Mike's Minute: Auckland Bridge woes show a deeper problem for NZ

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Tue, 22 Sep 2020, 9:24AM

Mike's Minute: Auckland Bridge woes show a deeper problem for NZ

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Tue, 22 Sep 2020, 9:24AM

Does Auckland feel like one of the world's most liveable cities?

The trick to understanding the human condition is to realise until it affects you, you don’t really care. You can offer a bit of sympathy, a shoulder to cry on, a few wise words of advice, but until it's up in your grill ruining your day, it's not really your problem.

That's how elections work. It's why Trump, Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison won.

What people say and what they do are often two different things. That's why New Zealand First does better on election day than in polls, people are embarrassed to admit any support. Flip side the Greens, it's cool to be green but you wouldn’t actually vote for them.

So, if you're reading this in Timaru, Christchurch, Wellington, or New Plymouth, the fact Auckland's Harbour Bridge doesn’t work is of no real concern to you. Until, of course, the economic impact it has hits your town, your workplace, or your home.

That economic reality was brought home in the last Auckland lockdown. It affects the whole country. When Auckland doesn't work, New Zealand doesn’t work.

Downtown Auckland currently is a mess. It didn’t function before Covid, it doesn’t function now, but in a different way, because a lot of people went home and never came back. Some of the trains are out for the week, again. Ferries are a nightmare, inconsistent and shoddy when they are running.  There is not enough water because they didn’t plan for population growth. Housing is too expensive for many making it harder to attract Labour. And the bridge is falling apart cutting half the population off from the other half.

It's got four days' worth of headlines because the bridge is the most tangible outworking of the dysfunction. And it isn't getting any better. In typical Auckland, come New Zealand style, there is no rush to sort it. The obligatory four weeks to months fixes are offered from another dysfunctional department in charge of something but responsible for nothing.  

And while all this has been slowly but inevitably bubbling to the mess we currently face, leaders have declared climate emergencies, indulged their passion for wastage on things like bike lanes, and pretended it’s a globally liveable city. There should be charges for civil fraud for this sort of behaviour.

We are here because we sadly deserve to be. We don’t care, we don’t vote, and we don’t hold people to account.

The same is happening with the government and Covid-19. We are prisoners to an ideology, the economy has crashed, and we are pretending we did well. But New Zealand as a country is like Auckland and its bridge or its water.

After a while it's damage becomes increasingly evident, the impact increasingly wide, and the tolerance increasingly low. The question at all stages, in all the scenarios, is the same, just how long are you prepared to put up with it?

Why don’t you want more and better? How long can we pretend? Is this actually the best we can do? What needs to break, stop, or die before we finally wake up to the fact this country is, in fact, a broken bridge and no one is going anywhere fast?

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