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Monday, March 14, 2005

Auckland, the city where many stuffs happens 

It's funny that I should read Graham Reid at public address having a bit of a go at how Auckland has been getting dogged (quite a lot lately) about not having much going on in it etc etc. It's pretty damn boring hearing such nonsense, especially from Wellingtonians who have somehow got the idea that they are the events capital of New Zealand. Yeah right guys.

Here's what Reid wrote on the subject...
Usually I don't bother responding to those who bait me about my hometown, they are usually parochial yokels whose opinions about Auckland are based on something they saw on the news. Traffic and crime for the most part.

But this week an aside from Linda "I mean" Clark really irritated me, it was one of those smug jibes from someone living in Wellington which seems to style itself as some crucible of aesthetics and arbiter of the arts...

...Anyway back to what Clark said this week. It was in a discussion about the AK05 festival and how it hadn't pulled quite the numbers the various promoters had hoped. At this Clark sniffed and laughed, "Aucklanders and art".

The subtext was clear: Aucklanders aren't interested in the arts.

I'm not sure about that, and was pleased that Carla Van Zon who had worked on the International Festival of the Arts held in Wellington said on television that it had taken a decade before it had made a buck.

Clark's snide aside about Auckland needs to be put in some larger kind of context, so here goes. My two cents worth, as Kent Brockman on The Simpsons says.

Auckland is a city and, like it or not, other places in this country are large towns or villages. And I include Wellington in that. It is a big town and, at best, maybe a really small city.

During AK05 we went to a few things: the sellout Town Hall show by Zakir Hussain and the opening night of the much over-rated play Three Furies which received a fair and damningly polite review by the Herald critic. If I'd read that review I wouldn't have bothered going.

During that fortnight we also went to a couple of movies (there are about three dozens screens within a 10 minute drive from our place, six within a five minute walk) and went to the art gallery for the Mixed-Up Childhood exhibition.

We also went to the International Cultural festival at Potters Park, and walked around the corner to spend half a day at Pasifika.

I mention this because Auckland isn't a big town, it's a city. A lot goes on in diverse arts all the time.

International rock bands and musicians regularly pass through here without venturing anywhere else in the country; there are pocket-sized film festivals regularly; at least half a dozen dance/DJ events on Friday and Saturday nights; dozens of art galleries; and blah blah blah.

So AK05 wasn't the only thing on our agenda the past fortnight. Aucklanders don't feel we have to rush off to every damn arty thing, there will be more coming down the turnpike.

That's the problem arts festival organisers here have to live with, but of course isn't a problem if you are an arts consumer, or even just like getting out of the house, in a big city.

During AK05 we also went out to dinner a couple of times, on both occasions to Ponsonby Rd oddly enough which isn't a place we normally go. Why not, when it's the Restaurant Mile?

Well, we live five minutes from the intersection of Valley and Dominion Rds (where we can choose from a dozen different Asian restaurants, an excellent GPK and a Russian place), or can walk up to Kingsland which is the new Ponsonby (at least the Ponsonby News devotes pages to all the café's, funky shops, restaurants, frock shops and so on which are within the 100 or so metre-long strip).

There's also multi-ethnic Sandringham a five minute drive away. And Parnell, Newmarket and other suburbs I suppose.

Oh, and one afternoon I went for a swim at the beach at the end of Sentinel Rd in Herne Bay which is literally a five minute drive from the foot of Queen St. (Yep, Auckland Harbour water may not be the cleanest on the planet but at least it is warm).

So when civilians from elsewhere in the country are sniffy about my city I generally couldn't give a shit. I like where I live: it is an interesting, diverse, amusing and lively place.

Hell, even the mayors of Wellington and Hamilton conceded it was the economic powerhouse of the nation when I interviewed them a few years back.

(By the way, Auckland didn't lose the V8 race, it didn't want it. Wellington is now stuck with it, and already rates are going to rise and the bike race there illustrated how even such a small event can disrupt traffic. I wish you luck with big noisy cars in the middle of your town.)

So that's my take on my city. I don't decry the place where anyone else lives, that's their choice. But maybe we need some perspective. Auckland is a city.

And "Morningside for life," as Prince Charles says.
Probably also worth mentioning the Kumeu A & P show which was on in the weekend and attracted tens of thousands over the two days as it has been doing for as long as I can remember. It used to be limited to a one day event in the past but has proved so popular that it's become a two day event on the local calendar. In fact before it was split over two days it was the largest single day event in New Zeland. And people think us Aucklanders don't know anything about getting our hands dirty. Hah!

The same venue has already had a classic car and hot rod festival (the largest car festival in NZ), the Auckland folk festival, the Kumeu wine festival (repeated in various other parts of Auckland over summer), and later this year will have the Kumeu garden show which should nicely compliment the massive 'Elerslie' flower show at the Botanic Gardens.

"Oh, and one afternoon I went for a swim at the beach at the end of Sentinel Rd in Herne Bay which is literally a five minute drive from the foot of Queen St."
In a mild defence of wellington, a mere 5 minute - walk - from Lambton Quay is Oriental Parade. Where those with balls of steel can swim out to the fountain (okay 5 mins walk might be exageratting but makes it 1.23km versus 3.56km).

The thing about Wellington is that its got a fair swag of the NZ civil service and company headquarters and that means a higher than usual concentration of the middle class. And we all know what wankers that lot are for joyus pretension in what passes for the nz art world.

and don't knock wellie purely because its small as far as I'm concerned the shear size of auckland is the shittest thing about it.
Size doesn't matter, potato hunter. And the concentration of pretentiousness bothers me not a jot. But if it's the 12th= most liveable city in the world (see above) then it's time to abandon this planet.
The same survey also looked at cost of living. These data should maybe also be taken into account when considering desirable places to live -

Geneva 6th
Zurich 9th
and for comparison purposes -
Sydney 20th
Melbourne 67th
Auckland 80th
Wellington 86th

When you take both scales into account both Auckland and Wellington scrub up pretty well. Overall I think these may be among the factors pointing towards why so many foreigners consider New Zealand to be a desirable place to which to emigrate.

For interest, the five highest costs of living may be found in Tokyo, London, Moscow, Osaka and Hong Kong. The third and fourth may be a bit of a surprise, but not the others. Cheers, wiremu1306

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