As I wrote before there are some things that I really like about Auckland, I love the cultural diversity, the choice of food and entertainment. I enjoy the busyness most of the time however Auckland has some flaws and a disease that ultimately may be terminal, if not severely disabling.
Auckland like any community has its problems. All communities have disparities in New Zealand, what occurs in Auckland is that these are so much more readily on display. The absolute wealth through to the abject poverty and dismay is evident even in Queen Street. Designer stores with obscenely priced artefacts and symbols of wealth are showcased however they are framed by the sight of beggars, homeless people who seek to eek out a living or supplement their addictions from either a sense of guilt or obligation from the shoppers or pedestrians that pass them by, some just ask for change, others will busk, or attempt to entertain.
This is at times an uncomfortable reminder of the disparities in society. We can rationalise about choice, legislate, try to hide them however this does not change the fact that they exist. In the suburbs we see this as well, the instant money houses, the cheap shops, all competing for the last dollar. The hungry children that come to school and those whose only hope is characterised by gambling, sitting pushing buttons in a never ending hope for that win, that stake in life that will guarantee security.
What is hidden in Auckland to a large degree is the quiet desperation of the working class and to an ever growing degree the middle class. These are people who would rather quietly disappear before their children would go hungry; the people who deny themselves what should be basic human rights such as adequate health care, regular dental visits, glasses when they need them because they do not have enough money to go round. They are characterised in some areas by the amount of people who share their houses, garages etc. in an attempt to. We see it in an ever increasing centralisation of shopping; the suburban centres reflect the grey, grim desperation of Auckland. A new measure of poverty perhaps could be the number of two dollar shops, fast food outlets and money lending pawn shops situated in the shopping centres.
What is behind this? What is the driver of poverty in Auckland is their one in particular, what are the markers of poverty, is there poverty in Auckland? I remember taking a friend of mine for a drive in South Auckland one night to pick up a trade me purchase, the mood in the streets was palpable, our vehicle was nothing special, my 1996 Nissan Avenir is no picture however two white guys were certainly something to be looked at. As we were inspected the menace in the air rose perceptibly, my friend was blissfully unaware as I casually pressed the central locking and turned the air conditioning on as to keep our windows up, we didn’t belong was the clear message. I didn’t feel like I belonged either, the housing was run down, brokenness was everywhere, from the guttering hanging down, the un-repaired windows, the broken cars on the broken driveways reflecting the broken lives. What do we know?
We know that overcrowded housing presents, social, educational and health issues, and overcrowding is rife in many parts of Auckland. We know that unhealthy housing contributes towards childhood hospital admissions and extremely damaging long term issues such as scarlet fever. We know that rentals are at a premium, that housing costs are beyond belief and continue to rise at an exponential rate averaged across Auckland 16.00 per day but upwards of 289.00 per day on the North Shore, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11273708.
This is driven by a lack of supply as well as the economic factors such as tax free capital gains that ensures people will continue to invest in housing but more than anything else it reflects a succession of Governments committed to New Right Ideology, getting out of social housing and leaving it to the market. But enough of all that, where do I fit into this picture? Those of you who know me know that I have had a pull towards Auckland, a matter of the heart, this somewhat softened my initial allergy towards Auckland, it allowed me to explore some of the more interesting and attractive sides of Auckland. It has also unfortunately highlighted the ugliness of Auckland.
One of the things I have experienced and seen is that in our biggest city, loneliness exists in amongst the bustle of the city the same quiet desperation that chokes the life, spirit and soul out of people who live in isolated communities exists there as well. It is too in my life.
My relationship with Auckland is a bit like my marriage, it started off full of hope and wonder, became progressively hard work, had some separation, some desperate attempts to revive it,some prolonged efforts to avoid the reality of the situation but finally realisation that it was over.
Auckland demands off me something that I cannot give on so many levels, not only would I need to mortgage myself to the very last drop to the bank I would need to mortgage my soul. I have been there and done that and no more.
Auckland and I will have an ongoing relationship but only on my terms, my choices and for my own good and that;s the way it has to be.
Like all decisions in life it has a cost,part of that is easy money, small change in the end, another part of it well that doesn’t have easy words to describe it.
Live, laugh, and love well, who knows what the morrow brings.