While the story of the moment is of course the untimely death of Alan Hubbard (and the much-voiced – in private, at least – was it deliberate, or just an incredibly coincidental accident), and the incredulous reaction of the ever-faithful in Timaru, who still believe in the rectitude of Saint Alan, despite the evidence to the contrary – the real story is elsewhere. Yes, we know that Hubbard lost / stole / hid under the wrong mattress, several tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of hard earned South Canterbury dairy farming profits. Yes, everyone loves him down there because he gave away millions of dollars to good causes. Ummm, but did they ever think about where the money for that was coming from?

I know these words are an anathema to the deep south folk, but Hubbard was well past it and his accounting methods were beyond shoddy – he should have been closed down years ago.

Closer to home – in our front porch in fact – we have another tall tale that is not going ahead. I’m talking about, of course, the proposed building down above the Bus station – the one that was Over Height. This is a big story – with potentially long-reaching effects, and yet I haven’t seen the print media really cover it yet, unless I’ve missed that page in the paper. It’s big for two reasons – one being that the architects and the developers tried for the old “Design Excellence” routine once again, and it just didn’t work, and also that the City Council officers were backing it to be above height, against their own District Plan. Neither of these things have succeeded in a court of law – the Environment Court. It is time to accept that such a phrase and concept as “Design Excellence” should not be given a place in our District Plan.

Over the past 5 years since that phrase was introduced into Wellington, it has caused nothing but trouble. It was, I believe, first argued on an apartment building, where extra height was achieved by skillful arguing of technical / quasi-legal points of view. Since them, it has been hauled out on almost every occasion by clever planning advocates like Urban Perspectives, and every building that comes into the council more than a wee bit overweight says that it is “excellent” in it’s design. And that there is patently just a load of baloney – in a city as ugly as ours, there is very little constructed out there recently that is excellent in any way. Loser developers with ugly buildings by incompetent architects argue it every time: “but my building MUST be allowed to be taller, because it exhibits design excellence!”

Let’s face it : ALL new buildings should be excellent, and NO new buildings should be overheight.