This is my last post for Greater Auckland. After several years, I think the time has come for me to stop chewing ears.

If I recall correctly, I was originally involved circa 2010-11 when the founder, Joshua Arbury, asked me to help write a few guest posts at a time when he was otherwise occupied. Back then, I assumed few people read the Blog and that fewer still would read my random concoctions, which usually focused on wherever in Europe I was travelling at the time. I only ever started blogging in a temporary/part-time capacity to help generate content, and to a large extent that’s still how I feel about my involvement now, that is, as someone who watches from the sidelines and pipes up every now and then to fill a gap.

What’s changed, obviously, is that GA’s readership is now rather large. So why cut-off my ear-chewing at this point? One important reason was that I wanted to use this (hopefully uncontroversial) Gotye/Van Gogh mash-up meme (source).

More seriously though, I feel like I’ve had enough time on the soapbox and I’d now prefer to focus on helping other people’s perspectives come to light. While I will no longer be blogging myself, I will be out there eliciting posts from people on topics that I think are important and under-represented. For example, I am currently in discussions with an organisation about having them write a series of guest posts on issues relating to homelessness/sleeping rough. Another topic on my radar includes documenting experiences of younger-than-average Aucklanders.

Of course, part of the reason I am stepping back is that I want to devote my time and energy to other things. For me, each post takes about 8-16 hours of thinking, research, writing, and editing. I know, I know: I’m not the most productive blogger. Right now, however, I really need to spend those hours doing other things. In addition to working as a consultant and studying towards a PhD, I am also trying to be a decent partner and a doting parent. Yes, a few weeks ago my partner and I were fortunate enough to be joined by not-so-wee baby Alexandra, a.k.a. Xanda Panda. Here’s Alexandra in a lactose comatose.

Indeed, becoming a parent is the primary reason I am stepping back from the Blog. There is just so much to do, I don’t know where the days go. On the bright side, our experience thus far doesn’t align with research finding that kittens are better than babies. Last week, in between feeding, sleeping, and changing nappies, we took Alex on her first-ever train ride from Graceville to Indooroopilly, and then onto Central. While Alex was keen to roll early to avoid the summer heat, I explained to her that we should wait until after 8.30am so that her parents would qualify for the 20% off-peak discount.

Our first stop in Indooroopilly took us to the community health centre for a check-up, where Xanda Panda smashed her previous personal best weight and height measurements, hitting a hefty 4.54kg and 56cm. After tipping the scales, we then boarded the train again (sufficiently quickly to qualify for a continuation of our initial journey, saving us from paying another fare) to travel onwards to the city. Here’s a video of one of Alex’s doting parents pushing her pram off the train at Central, en route to the Registry of Births, Deaths, and non-political Partnerships.

Apart from cladding Alex in a pink outfit (due — I must add — to a lack of unsoiled alternatives), my main parental failure was when Alex decided to suckle on her fingers rather than open her eyes for a passport photo. While I’m prepared to wait a few days to allow Alex’s eyes to adjust to light outside of the womb, I’m keen to secure dual Australian / New Zealand citizenship as soon as possible to render her ineligible to stand for parliament in Australia. Given the rate at which Australian’s politicians are standing-down, I’m genuinely worried that Alex may soon be asked to re-start the “Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party” (NB: Incidentally I believe the latter’s demise reflected their inability to adopt motor-neutral policies. So sad.).

On the train home to Graceville, Alex and I did come quite close to another parenting failure when she started to chew my ear about risks facing the global economy, especially in relation to the potential fall-out from a property collapse in China. The problem I had was not her take on these complex and important issues, but the fact she decided to start this conversation while we were in the silent carriage. I know, right? Even after a full 2 weeks of life outside of the pregnancy detention centre, Alex is yet to learn that Queenslanders like to keep quiet when in the quiet carriage. Stone-cold, air-conditioned silence.

Evidence suggests that Queensland Rail’s quiet carriages are possibly the only place in the whole state where you can gather your thoughts in peace. Yes, they are a rather chatty bunch.

In all seriousness, though, my time with GA has been a pleasure and a great learning experience, so thanks to you. And you. And you. It’s certainly been a privilege watching GA (nee TransportBlog) evolve and grow over time. In the future, I hope to continue to contribute to Auckland’s development, albeit more indirectly, perhaps in different (more research-oriented) ways, and from a greater distance. Go well.

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26 comments

  1. Good stuff Stu. Congratulations on your new addition, classic nick name! I totally understand the change in priorities for now.

    I have always enjoyed your thoughtful and thought provoking writing. You have called out some really important opportunities and shared a good international perspective – with plenty of Dutch roundabouts, bike lanes and intersections there for a while! Seems like apt timing to bring back some more with the proposed funding changes hah?

    We need more smart people like yourself involved to achieve the right balance of planning and mode usage across this growing city of Auckland. Exciting and challenging times ahead.

    1. Hey Mark thanks so much for the kind words, and thanks also for supporting the blog over the years. I’ll definitely do my best to encourage as many Dutch and Danish transport planners as possible to move to New Zealand :).

      Honestly though, it feels like the right time to move on; GA has some young, bright stars coming through who I suspect will take it onto bigger/better things. Meanwhile I see the same thing happening in consultancies and local government organisations all around New Zealand: smart, decent young people who aspire for a better (different?) future for our cities and towns.

      That’s really exciting and something we have to foster and cherish. Of course this doesn’t mean that experience/wisdom suddenly has no value; I myself have learnt an enormous amount from people of all ages. But perhaps it does mean that marginally-older-than-average people such as myself might want to stop talking and start listening at least for a while? All the best.

      1. Listening more than talking is always good, but: don’t worry Stu! I think you’re still slightly below the average age. The median age is somewhere around 35 I think, average probably a little higher, 37 or 38 say.

  2. Stu, she’s a complete darling. And lucky in her parents! Keep up the great work.

    That Barnaby Joyce article would be hilarious if similar situations weren’t so common over here too…

    1. Hi Heidi thanks so much; Alexandra is adorable and much-adored. I never actually thought I’d enjoy the helpless blob of cells infant stage, but it’s a real delight seeing her explore the world.

      And thanks also for your contribution to our comments’ section. Comments are the other side of the GA ying-yang coin; neither blogging nor comments could exist without the other.

      I really enjoyed the article actually. My favourite line: “But even that egregious and head-spinning instance of grotesque hypocrisy is not the rancid cherry on top of the shit sundae of this story.”

      While it’s a bit hot over here for my cotton-socks, I do love the candour! That’s in the SMH too, one of the most regarded/read papers..

    1. I was going to reply “merci buco” and then looked it up: “merci beaucoup”! I felt ignorant until I also checked the spelling of mazel tov. Regardless: Thanks miffy (which incidentally is also a Dutch rabbit that has its lips stitched together): https://res.cloudinary.com/s8/image/fetch/c_scale,d_missing_imx2hb.png,f_auto,q_auto,w_350/https%3A%2F%2Fcdn.waterstones.com%2Fbookjackets%2Flarge%2F9781%2F4711%2F9781471123368.jpg

      Look forward to seeing you in court perhaps?!? 😉

      1. Oy vey you caught me out. Of course as a decedent of one of the 10 lost tribes I am allowed to put an R in. Anyway congratulations, the only advice I have is get yourself enrolled at a GP practice that has a large carpark. (1 space per 20sqm is about right.) Take care.

        1. thankfully, we have enrolled with a GP that we can easily access via train! Or Uber for emergencies. All very civilised and unregulated :p.

          P..s QR really are a law unto themselves.

  3. You don’t really know what it is like to be time poor until you have a baby. Enjoy it! You may not have time for much else but who cares about anything else when a beautiful child is part of your life? Aside from free transfers and quiet train carriages of course!

    1. Yes, although right now it’s a wonderful kind of time-poor; I feel super-charged with joy and adrenalin! I’m sure that’ll wear off :). Thankfully one of my last major projects in SEQ was putting through a fare change that enabled children with a go card to travel free on public transport on weekends. At the time I never thought I would use it myself!

  4. Thanks Stu for your posts and involvement, totally understand the time commitment of parenting. I’ve learnt a lot reading your posts. Actually for me, just reading, thinking & commenting takes a bit of time commitment too!

  5. As a reader of this blog since the time of Admin I have always enjoyed your posts as a learning and entertainment experience. Go well.

  6. Enjoy it mate. You’ll blink and she’ll (/they’ll??) be in her thirties. Like mine!
    I’ll miss your posts, but hope you will still chip in among the comments from time to time.
    Cheers

  7. Mother of a young toddler here, and I really think it noteworthy that when I and my (white) partner and our (white) baby breastfeed on public transport, no-one bats an eyelid – unlike that Pasefika lady who got put off the bus in West Auckland. But thank the Almighty we live in a PT-rich part of Auckland so we successfully go without a car. Bus, train, e-bike and regular bike are enough – the little girl has a seat of her own for the latter two.

    1. Agree. And go you with the car-less lifestyle. We won’t get there I don’t think; where we live has good PT connections to city but Brisbane doesn’t seem to have discovered the benefits of frequent local buses. Instead, they seem intent on ploughing loads of money into long radial routes serving the city centre, which often overlap and duplicate each other, and little else.

  8. I often skim the graphics and photos in these blogs; sometimes skim the words too especially when they are quotes from the bureaucrats however I returned three times to inspect your baby photo. Quite wonderful; of course not quite as perfect as my grand-daughter Kaycie but very close and in the besotted eyes of a parent their own baby is best. Whereas grand-fathers have greater experience of life and are rigorously objective.

    Had never heard of the quiet carriage – what a great idea.

    I will miss your posts; I’ve not agreed with everything you have written but I have never regretted reading them. Hope you will contribute more comments especially on the theme of babies and then toddlers and then young children on public transport. At least they come with an in-built goldcard until they start school.

  9. Thanks for everything Stu, your posts have been informative and inspirational in equal measure. I have massive respect for everyone at the Transport Blog/Greater Auckland – you’ve articulated what I’ve never managed to, how there is a better way forward for Auckland.

    Also, TB (as it was then) was the main reason I had hope for Auckland to become a real city – I’ve been reading it since 2010, before we moved back to NZ in 2011, and it made me understand the amazing potential this city has, which is only now slowly being realised.

    More power to GA, and more power to you Stu. Enjoy the childhood years, they will go fast! (Our daughter just started school and I still can’t work out where the last five years went…) Hope your career moving forward makes as great a contribution to public discourse and urbanism as it has so far 🙂

  10. Cheers for all the work you’ve put in to blogging over the years Stu. I’ve always enjoyed your reading your posts and several times have found myself changing my mind on topics thanks to your thorough and persuasive arguments. All the best with fatherhood.

  11. Congratulations on becoming a father. I’ll miss your posts, but am looking forward to what your efforts to seek new voices might bring.

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