The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
November 9, 2008

So: the End of an Era

So: New Zealand has spoken, and we have a new government about to form. Aunty Helen, head of the world’s first largely women-based government administration, has been axed by the voters, and we are about to go back to a far more male oriented, traditional, white middle-class form of government under the tutelage of John Key. While I lament the lack of any signs of inspiring leadership in the election run-up, in sharp and pointed contrast to the reborn USA electoral scene, the resignation of both Clark and Cullen show that they know as much as the public seem to be saying: we’ve had enough, and it’s time for a change, even if some things in the change may not be to our advantage.

hodgson.gif

Cartoon courtesy of the fantastic Trace Hodgson

However: seeing as this is an urban blog, and not a political commentary: what then does this mean for Wellington architecture and urban life?

On the face of it, not a lot. There’s no inherent reason that Key will change the landscape more than Clarke, when it comes to building a physical presence outside the confines of Government. When each was quizzed before the election about what their favourite buildings were, Clarke said she liked the row of (former) merchant’s houses in Symonds St in Auckland, while Key voted for the Skytower. Phallic connections to the enormous upright prick that is John Key The Skytower aside, that does also show a preference for new, big, thrusting, modern architecture in preference to the quieter, more calmly cultured heritage of the old houses. You could say that therefore there is more chance for new, modern buildings, and perhaps a doing away with some of the clunky old bits of heritage we have sitting around the place. You could also note that both sets of favourite buildings are in Auckland, and that Wellington doesn’t get a look-in. Is that symptomatic that Auckland is once again in line for more dominance than Wellington? We shouldn’t worry too much in Wellington Central – the electorate has, I think, 3 representatives, with only Stephen Franks and his gold VW missing out, so Central should still be well represented in Parliament. Only one architectural thing is sure so far: National has said that “The Architect of Labour’s 1980’s Economic Plans” (Roger Douglas, not actually an architect, nor even an architectural draughtsman) will not be in Cabinet.

Prime Minister†Key has however previously made his intentions clear with a well-reported crackdown on numbers of Wellington bureaucrats likely to happen. A simple capping of bureaucrat numbers will achieve some reduction via natural attrition, but there is also a good chance that a far larger swathing cut of some departments may occur, and arguably that could be a good thing (except, of course, for those about to lose their jobs). So what may be the targets of Key’s upcoming cuts? Department of Women’s Affairs and Maori / Pacific Island Affairs could arguably be in for a nasty surprise, depending on how gender / race specific Key wants to be. Winston has gone for good, so the Minister for Courtenay Place – sorry, Minister for Wine and Food – sorry again – Minister for Racing and Foreign Affairs – look, who knows what he really did, when not fishing for donations of helicopters or backhanders to his brother’s trust fund. Anyway: do we really need a Minister for Racing? Should that be the same as a Minister for Gambling? Or Minister of Day-Trading? John Key himself could be up for that one.

My pick for the axe in a big way is the Government Department that has been around for the shortest time, and achieved the least: Building and Housing. Five hundred plus paper-pushing numpties with no apparent knowledge of the building industry nor any apparent achievements over the past 3 years, would seem to be a prime candidate for the chop if Key wanted to make big changes fast. DBH’s predecessor, the BIA, made do with less than 20 people, and achieved just as much. But certainly, the continued well-being of Wellington architectural practices may be about to reverse, if the recent continual stream of government fitout projects dries up to a trickle. Much of that has been driven by the Labour government’s desire to have all government departments in Greenstar rated buildings – if that incentive is taken away, what will happen to the current churn in office space?

On the other hand, Key’s plan is to reform the Resource Management Act fairly pronto, “within the first 100 days”, and that could have major effects on the built fabric of the city. Certainly there appears to be an interest in getting some large infrastructure projects underway (with toll roads likely, could Transmission Gully really still be in with a chance?), although the extent that the RMA is woven into every part of our national legislation may mean that winding back it’s control could take far more energy than our John has planned for.†

gary
9 - 11 - 08

One thing i am amazed at is the crap coverage in the traditional on-line media. Decision 08’s site is appalling – no useful info updates there at all. It’s like they just stopped and gave up last night: http://www.decision08.co.nz/Electorates/ElectoratesDisplay/tabid/65/cat/35/Default.aspx

Vote 08 is much better: http://www.stuff.co.nz/elections/index.html

On the other hand, if you want to find out actually which MPs have gone or are still in, then Kiwiblog’s coverage is remarkably good: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2008/11/mps_going.html

davidp
9 - 11 - 08

I think it’s a generational change. A government of people mostly in their late 50s and 60s is giving way to one of people mostly in their 40s. Ideas will change. It is bound to be more modern, without the political influences from the 1960s and 1970s.

In terms of the effect on Wellington, the growth in government administration has forced up commercial rents and salaries in the capital and this seems to have pushed out a lot of other economic activity. If government was to shrink over time, then that’ll probably manifest itself as a slump. Wellington would need to get its shit together and attract other activity so that a short term slump doesn’t turn in to the long term version. This is sort of what happened in the 1990s when Wellington tried, successfully, to attract the arts sector. It made Wellington a much more interesting place, and there is no reason it shouldn’t happen again. I don’t think it is healthy for a city to survive on government alone… I’d much rather live in a NZ version of Melbourne than a NZ version of Canberra.

DeepRed
9 - 11 - 08

Irrespective of the benefits or not of the public sector, I do wonder how the Public Service Association would react. If a scorched earth approach were to be taken – especially if Sir Roger gets his way – what possibility of a 1951 with cardigans?

Robyn
9 - 11 - 08

You must see Paul at the Fundy Post’s critque of John Key’s beach house. It tells you just about all you need to know about Key’s relationship with buildings.

guy
9 - 11 - 08

…indeed, the Fundy Post has a very irreverent note of satire:
http://fundypost.blogspot.com/2008/10/will-this-do.html

Spoiler: don’t click the link if you like your Greens untoasted.

gary
10 - 11 - 08

there is a lot of commentary in the Sunday paper (Star-Times), of which one quote is worth keeping for posterity:
“Why did voters reject a prime minister with nine years of hard-won experience in government, for a chap who’s barely spent six years in parliament? Last night’s result was manufactured out of the besetting sin of the last 150 years of western history – the crisis of masculinity. What, exactly, is a man in a world of corporate and public bureaucracies?…. A world where girls can do anything, but boys make a virtue out of boorish stupidity?…. It was these: the men who just couldn’t cope with the idea of being led by an intelligent, idealistic, free-spirited woman; the gutless, witless, passionless creatures of the barbeque-pit and the sports bar (and the feckless females who put up with them); who voted Helen Clark out of office. John Key – you’re welcome to them.”
Chris Trotter

M-D
10 - 11 - 08

What a load of shite (as is much that is the product of Trotter’s keyboard). there will be more woman on the government benches than on the cross benches in the new government for a start… e.g. Trotter: “Well, the New Zealand Left has woken up to its very own 9/11″…

And the original post above contains so much dog-whistling the hounds of cliche and and misinformed paranoia are converging on the Eye from all over the country as we speak.

The last three years of Labour have been incompetent and bordering on corrupt – if anyone is to blame for the ‘time for a change’ meme it was Labour’s estrangement of principled left-wing voters (and Helen was right to accept responsibility for that). As Dim-Post observed: “Nice work. If having Sir Roger Douglas back in government was the price of dragging out Winstonís doomed career for a few extra days then Iím sure it was worth paying”.

I couldn’t bring myself to vote National in the end, although I walked into the booth intending to, but I sure as hell didn’t vote to extend the Clark regime for another term.

Maximus
10 - 11 - 08

what a fantastic phraseology you have M-D: “so much dog-whistling the hounds of cliche and and misinformed paranoia are converging on the Eye from all over the country” – although perhaps we’re too fish-like to understand your dog-whistling reference.

We’re happy to be proved wrong regarding the targets of Key’s clippers: but it does seem likely that to save some money for tax cuts, something will have to go. We merely suggested the DBH as a possible / suitable source as they seem to be incapable of producing anything worthwhile as of yet. It’s interesting to see what is important in a government department revamp, and we’ve been following the change from BIA to DBH with interest: first up after the new department name is the new logo, then newsletters, then lots of glossy summaries of what they will be looking at. The Building Act was completely re-written, making it 4 times as long, and with the clauses in a different order, but essentially saying the same thing but with lots more about the Licensing Board thrown in. The Building Code was next up for a re-write, and after about 2 years, word has it that they have given up, despite noble proposals to renumber the clauses there too, and print them in new brightly coloured folders.

End result: they’ve achieved bugger-all. And if the Fish could vote them out, we would get rid of them with a flick of our tail….

gary
10 - 11 - 08

there is a lot of people out there very pleased with John Key, evidently thinking he is the best thing since sliced bread.

trouble is, it’s white bread.

light and fluffy, leaves you bloated if you have too much, and hungry for something more.

KLK
10 - 11 - 08

I must admit, I am getting a little concerned (mainly for myself I guess) at the inference in articles, blogs, forums etc that there is something wrong with being a white middle class male (although its questionable whether Key is “middle class”).

And one who is self-made wealthy? Heaven forbid….

DeepRed
10 - 11 - 08

I think a more accurate, ethnicity-neutral, term would be ‘old boys network’.

Maximus
11 - 11 - 08

There is of course nothing wrong with being white, middle class, male, or a combination of all three: but to me there is something wrong with voting against the ruling party just because it is headed by a woman. The amount of letters to the paper in the weeks before the election that were against Clark rather than against her government – commenting on her teeth, her manner of dressing, her looks, how deep her voice is, her sexual orientation, etc etc etc…. none of which of course have the slightest relevance on how well or not she could govern the country.

Similarly Palin: being a dumb country hick chick didn’t seem to matter to the Republicans: why, she was a pretty smiley thing who can handle a gun. Who cares if she is an ignoramus?

I prefer a leader of a country to have brains, more than looks.

M-D
11 - 11 - 08

Glad to please…

Actually, the dog-whistling I was referring to was the misogynist and racist inferences that preceded the DBH discussion…

And if JK actually follows his election policy, he is only capping public sector numbers at existing levels, not cutting per se. All departments are having to review expenditure nevertheless – but that isn’t really a bad thing is it – having our money spent efficiently? Most commentators (including those on the left) agree that there is a certain amount of bloat there anyway…

If he does end up with widespread sackings, I suggest it will only be a one-term govt. anyway…

As for letters to the editor – you read them? I would suggest that they are not an accurate cross-section of anything but itself, and that it wasn’t these people that saw Helen ousted (they would be voting Kiwi/Christian Values as they do every year anyway), but those that usually vote Labour but this time decided not to (or stayed at home as seems to have been the case in Central Auckland). Labour lost voters who had previously supported it – it is as simple as that.

electric
11 - 11 - 08

There does need to be a shakeup of bureaucrats- I’ve met people who are part of marketing teams flying up and down the country organising meetings and action items for “community” organisations. Each team member was on $100K plus for this completely unproductive activity.

I have personally seen government agencies move into some of the most expensive high quality office space available, with no rationale behind this except they could grow their empires.

As far as buildings go, I hope that the revitalisation of the Vogel building happens, the Bowen Precinct happens, but the National Library gets a reprieve from being turned into a suburban multiplex. IMHO the Vogel building and Bowen complex are well located office buildings that are reasonably easy to update into economical green star office space, and will be highly functional office space once revamped. The National Library needs some updating and repair, but the massive price tag for destroying this distinctive building won’t deliver a damn thing for taxpayers.

KLK
11 - 11 - 08

Thanks Maximus.

I also find it funny how we vote for a women leader for 3 consecutive terms, have no problem with female Governor Generals, Supreme Court head judges etc, etc and then when we vote a white middle class male in after almost a decade, suddenly the NZ public is “anti-women”.

Can’t win.

Maximus
11 - 11 - 08

M-D: seems you’re not alone in your views. Liberty Scott (“Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and private property”) has blogged in :
http://libertyscott.blogspot.com/2008/11/chris-trotters-bitter-and-nasty.html

“Sober up Chris, you’re talking about the working class you love so much.

See if I thought you really believed that, I’d call you a petty vindictive mindless little prick. However, if a world of mixing with the left means you think successful people who want less government don’t include intelligent, idealistic, free-spirited women and men who like them, who don’t include men and women of courage, wit and passion, you’re a sad little man.

The Labour Party isn’t the repositary of the values of a generation, it’s the values of trade unionists and others who think they know best for everyone else. So to take the words of Michael Cullen – we won, you lost, eat that (well near enough). Now fuck off, grow up and meet some people who don’t think the end of the Soviet Union’s murderous empire was a tragedy.”

Seamonkey Madness
12 - 11 - 08

Electric,

You think that is bad, I know someone who is is paid circa $70 to take bi-weekly board meeting minutes (which takes maybe a day or two to sew up) and then for the rest of the time studies for her degree.

I echo M-D’s opinion: “…but that isnít really a bad thing is it – having our money spent efficiently?”
I could think of far worse things (that have actually been happening for the last 9 years).

M-D
12 - 11 - 08

LibertyScott is as rabid as Trotter, only LS’s is an online forum rather than a column for a major mainstream newspaper – this is why I find Trotter’s keyboardmanship so disturbing. Trotter ends up insulting those who thought about where to cast their votes on principle rather than voting a mindless adherence to ‘his’ party. I know he would support the left no matter how disgusting it might become, and I have less than no respect for that. It may have been his last column, as he has now “hung up his keyboard”, but I would say that, with such an insulting and bitter last commentary, he might as well have hung himself on any last shreds of respect that he might have retained after a long career of left-wing activism…

The thing is though, the left need intelligent and insightful commentary now more than ever – Trotter’s childish little fit of pique completely rules him out, even if he did decide to stay writing.

M-D
12 - 11 - 08

Either everyone is being overly polite to the new regime, or perhaps they just aren’t as terrifying as the more paranoid among us trying to give the impression of: when you have platitudinal press releases from the National Council of Women of NZ (who knew there was such a thing?), and from the PSA, it can’t be all that bad…

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0811/S00164.htm

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0811/S00148.htm

dimples
13 - 11 - 08

I was just curious, if a little amazed, about the very noticeable ring of diplomatic protection squad around John Key and his wife. I dont think I’ve ever seen anything like it.

What was the purpose? Was John afraid of what his Nat supporters would do – crush him or something – overwhelm him with love and affection ???? Or was it the Diplomatic Protection Squad reminding us they still exist? Anyway, why force your way through the throng – surely they could have found a quieter way in? All I can surmise is that is must have been for the PR value – the longer the pleasure of the journey to the podium, the better – Ho, ho.

I am sure that this high profile, linked hands protection squad has not been seen before on TV in such a revealing way.

That was my only reaction to the election (apart from the ‘fin du monde’ feeling).

Cheers

Maximus
13 - 11 - 08

yes, dimples, that had me curious too. I think it was just to get through the media scrum – to stop John and Bronagh getting lanced by a stray boom mike – and the media wouldn’t stop questioning him, asking him what he was going to say – jeez people, just wait 2 minutes and you’ll have the whole story….

…did Obama have a similar situation, despite some 100,000 more people gathering to hear his speech than did the Nat crowd for Key? No – they had just thought ahead, and organised a side entrance.

BUT – the thing that freaked me was hearing the goon squad saying “Move Move Move” in a manner (so i’m told) not un-akin to Ross Meurant and the Red Squad, shortly before they battened your head in …

M-D
14 - 11 - 08

Trotter’s epiphany: http://www.stuff.co.nz/vote08/4760830a28480.html