Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I have been struggling with Auckland's propensity to reduce its past to rubble for more than thirty years.
Is it something in the city's gene pool that drives it to plan with the bulldozer and the wrecking ball?
Something must explain this scary consistency of destruction and arrogant disrespect of history.
A walk along either Nelson Street or Quay Street is a sad lesson in how incapable this city is of planning.
What other city would give its central waterfront over to car park buildings and strip malls. What city port owned by its citizens would crowd the central city waterfront with unripe bananas, second hand Japanese cars and ten story high stacks of empty containers and a cement plant.
As for Nelson street what other developed city would cram its CBD fringe with tower blocks of apartments only slightly larger than a family car.
It would be nice to think that this is some past aberration - that we had grown out of planners who never left their offices and read their city on sheets of "artists" renderings produced by architects trained to hate the vernacular.
But we have not.
In the short life of this brand new forward looking super city with a mayor pledged to urban design values and protecting heritage, heritage buildings continue to fall, and the city is contemplating a one story mall of freehold shops hardly larger than a fish ball stall in its main street. Barely a block along our last great heritage theatre rots behind a 1960s facade that was ugly before its first sheet of fibrolite was lifted off a truck and is uglier now.
Heritage, we should note, did not score even a mention on the Mayor's triumphant list of the 100 things he had done in his first 100 days.
Now 8 buildings deemed worthy of protection in the Wynyard Quarter, including two owned by Auckland Council, are facing demolition as the result of a deal done between the old Auckland City and the developers who own the land.
A deal so secret that a part of it was an agreement by both parties not to admit that there was a deal at all.
If the city did a deal it could only being doing that deal for the benefit of us all. Then what did we get from it.
What was the citizens benefit.
Under what scrutiny was this deal made and to whom were the deal makers on the city side accountable.
Unless this is revealed it is difficult not to presume that we the citizens get nothing save eight piles of rubble.
It is hard not believe that in assessing heritage the only tools the guardians of our heritage use are cronyism and the deal.
It is time for this to stop.
Enough wailing and waving of hands Mayor Len Brown.
Order a truly transparent and independent review of how your city does this stuff and order it now.


  1. Sounds horrible. I'm coming to Auckland in a few days to roam around. There will be charm left over, won't there?

  2. Hi Hamish

    I just thought I'd let you know we have put The Unplanned Masterpiece - a history of Auckland online for anyone to view and share as they please. You're in it of course! 5 years on it still resonates loudly. Here's the link and please share.