Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stucco In the Middle

The Auckander weekly paper published an article in its edition of 23 September , 2010 on the loss of more Heritage housing in St Heliers.
This demolition is by the selfish and the ignorant .Yes the usual culprits who have wrecked so much damage in both culturally and economically to our city. I salute the organisations and media who strive to protect our heritage and the writers who also lift awareness of the importance our heritage.

Below is my letter to the Aucklander.

Your story about the loss of the Art Deco houses in St Heliers is timely .

Lynne Scott is right. Her concerns are shared experiences of Aucklanders right across our city.

The desecration, destruction or removal of heritage buildings is a tangible loss to many. It also can affect the economic viabilty of our whole region.

Developers and their apologists such as Wendy Casperson choose to take a very narrow view.

Citzens are often concerned by the atitudes of developers and the local business association managers rarely live in the neighborhood affected. Many of the developers also declear making little money and pay no tax. It is dificult to discern if they have any community concern.

The St Heliers Village Association is the local business association in drag . It is not an independent residents association .Do Wendy and her association actually know what they are doing? Will it make doing business better? Will it provide more income for businesses?

In Ponsonby the proponents of the SOHO developmemt and their local business allies spoke in the same language and advanced the same auguments as Wendy.

Ponsonby has a hole in the ground. It is certainluy not an asset to Ponsonby.
If the St Heliers Village Asociation did some reseaerch they would they would find that their ecomomic viabilty would be secured by the protection and maintenance of these buildings.

The interactive tourist who visits Auckland and spends the most money, values heritage . They spend in Ponsonby and Parnell not in Takapuna or Newmarket.. Newmarket has fought back with the Osbourne Street development which has been made a heriatge zone and is pumping and by looking after their few remainng heritage buildings.
It is not too late to stop this develpment .I hope Lynne and Keith and St Heliers residenst are able to find the funding to appeal.

However they have to change the rules around non notified consents so that communities can have some say . Sadly, the spatial plan for the new city does not proivde any protection for neighbourhoods. One of the first jobs of the new council will be to address this issue .

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Green MP Sue Kedgley Retirement

Sue Kedgley's decision not to return to parliament at the end of the current parliamentary term is a major loss for the Greens.

The Greens may not realise this however they could on polling day next year .
In 1999 in our first MMP parliament the Greens were the most colourful of all the political parties . Although Labour M.P Georgina Beyer also shared this distinction. The Greens were not short of talent either .

They have been unlucky in being only the bridesmaid in our parliament never quite managing to get sufficient votes to be able to get to cabinet .
This was a loss, in cabinet Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimmons,Sue Bradford and Sue Kedgley would have been capable ministers and all would have served New Zealand well .Particulary as the current National Act Maori party coalition has gone to sleep on sustainability. Sustainability is important for New Zealand for many reasons not the least economically. That the current leadership of the Green party,' Yes, more muscle with Russell' is one of their campaign slogans says much about their strength and capabilities. Who can imagine that happening and the governing coalition getting away with neglecting sustainable polices if Jeanette Fitzsimmons and Rod Donald had been leading the party?
Labour MP's David Parker and Charles Chauvel have been making the running on this issue in parliament .
This can be explained in part because the Green parliamentary party has suffered much with the death of Rod Donald ,the retirement of Jeanette and the subsequent bitter fight for the co leadership between Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei.Sue Bradford resignation was also a loss for the Greens. Bradford who was well respected in the union movement and among community activists did not have the charisma of Kedgley although was well respected, however her resignation does not have the same potential to damage the Green vote as Kedgley. Sue Kedgley decision will give the Greens a further renewal opportunity . Their choice of candidate may well be crucial for how well the Greens do in the next election .

Sue Kedgley was the Greens highest polling politician in electorate vote as their candidate in Wellington Central. Coincidentally Wellington central recorded the Greens highest polling in general votes. However this also translated to many votes for the Greens nationally . Sue's appeal is broadly the same as Helen Clarke and Hilary Clinton . Their appeal is to that generation of women who made real ground by their community activities, and campaigned for abortion rights ,who were the first generation to make careers and who felt that apartheid and the Vietnam war were morally wrong.
These women were largely white middle class.
Marsden educated Sue was of them , well articulate and shared their concerns and ambitions, Sue also was tough but possessed some charm too.
The Greens no longer have a candidate who this generation feel comfortable with. These votes are now up for grabs . Those who swing on a single issue (and their are many of them) may stay with the Greens particularity if food is an issue . Some of these food issue people are loopy but many have genuine concerns about what we eat and may stick with the Greens.
Others will return to their class base .A good example is the Gay vote. Wealthy Gays who are fiscally conservative shifted largely to Labour since homosexual law changes of the forth Labour government in the 1980's. This vote was Labours to the 2008 election then John Key danced with transvestites this vote shifted back to its class roots. After idealism has faded and since the victories have been largely achieved these vote will largely return to their class vote, this will also apply to the feminist vote too.
Will these go the Blue greens or to the Red greens ?
Party strategists in both Labour and National will be running the numbers on this.

I met Sue on many occasions over 30 years and we shared a mutual respect for and friendship with Sonja Davies a feminist who made real ground and broke frontiers for women. Sonja was a mentor, influence and inspiration to many women of Sues generation.
Sue Kedgley will leave parliament next year after serving twelve years in our parliament and having made a considerable impact. Sadly the National government caved into the flat earthers in the Act party and reneged on school tuck shops being mandated to sell healthy food . Sue's dissatisfaction with this decision is shared by 100,000s of people throughout New Zealand. Who knows, she may have the last laugh as if National is defeated in 2011 this may be one of the issues that have brought them down.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Urugray vist April 2010 Chapter one


I leave on the 0845 Bluebus ferry to Colonia. Allow an hour for departure including customs and immigration. The terminal is modern and efficient and spacious with high ceilings. These are fast boats similar to what we have had on Cook Strait. Bluebus had a crack at establishing a service in New Zealand 10 years ago. The boat is full of Argentinians going to Colonia for a romantic weekend. They have an exchange rate advantage over the Uragurians and with the advantage of duty free shopping. They buy chocolate and perfume and the shop is go, go, and go for the whole trip. The stewardesses resemble models. My seat mates are a professional couple. He is a lawyer and she is a bio-chemist. They dream of their peso being again on a par with US$. It does not register that the US$20 billion default of their money is because of this.

The Saturday edition of the BA Herald has stories about the economy and the hope that people can get foreign loans for less than 10%. The unofficial exchange rate is 20%. The cost of living is in fact all they talk about. Neighbouring countries Uruguay and Chile can get bonds for 5%.

I read in the B.A Herald that the personable and left wing President Kirchner has supported the Grandmothers of the Disappeared in their desire to have a court case. Also an Argentinean pilot on a Dutch passport has been charged with dumping bodies in the Atlantic Ocean during the rule of the Junta in the 70’s and 80’s. My seatmates are worried that the Generals may leave the barracks. Other news is that all the Argentine football teams’ games in the World Cup will be shown live in every school classroom – They know the important things in life!

I arrive at the ferry terminal at Colonia and pass through customs. This is again a high class terminal with a tile floor so clean you could eat a meal on it .Although signs for the bus could be better. I buy a ticket to Montevideo for US$10.00. The roads are good and we skirt past the historic city of Colonia on the road north. The land is very green and flat. We pass small hamlets built for the workers who maintained the railway line which is still visible with grass growing and a donkey or two grazing on it. The houses built of concrete are very simple in design. You see cows, but it’s not the Waikato and Taranaki operation.

Around midday we make our way into Montevideo. There are a few shanties on the outskirts, but nothing as large as in Asia. The bus depot is well organised and we dock quickly and safely. Martin is there to meet me. Taller than I remembered, but there is the warmth of an old friend. He takes me on a city tour, showing me the port area and the derelict old railway station. I will come back later to take photos and check out the old railway carriages that date back to 1950. I ask about taking a train trip and Martin is really opposed to it although he does not offer a reason his manner indicates please, no way.

Montevideo has one of the finest waterfront walks anywhere. The port and the city is surrounded for miles by the Rambla; a concrete foot path maybe 3 metres wide. It is accessible from all parts of the city – even from a crack addict’s apartment building that looks so desperate. Tower Hamlets in London are up market in comparison. Perhaps they need a Harry Brown to sort it.

Opposite the docks is an old area of housing that could be Freeman's Bay Auckland 30 years ago. Rundown, but there is evidence of renovation, it definitely happening area with bars and a life.

Martin and Carmina apartment is in the middle of an old warehouse district which is in slow transition. His neighbour is a crack dealer but the neighbourhood seems safe. We pick up some beers and go visit some of Martins friends – Danny and Renee. They live on the edge of a wealthy area and they have an ancient Doberman who I make friends with and an affectionate Persian cat. We share the beers which are from a small brewery and have the taste of well-crafted ale. Dani and Martin are book editors and designers. They have made some interesting art books and also a bilingual history of the restoration of the Montevideo Racing Club. This is a fine work and one that has a real value for racing people everywhere. It also a tribute to the once great British empire when Britannia ruled the waves. They are fine folk, generous and bohemian. We talk on the history and politics of Uruguay.

Everybody in Uruguay talks politics, football, and racing. We all go for a walk around the waterfront and at a good seafood restaurant share more beers and a platter of calamari, cockles, prawns, and local mussels. We then walk back to their house through a neighbourhood which reminds me of Kelburn in Wellington except the houses are more modern. All have dogs which continually bark from behind high wrought iron fences all down the street. There are security guards at all the street corners where you enter. Martin jokes that we come in the night.

We make our way to Martin’s mother’s apartment which is in Palermo, a middle class part of town. It is one of four apartments in a converted mansion. My room has a single bed with a window that looks down the entrance and gets a nice breeze. I listen to a local radio station and have a siesta. Transistor radios are very popular here. You can hear the races and football games blaring. Uruguay is football, racing, and beer.

Clara’s apartment is a thespian dream. She has a collection of books and music which would grace a home anywhere. The leather couches are comfortable and later I recline with a generous scotch and listen to Rada fan. I give Clara the Denis Welch biography of Helen Clark. She is very happy Surprise surprise, Helen is known here too

At 2200 we go to Dani and Renee’s for dinner. Renee has gone to some effort and has marinated fish. We have home-made bread and zucchini fritters. For a main course we have pan fried fish and potatoes. We enjoy some wine from small producers who drive around town selling their produce door-to-door. The wine – a Merlot – is fine. All Uruguay wine is 12% alcohol and they seem to drink it young.

Dani and Martin are Lambretta enthusiasts. Danny has two under reconstruction. They have a status where as Vespa’s, which though not popular, are not rated. We check out on their laptop the Flight of the Concords, the Top Twins, and the Wellington International Ukulele orchestra. They are all a great hit.

Uruguayans are proud of their culture, tango, film, music, and books. They are prolific readers, and with soccer and racing, are a proud talented people, proud of their independence and their fight for democracy. They have paid a high price perhaps that is why they opinions are strongly held.

Sunday is to be one of the most moving days of my life. Martin and his new girlfriend Carmina are having a family reunion of his father Carlos’ side. Carmina is a very intelligent and well read student. Her dark intelligent eyes scrutinize everyone‘s comments, even those of the grandfather’s. He had been to New Zealand with a son and daughter-in-law and was disappointed I was not a six foot tall Maori and I that I can’t sing to save myself. However, three of his sons had joined the Tupamaru guerrillas who were then imprisoned and one was exiled. Carlos has lived in France and Switzerland.