Sire, the peasants are revolting


    There are some things just too awful to be contemplated.
    A good cartoon can help the pain, and here I continue to miss my long-time and very beloved cartoonist, the late Jim Storey, who could, with a few penstrokes, capture an island disappearing under a tangle of helicopter blades, wet bikes, buses at valvebounce and four-wheel drives driven by bolt-upright persons looking neither right or left as they bounce over potholes and unfortunate dogwalkers.
    What he would have made of 2000 pohutukawa and other native trees being mangled on our roadsides to make way for double-decker buses – at public expense – raises some interesting images. In his feudal mode, he would undoubtedly have made play with his regular theme for the liege lord in the council’s ivory towers: “Sire, the peasants are revolting” which captured the arrogant negligence of so much of the amalgamated Auckland culture since 1988.

    Camels complained incessantly, but if they ever stopped, it was a sign they really were about to lie down and die.

    My father, who once protected my mother with a machete in the desert outside Algiers where they were stationed during the war and had some experience of camels, maintained that the beasts complained incessantly, but if they ever stopped, it was a sign they really were about to lie down and die.
    He was usually talking about the feisty Waiheke of the 1970s at the time.
    As we gather up the threads of the New Year, I’m getting the same sense of gritted teeth and fury beyond words among those of us who know and value the island and its achievements.
    There would have been protests against this summer’s insertion of three tourist double-decker buses from the Fullers stable if there had been room in the Matiatia keyhole for so much as a pigeon to move there.
    For 30 years we’ve submitted to transport plans that have enriched successive teams of consultants but little else. We have invariably called for small-scale and clever public transport solutions for an island of surpassing natural beauty and more cars than roads, only to have them locked, literally, in a cupboard by the council and, more recently, the silo that is Auckland Transport.
    There is still no transport plan and many of the ad hoc stopgap solutions have gone on for twenty years. The steep, pushchair-lethal, ankle-turning gravel car park half way up the hill from Matiatia would be a case in point.
    We are living in apocalyptic times.  Around the world, stuff is going to get broken before things start getting better and I’d prefer it didn’t start with one of our most precious resources.
    The arrival of double-decker buses and a near-duplicitous process of hiding from the public the extent to which the roadside trees have to be mauled at public cost has to be ominous.
    Whose fault is it if we see Auckland Transport’s wholesale uncoupling of decision making from any democratic principles, proper process or the intentions of the Resource Management Act as a sign of the new global anarchy promised by the ascendence to the American presidency of Donald Trump and his Court of billionaire captains of industry?
    Auckland Transport has now rolled out 65 double decker buses in Auckland, and Scottish transport entrepreneur Brian Souter, owner of ferry company Fullers and inner city transport companies, has invested $12 million in them.
    In this week’s paper, local board member John Meeuwsen continues the case for Waiheke’s proposal to break away from the SuperCity and its patently absurd cost structures. This week, he addresses transport issues, including roading costs (Page 22).
    Going back to the 1988 amalgamation, it’s been plain that we will never win any lotteries for infrastructure expenditure – not even better sealed roads made with the proper blue Karamaru rock invariably used by the former Waiheke County Council.
    “What were you doing when Donald Trump became president?” is almost certain to become one of the future world’s seminal questions. For Waiheke, the answer – hopefully – might be a cheerful “that summer when Fullers bought in double-deckers; what a shambles that was”.
    That would indicate that the world had managed to remain in some sort of balance and Waiheke had regained sufficient control of its own affairs for us to have a sense of humour about the utter – but brief – lunacy of inflicting double-decker buses on our tiny, congested and hilly island.
    If the monster buses are able to continue to wreak havoc on our environment to its swift demise as a global destination, it will probably mean we have sunk into the dreary dystopia that could be the ultimate expression of the Trump supremacy.
    Liz Waters

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