Oamaru, Timaru, Waipukurau, Pokeno Mercer, Tuakau

Not quite Ka Mate, but it sufficed for us as very young children, t was our version of a haka.  The words were intoned as authentically as we could and upon Tuakau we would grimace and leap into the air making our best pukana faces as possible.

I have been to all these places, albeit briefly for Oamaru and Timaru, just passing through, and Waipukuraus was a childhood home, I remeber it snowed there once but that is all I remember.  They are all small town New Zealand places.  I drove through Mercer, Pokeno and Tuakau today, it doesn’t take long. Times are definitely changing for Pokeno and undoubtedly Tuakau.  Mercer well esentially Mercer has become a truck stop, a gobble and go on a slightly larger basis, Cafes, McDoanlds and a large service station, with a few peripheral shops.  No heart really there, a burnt out restaurant and a boat ramp kind of round the place out.  It is full of history which is hinted at by a pill box with an explanatory sign on it.  the Waikato has a number of places that are similar to this, Rangiriri, TeKauwhata and Ohinewai are some.  they have all suffered under the modernisation that we have experienced over the last 40 or so years.  Once thriving settlements with shops, butchers, takeaways, urbanization, larger farms and the amalgamation of manufacturing have decimated populations.  Employer provided accommodation has dissipated or been sold off.nothing new in all of that.  Recently we have seen how New Zealand has experienced a huge widening of the income gap, inequality has become huge http://www.inequality.org.nz/understand/.  The OECD published recent research showing that New Zealand has one of the highest growing inequality rates in the western world and it is costing the country economically. http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/261349/nz-gap-between-rich-and-poor-growing

This should not be news, whilst I am not an economist I have been observing the effect of Neo Liberal ideology for 30 plus years.  I remember when Jenny Shipley in the mother of all budgets cut beneficiaries income, I said it was a stupid move and it would cost the country dearly and it did. many small businesses went under, small towns went into recession and negative social indicators began to slowly rise as poverty began to bite. For a simple reason that the money supply to the economy was cut.  most beneficiaries spend all they earn, so if they earn less they spend less, very simple really.

It had been a while since I had been through Tuakau, today it was bustling, as one may expect a few days before Christmas. I looked at the shops in town, there were the usual rural retailers, supplying the horticultural and agricultural sector, There was a seeming proliferation of “Cheap two dollar type shops”  a smattering of cafes.  A mixture of new and old.  My view of Tuakau was colored a little by some of the inhabitamts, barefoot he walked across the road, dirty wife-beater singlet, old sweatpants and hoisted on his shoulder a box of Codys or a similar premixed kind of alcohol, a smile on his face and a sense of purpose in his walk completed the picture.  Then there was the utility vehicle parked in a way that obstructed the through traffic with the obligatory large menacing dog on the back.  I didn’t stop I was on a mission myself but it had an air of despair about the place.  Vision church proudly occupied an empty shop on the main strret and the Hotel looked well cared for and prosperous.  It is a town of 4500 people and it is all going to change.

Auckland is coming, lock up your daughters, your cats, consult your lawyers and load your shotguns.  Living in Auckalnd has become too expensive and the advice is to go south young man/woman, planning is in place to cope with an expected growth of up to 45000 people as Auckland expands. It will change Tuakau permanently.  For better or for worse well I am not sure of that at all.  My once over lightly view of Tuakau may well be colored by my present state of mind or my opinion of small towns. I cannot really tell you.There are likely to be really good community minded people whom live in Tuakau, people who like me fear mediocrity more than failure.  That is probably the key.  It seems as if there is an opportunity however, if the town is planning for that kind of growth then there is time to plan for how it can cater for all, thus ensuring it does not become another yuppie retreat where the poor are marginalized, live in crap accommodation and do not participate in society.   This more than where will we put everybody should be at the heart of the planning.



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