AUTHOR LA FEMINA
It seems to me that Wellington City Council has lost its humility with its attitude to residents increasingly officious. I speak to the Karori resident whose beautification efforts namely a hedge some seven years old that extended to the roadside verge was ‘marked’ out by the council as unacceptable with an order made to remove it forthwith. What prompted this I asked myself at the time it was reported in the DomPost?. It appears the prompt was some leaflet delivery adult-male who did not like being asked ‘not to walk through the hedge’ but to use the lane by the letter box that provided access to the next door neighbour – the same lane the posties have been using for many years – grateful for the consideration of the property owner.
I now discover that this beautiful hedge has in fact been moved ‘under threat’ of an encroachment levy not withstanding as any gardener knows it’s the height of summer when one does not move plants – it places them under stress, thus they often don’t survive. However this finer point was lost on the Wellington City Council “Encroachment Advisor / Official, the signatory of the letter dated 1 December 2016 who made it clear who was boss around here – Absolutely Positively No Humility Wellington City Council. The result this beautiful hedge was felled. Tragic. Yet in the face of both the Council and the leaflet delivery – adult – man – child what was a woman to do?
But as I said I had already sensed that culture of the Council has developed a rather mean self – serving streak. It’s not the first time the council has interfered for interference sake for a roadside berm in Burma Road was stripped of its plantings previously maintained by the resident. This berm became an unkempt eyesore. It seems to me that the council should focus on keeping its own house in order, namely cleaning the sunbaked mildew covered bench seats at the Botanical Gardens, and the unsightly road side verges around the city perimeters – the rust belt is the given name I’m told by a young cyclist I happened to come upon who had also noted an ‘attitude of decay’.
Wadestown Library surrounds could be mistaken for being situated in a third world country, the lawns and berms neglected, the footpaths covered in mildew, the signage board derelict. This I noted in early December and yet as at January 27 2017 the eyesore remains. Decrepid. Note the contrast, as unlike the Karori resident and for that matter resident all over the city who voluntarily contribute to the beautification of the outer perimeters of their properties, the Council is not looking after its own back yard. Let’s not forget the fact that beautification contributes to a suburbs overall appeal and thus the collection of higher rates. The Council would be well advised to remember the hands that feed them – and pays for the enjoyment by its staff of corporate privileges.
My sentiments are anchored in a number of observations in recent times. The Council pushed through the decision to locate the Indoor Stadium in an already dense traffic area – the road to Wellingtons International Airport, in the suburb of Kilbirne. Wellington Railway Station is the ideal spot for us ordinary people using public transport. Where is the sense in adding to the congestion of our city and placing added stress on both mums and dads transporting their children to sport and travellers endeavouring to get to the airport on time – oh this reminds me of the appalling mess made of the access to the airport – it’s a buggers muddle as my father would have said. The choice of location for the Indoor Stadium demonstrates the might of the few over-riding the common sense of the many. Go read the report held by the Library – only a reference copy available but clearly shows that the deck was stacked – through my eyes. For some of our City Councilors appear to make short term decisions that serve the next election cycle aka their personal good not the greater good. But perhaps us people are not so stupid after all given that Mayor was voted OUT.
Likewise due to the City Council ‘overlooking’ the obvious need to ensure developers of apartment buildings provide car parking for the inhabitants, we have in Wellington a shortage of street parking. Every month I notice more yellow lines – diplomatic parking, delivery parking, motorcycle and bicycle parking, tour bus parking, the yellow ‘no parking lines’ are the fastest growing addition to the city – apart maybe from the likes of the Salvation Army stores. Yes parking on the streets of our fair city is slowly but surely been squeezed out and with it people. And no I don’t intend to go to the ballet on a bike though the Council seems thinks that cycle tracks are the answer to the problem it created and continues to exacerbate. And don’t give me the private – public parking building arrangement rot – not so well designed and built given the closure, dismantling or repairing in the aftermath of the earthquake. And quite frankly car – parking buildings are ugly and a trap – ask those punters whose cars remain out of bounds two months after the earthquake.
A City’s vibrancy is drawn from people not buildings nor rules that decry creativity aka the Karori hedge beautification. It seems to me the Council in choosing not to provide adequate parking is slowly but surely sucking the lifeblood out of our city. Ask any retailer – they after all carry the can of the Council poor roading and parking decisions and bright ideas such as those ridiculous pots in Bond Street and $100k makeover. Give me a car park any day.
The mismanagement of our city has failed to be corrected by the election of the new Mayor who a day after a major earthquake ushered the people back into the streets. Note the irony here – yes its people who make a city – when they are useful of course. Who benefited from that decision is the question to ask yourself dear reader? One discovers for oneself the widespread impact the earthquake has had on the city when having finally secured a car park, one finds the said business closed. And those pesky new money grabbing ‘machines’ do not permit me to pass on my $4.00 ticket to a fellow traveller for the clock begins all over again when the next punter drives into the car space.
But the Council decision that drove home to me the lack of heart in our Cities Management related to its non – action in respect of a broken glass balcony above a footpath on the Terrace. I was absolutely appalled that the Council did No Thing to alert unsuspecting pedestrians and prevent them from walking on the Council managed pavement underneath the shattered glass balcony, unaware of the danger of falling glass fragments? The Council deemed ‘the issue’ a private affair of the building owner. Not a smidgen of red tape thus could be seen. As well as a callous attitude this was a complete abdication of responsibility. Perhaps we need to get that Encroachment Official on the job where things matter i.e. broken glass and leave well alone the things that in the scheme of things enhance residence experiences of living in our City and do not expose them to harm. There is after all no footpath on the Karori lady’s side of the street.
I say the world is in need of beautification and thoughtful people. There is enough destruction without creating problems where none need exist. What has been highlighted in terms of the Encroachment Officials’ decision is a lack of judicious decision making where following a rule book was used as a means to an end and gave rise to avoiding responsibility of making a ‘just’ decision. Life demands more of us than this. In respect of the Councilor who represents Karori there appears to be a lack of will in this particular case and likewise rules are rules sentiment applied. This after all was a mere women and her hedge. We need also though to remember it was this Councilor who stood for the Indoor Stadium being built next to the Railway Station. But wait there is more for this Councilor likes gardens but only the Chinese variety – a different choice of plant might have saved the day Andrea. But seriously, this issue is wider than that. It’s a cultural issue of less than becoming poor attitude towards people by Wellington City Council employees. What seems to have been forgotten is that is often the little things that are in fact the big things. Rudy Giuliani former Mayor of New York City worked that one out using the broken window theory in respect of ‘quality of life’.
Councils require the co-operation of people’ to govern and repeated occurrences of the nature listed above do not Foster / foster goodwill. Continually running roughshod over people and their humanness, as clearly seen in this small sample of observations, leads to discontent – and there is plenty of that in the world of today. Be careful of arrogance. Arrogance grows in equal proportion to the accumulation of power and its yardstick money – it’s unbecoming and ultimately leads one to ‘rue the day’ for the psychological contract as between people and also as between citizens and local government, once broken takes years to mend, if ever.
I say show a little kindness and respect for people, their daily lives and their love of beauty. Match the efforts of this Karori woman not decry them. Perhaps the Encroachment Official might now be charged with the task of implementing a beautification planting in Cornford Street Karori. For looking at the aerial view of the street kindly provided by the Encroachment Official that hedge was the prettiest thing in the street. A recompense of some form might be a tangible way of ameliorating the discontent of the 200 plus who signed the petition to retain the hedge and the silent ones – until election day that is. And I’m sure it will cost less than the $100k the City Council spent on a display on a side street off Willis Street only to be dismantle thereafter. But then that street was named Bond Street and any monopoly player of old knows that the other side of the monopoly board isn’t worth as much, and like the middle class, matter less. We need more Andrea’s in the world – someone prepared to stand for her view. She has shined a light on the ‘character’ of those entrusted with our welfare and like her, I have found them wanting.
For further elaboration on the meaning of “Stop It’ see below.