We’ve been pre-occupied of late with some rather serious topics: Funding for the CRL, state highway traffic volumes, urban limits, and inefficient tendering processes, to name but a few.
These topics have aroused huge interest – Auckland Transport Blog is now one of the top 5-6 blogs in New Zealand and getting close to cracking 100,000 views per month. I know I speak for all of the administrators here when I say that we’re rather humbled by all the interest and also that we also feel a growing “duty of care” to our readers.
And while debates have certainly raged, tempers have occasionally frayed, and certain political flags have been pinned to certain political masts (before occasionally being chopped down), we usually emerge from the e-brawl having found not inconsiderable amounts of common ground. In fact, if I was to jump on my relatively biased high-horse I’d go as far to say that the level of “blogplomacy” found in the threads on the Auckland Transport Blog put other blogs to shame (possibly because other administrators seem strangely unwilling to call out unnecessarily negative comments).
Anyway, all this got me wondering why Auckland Transport Blog was able to find such common ground when other forums cannot? Are we simply preaching to the converted, i.e. have we collectively beaten down or driven out all dissenters, which in turn allows us to scratch each others’ ideological tummies like happy little otters? Maybe, but I hope not and I don’t think so. Instead I suspect that the level of consensus we find is more likely to be the result of unstated but common values.
More specifically, I think we all tend to feel something along the lines of “Auckland is a wonderful city but it could be soooooo much better if it got its transport, land use, and urban design sorted”. Perhaps nowhere is this sentiment embodied more than on Auckland’s waterfront, which has become spectacularly popular even before much has happened.
My growing awareness of this seeming common ground prompted me to re-examine my own approach to blogging: When I write do I want to divide or unite? The former is easy but tends to be counter-productive; the latter is difficult but usually more fulfilling. To be honest I think that in the past I’ve too often taken the easy, divisive route and in the process missed opportunities to find agreement. Mea culpa; it’s something I will work harder on.
In this post I’d like to pose a simple but positive question that might help shed more light on possible common ground/values: Aside of course from the Auckland Transport Blog, what is it exactly that you love/like about Auckland?
From where I’m sitting the following attributes seem to jump out:
- Ethnic diversity – Auckland seems to have a quaint but delightful blend of NZ and international culture. The international influence brings ideas, energy, and interesting food/products/services, which is in turn underpinned by some of the best attributes from NZ culture, i.e. friendliness that is forthcoming (even to strangers) and a willingness to trust people unless proven otherwise.
- Environmental accessibility – Auckland’s unusually favourable combination of geography and climate creates an environment that is, I think, extremely accessible all-year round. In the summer you can jump on the bus to Takapuna or the ferry to Waiheke and drink some wine or have a swim. In the winter I can catch a train out to Waitakere, cycle to Bethell’s beach and watch massive waves smash into the rocks. If you don’t mind chancing the occasional shower then there’s usually something to you can do outside, even if it’s just relaxing in hot pools or climbing to the top of a volcano.
- Tasty, good-value food – I recently returned from the West Coast, where the closest restaurant (the only one in town) was 20 minutes drive from where we were staying. Meals cost $25 for what was (as my Norwegian visitors noted) essentially trucker food. Now I’m not doubting that the restaurant on the West Coast was trying hard, but they simply lack economies of scale. Upon returning to Parnell I am now 2 minutes walk from many fantastic restaurants where mains (and weight) can be gained for $15-$20. The Chocolate Boutique, meanwhile, has desserts starting from $5 (compared to $12 on the West Coast). I think that Auckland’s scale leads to some tasty, good-value food.
- Funky town centres – This is, I think, one of the most understated delights of Auckland. I live in Parnell, but I could almost as happily live in Mt Eden, Kingsland, Newmarket, Ponsonby, Pt Chevalier, Mt Albert, Morningside, Balmoral, Sandringham. Actually I could also live in some of the nicer neighbourhoods downtown (Emily Place, for example). Auckland has pockets of urban funkiness separated by quite a lot of suburban wasteland; all we need to do is connect up the town centres with better public transport and improved walking/cycling and I think Auckland will really start to hum.
Those are just a few of the things that I love about Auckland.
Nonetheless, even I have to admit that Auckland is not yet good enough for me to want to stay here permanently, and I will soon flee for fairer urban shores in Europe. But I do feel that Auckland is now “good enough” for me to refer to it as “home”, no matter where in the world I am. And that, I have to say, is a very great leap forward compared to the early 2000’s when, quite frankly, I was so embarrassed by Auckland that I encouraged my international friends to spend as little time here as they could.
Positive progress, it seems, is another good thing about Auckland’s recent past and one that makes me appreciate the hard work of a lot of “unsung” Auckland heroes. More on these people in upcoming posts, but for now let me leave you with the view of the City Centre from my balcony.
Thanks Auckland, you’re a very frustrating city at times but deep down “I love you”, as Marcelle the Shell would say.