Monday, September 12, 2011

Were you there when they crucified Len Brown?

Everything you need to know about the political management of the Rugby World Cup in Auckland can be found in this Rudman and in this photograph. Murray McCully, the Cabinet's Kenneth Widmerpool, is quick to take the credit and quicker still to avoid the responsibility, just like his Prime Minister. When it was all going swimmingly, Murray was in charge. When the going got tough, Murray was gone as soon as he could point a pudgy finger of blame at Mayor Brown and shout "you're it!"

The Dear Administrator also made sure the buck would stop nowhere near him, not this close to an election:
Asked if Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully was wrong not to apologise he said no. "Party central worked perfectly".The Government had responsibility for The Cloud the police and the opening ceremony. Most got to the game but a small group did not. Key said he was more than happy to apologise, but responsibility was with the delivery agents in Auckland.
Party Central did indeed work perfectly, for the simple reason that most people who wanted to enter it were kept out. Those people, tens of thousands of them, blocked the entire waterfront. Since Auckland's waterfront is also its transport hub, Auckland found itself hosting a very large party on its train, bus and ferry stations.

So, party out of bounds, who's to blame, who's to blame? Perhaps the blame lies with the person who thought it would be a smashing idea to create Party Central on the waterfront. That person would be Mr Key. Or perhaps blame lies with his creature, Mr McCully, who had the job of managing the event. But no, they blame the Mayor.

Pausing only to reflect that these are quite contemptible people, we might then look at what was happening in the middle of the city while chaos reigned at the waterfront. Not a great deal, as it turned out: Aotea Square, the public space recently refurbished at great public expense, was largely unused. It contained a covers band of the not-terribly-good kind, a face-painting facility and two Land Rovers. These last occupied most of the Square, which had been fenced-off to provide a space in which they could drive round and round, showing off their extraordinary ability to go over ramps. This could be done by a 1983 Corolla but then Toyota is not a Global Partner of the Rugby World Cup. And that was it. The centre of our city, recently landscaped to within an inch of its life, looked like the remnants of a third-rate A&P show. And it does to this day: as I write, those bloody Land Rovers most likely are still going round and round.

Pausing only to reflect that this shows how public space can so easily be corporatised - this is our public square, not Land Rover's car park - we might consider what went wrong. Here's a working hypothesis. Mr Key had a vision. He knew what had to be done. Mr Key has a can-do attitude. Unfortunately, he can't.

Mr Key's vision was rubbish from the start. Queen's Wharf, his envisioned site for Party Central, is - as its name suggests - a wharf. As such, it has characteristically wharfine features. It has four sides, three of which are bordered by water and only one that is attached to land. This means, as I am sure you have realised, that is has only one entrance from the land. It is also much longer than it is wide. So this happens: people go on to the wharf from the landward end. Of course, they cannot leave it other than at that end; in any case, they may not want to leave, since the wharf has a pub, huge television screens and Dave Dobbyn. However, lots of other people also want to experience these attractions but they cannot do so, because the wharf is full. So, they go elsewhere, but there is nowhere else to go, because this is Auckland. They fill up the adjoining bus and train stations as well as the small parts of the waterfront available for public use, including the ferry terminal. They walk up Queen Street, filling the pavements and then the road. Soon, nothing is moving - except the Land Rovers.

Then, some hours later, everybody with a ticket wants to go to the game. Despite official encouragement to walk, they all pile on the train, which cannot take the strain.

In retrospect, it may occur to Mr Key that the best place for public events is a public space. Aotea Square could not have held everybody but at least it would have kept them away from the transport system. The Domain would have been a better idea still.

But Mr Key had a vision. The wharf would be Party Central, as well as a cruise-ship terminal, which would be built in record time. What's more, the local authorities would pay for it. The local authorities were understandably reluctant to do so. There was no time to build the cruise-ship terminal. Instead, we wound up with a tent and a shed. The shed was there already; the tent cost $9.8. Unfortunately, both were on the wharf.

Build it and they will come. That they did. And they had drunk quite a bit before they got their drinking together, shortly before they really got into it. Having no idea what to do with a large mass of understandably drunk people, the event organisers - Messrs Key and McCully - had made no provision for them. Some could get on the wharf but most would have to go somewhere else. That they did. Chaos ensued.

Of course, there is no retrospect about this, not for Messrs Key and McCully. They have shifted blame and moved on, just like they always do. We, the citizens of Auckland, are left with the chaos and the bill.


Anonymous said...


Len Brown is responsible, in equal measure with Veolia.

Steve Ballantyne said...

Not convoluted at all — just another example of National politicians skimping on Auckland infrastructure, as has been their habit for the past 50 years and more.

Len Brown really hasn't been in the job long enough to have to cop for this one.

KJ said...

Meanwhile, I was running an errand for working, transporting an industrial hose to Rotorua, because the courier was stuck in Auckland, because of the RWC.

In other Auckland public transport news, I live 15 minutes drive from central Auckland, but I take a ferry into town every day. The problem is when I have to stay at university later for an exam or whatnot, the ferry is no longer running (the last one runs at 6:40) So I am forced to wait an hour after my exam for the next bus, which takes a full hour and a half to get to where I live after winding its way through 9 other suburbs. To top it all off, that is the last bus out this way, and it's only 9:00pm.

/end rant

Hans Versluys said...

I was on Pier 2 and it was surprisingly quiet and serene as Fullers had stopped delivering passengers from overseas. Entry was by ferry ticket only so that kept out the masses. Best seat in the house, I say. said...

Er, wasn't current Epsom ACT candidate John Banks the incumbent mayor during the time when Akld should have been spending money on infrastructure for the RWC?

If Akld mayors do have direct operational and allocative control over this process, it's his fault.

Why has no-one pointed this out?

Craig Y