander now, age about right but to be female, prime minister and have a baby while in office is something else!

            Yes agree though with SB the infrastructure for active modes is a big important thing.

  16. Of all the blogs I follow, and there are a few, GreaterAuckland is the least hostile of them all. By and large discourse is measured and non offensive.
    Try going to Kiwiblog or The Standard and you will see what I mean.

    1. Or the human toilet that is WhaleOil. Totally disgusting level of comments on there. Horrific things said about anyone who doesn’t agree with the neolib agenda. And god help you if you are a woman or non-white.

    2. Thanks Stephen, I appreciate the feedback, which aligns with my perceptions of other blogs as well. Notwithstanding the relative nature of the discourse on GA compared to other blogs, I’d like to think that we can still aspire do better. Onwards and upwards, as they say.

      And I guess that’s one of the underlying themes of this post and the subsequent discussion: The current crop of contributors to GA do well on some measures of diversity, such as age, but less well on others, such as gender and ethnicity. And we’d appreciate help addressing the latter :).

      That help could (and has) come in two forms: (1) identifying new contributors that bring additional diversity and (2) advice on how to create an online environment that is welcoming to a diverse range of people.

      I personally appreciate help of both forms, as well as people’s patience while we work progressively to address the issues.

      1. Can I ask Stu what your sense is of the proportion of disabled authors here?

        (NZ = 24%, Akl region probably bit lower though I have not re-run Census survey local breakdowns for 2013).

        1. Hi Sacha! My understanding is that *none* of the current crop of bloggers are mobility impaired. That’s problematic given the transport challenges faced by such people are different those faced by able-bodied people.

          If you knew someone who was afflicted by such issues and who had a perspective/experience to share, then please send them our way. FYI I’m currently reaching out to organisations involved in managing homelessness / rough sleeping, so would appreciate help in other dimensions.

  17. One of the other comments said something that got me wondering if my impression that Matt L and Harriet Gale were now the primary posters (in that order) on GA and Patrick Reynolds had all but disappeared was correct. So I used a simple methodology to check. The first number corresponds to all of last year, and the second number from 1 July to 31 December:

    site:greaterauckland.org.nz “Matt L” 267 / 144
    site:greaterauckland.org.nz “Harriet” 201 / 111 (I’m not sure why I didn’t use the search term “Harriet Gale”)
    site:greaterauckland.org.nz “Peter Nunns” 69 / 35
    site:greaterauckland.org.nz “Stu Donovan” 95 / 62
    site:greaterauckland.org.nz “John Polkinghorne” 49 / 23
    site:greaterauckland.org.nz “Patrick Reynolds” 207 / 93

    If there are other non-guest posters they do not stick in the mind (apologies) and even as it is I was somewhat surprised that I remembered John Polkinghorne’s name. Reynolds’ presence on the blog has remained stronger than I thought, but I think a large part of this is that he writes a lot of comments which I don’t always read (often I intend on waiting until the conversation has died down so I don’t have to worry about reading duplicates, but I don’t always remember to go back), which is something I notice Harriet does too. Despite these issues I do think this crude method does manage to show who the more forward facing members of GA are.

    In the context of advocacy groups like Greater Auckland I believe the biggest “diversity” problem is GroupThink… adding more people of different backgrounds and residence can only help GA avoid it. And as someone/others have said, there are signs that GA does have a slight geographical issue.

    I’d suggest names, but I don’t know anyone in their mid-thirties.

    1. “GroupThink” – we ought to be aware of it and I suspect most contributors react by finding holes in arguments rather than just sending unqualified appreciation.
      However it is possible that on some issues our “groupthink” is just right minded people agreeing. For example who doesn’t think a busway should have been included with the Northwestern motorway?

      1. This is part of the problem.

        Take the CFN2. I’m not sure to what extent the thinking behind having the trains skip Middlemore is down to GA but as it stands CFN2 treats Middlemore as just another station. It’s not. More to the point, it’s the major hospital for South Auckland. A lot of people work there and live south of Puhinui. Let’s put the difference between West and South this way… for years I’d hear Auckland Hospital and think that meant Middlemore and half my class in year seven were born in Middlemore (and a fair amount of the rest weren’t born in NZ).

        The trips associated with Middlemore aren’t just normal commuter flows or residential travellers. You’re also going to have (or should be hoping to have) outpatients, visitors and, potentially, incidental medical travel. A lot of these groups are mobility impaired or otherwise less able to engage with transfers… they should be seen as less as an irritation as they are to commuter and school flows (there is also a school next door to the hospital, albeit a private one) and more an inconvenience.

        Middlemore station looks to me as if it presents a big challenge to the third main (and certainly the fourth main: where do they fit?) so doubling the train traffic it receives seems like an idea to be handled with that infrastructure change. And, of course, removing stations from part of the looping structure of the CFN2’s Southern Line reduces several issues (longer journeys and I believe the sheer length creates problems in terms of the impact of delays). But even so.

  18. A man with his head in the oven and feet in the freezer is, on average, a reasonable temperature.
    “Averages” can be very misleading and a favourite trope of right wing politicians ( see also “the silent majority”).

  19. “specifically Maori, Pasifika, and people who have migrated to Auckland from overseas”

    Maori and Pasifika probably working overtime on low paid jobs to meet end needs. They don’t have the leisure time to read blog that doesn’t feed their kids.

    Migrated from overseas – Their english are not good enough and to easily read this blog.

    1. Hey, Kelvin. I still want you to write a post! I think your point of view is really interesting. I’d be happy to read any topic you like to write about (except perhaps education, which might get me grumpy).

  20. George could learn from the Kumeu/Huapai public consulatations, where, despite most locals driving, the largest number of submissions wanted a rail service. So yes, they drive, but no, they really want trains.

    Of course public consultation is meaningless if it isn’t backed up by action delivering on said consultation, and that’s where George has a good point. AT needs to deliver want people want. It’s the people who pay the bills after all.

  21. In an effort to appease those who think Stu has been disparaging of George Wood, I want to say that George is probably spot on when he says, “most Aucklanders use cars to get around.”
    On the downside, I don’t think George comprehends that with NZ’s greenhouse emissions currently 24% above 1990 levels on a gross basis and 63% on a net basis that the average Aucklander will continue to “use cars to get around”.
    Of course the target is a 5% reduction by 2020.

  22. This post has stirred a lot of healthy discussion. Average is probably the least useful position to consider for engineering, which is all about deciding what degree of extreme to cater for. I suspect this leads engineers into oversizing for peak traffic. A bridge that is designed for average loading may not be much use in a storm or with crowding. On the other hand, a road that is wide enough for more-than-average extremes of traffic is not always desirable.

    So Engineers do look for the needs and desires of people who are not average, and try to balance physical infrastructure to provide for as near to all as can be achieved.

    The true mark of the civilized society is the ability to discover the wants and needs of the small, silent categories, make them known and make decisions to provide for them. Our interest is therefore in the extremes, and in showing the categories of people with most power and resources the value of providing for others. So whatever characteristics (educated old white guy or whatever) we may have, “excellent hearing” is the one essential. Now off for my morning coffee!

  23. This has been the problem with the socialist movement for 150 years – if working people don’t have time or energy to read/debate, does that mean that real democracy is impossible and ideas can only be debated by the leisured middle classes?

    1. Well, yes, Daphne, to a certain extent, that is true. I found it very depressing during the last election, when One News or 3News went round the general shopping populace for “Vox pop”, of the lack of knowledge, lack of understanding, and lack of interest in the upcoming election. Of course the Vox pop is not in any way an authoritative sample, but as a random sample, it was depressing, particularly from working people – but also from students.

      Nowhere near as bad as those similar Vox pop in America, of course – the density of the interviewed pro-trumpian interviewee was appallingly low. Leading us back to the quote much higher up the page: “Think how stupid the average person is, then remember half of them are even more stupid than that.”

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