From Penk’s Pen

Happy New Year!  I hope that all readers of the Helensville Community News have had a great start to 2024.

I am enjoying being back at work now, after travelling post-Christmas to visit extended family in South East Asia.

I had visited Singapore and other nations in that region many times since I first joined the Navy but that was more than 20 years ago now.

Every city that I visited is much changed since that time but I wonder if the same can truthfully be said of NZ (in a uniformly good way) in the intervening couple of decades.

I certainly couldn’t help but feel as though residents of those cities have seen a lot more progress than northwest Auckland ever has.  There is more planning evident in Singapore’s airport alone, for example, than in all of Auckland ... and certainly in northwest Auckland.

While I was not travelling for work purposes, naturally I was taking mental notes about things that they do well overseas that we do poorly at home in terms of planning, transport systems etc. It would be impossible for any of us not to make those kinds of comparisons, I suspect.

Of course this is not to say that New Zealand is not an exceptional country. I’m genuine when I say that I think we have the best little country on earth.

But, if we are honest with ourselves, much of the charm here lies in our natural advantages, rather than the result of any good planning or policies implemented by central government. Indeed, you could make a case that New Zealand remains a pretty good place to live despite, not because of, the efforts of government actors (whether elected officials or agencies) in the recent past.

States like Singapore seem to have a very permissive regime when it comes to allowing the private sector get on and build commercially, albeit within very well-defined parameters of planning and land use.

In New Zealand, by contrast, often we have these things the wrong way around: very loose notions about what can be done in different areas, and then we make it hard for people to do it. The worst of both worlds!

If you don’t believe me, look out of the window while sitting in Kumeu or wherever else you may be reading this column. I bet you are not much more than a stone’s throw away from gridlocked traffic in an area of ad hoc growth.

In making arguments for northwest Auckland to get a better deal on transport, I realise that we are not about to get Singapore’s mass rapid transit system; population density is an obvious point of difference.

But we can at least get much better than we have now, surely. The first full year of the new government has now begun; wish me luck!

Comments are closed.