I’m not sure whether to be horrified or to applaud the idea that buildings could be required to compete against each other in a sort of “Heritage Idol” as indicated in the paper today. Just how close to the idea of the Reailty TV show are the Council prepared to take it?

I’ve always enjoyed the first few weeks of American Idol more than the later stages – in fact I don’t watch anything other than the first weeks, where it is like watching a train crash in slow motion. Mainly full of over-weight and under-talented Americans with deeply delusional parents or over-enthusiastic images of their own abilities, American Idol gives us – the public – a chance to laugh at the bloated, talentless masses, while having no danger of having to sing ourselves.

Just how far will WCC take the analogy? Will each and every building on the Heritage List get a chance to strut it’s stuff, to warble out its talents (“I was born in 1922 and have a talent for stripped modern classicism with a hint of early modernist tendencies, and tonight I’m going to perform for you – an addition of external seismic bracing by Holmes Consulting”), and to get voted on by a trio of Andy Foster, Celia-Wade-Brown, and Simon Cowell? While we the public sit around in the background and boo, whistle or cheer the buildings on?

With the TV idol shows, at least it is the specialists who vote at the early stages, with the public only having a say in the final stages via a phone in. Actually, I’ve never watched that far into one of those dreadful shows, so I’m not really sure, but as far as I understand, a big bunch of the show’s budget comes about from the public’s use of their telephone hotlines, and the rest from advertisers dollars. Here in Wellington, at Heritage Idol, it seems to be being proposed that the public will pay for it through their rates, no matter what – and I’m perfectly happy for that. Others may grumble. But too bad.

One area that the Council could certainly trim their budget back on is Roading. They could start by sacking the entire team at Traffic, who are the biggest waste of space in terms of us workers trying hard to get projects through Council. No imagination, no flexibility, no concern for anything except cars and parking and loading docks, none of which ever seem to get used the way that the Traffic Department want. But it is the Roadïng department that really get up my nose. Ripping up of kerbs, and re-laying new kerbs in exactly the same place, must be on someone’s books as a worthwhile activity, but why? How many millions a year go into this pointless activity? How many people ring in to the Council each year and say “my concrete kerb outside my house is 20 years old and needs replacing, please spend my rates on that”? I suspect none.

There is lots of money in the Council’s budget, it just needs to be spent better. The Long-Term Plan process is going on at the moment. Don’t forget your to have your say. But the Council needs urgently to think of some other means of distributing funds for strengthening for heritage buildings. WCC has so far been brilliantly pro-active, leading New Zealand at the speed of assessing our existing building stock. Other Councils are woefully far behind, and some have not yet even really started. But we need to not let the lead we have built up get diminished. The next stage is the crucial one – how should the Council allocate heritage strengthening money, and to whom?

this has been picked up by Scoop here.