Monthly Archives: June 2013

Dear Editor

NOTE: This is a letter to the editor at Australian newspaper the The Age in response to this this editorial piece asking for Julia Gillard to step aside so that Australians can discuss policy issues again. Nothing to do with the media right.  It is printed below without permission, but its great, so read it. 

Dear editor,

The hypocrisy and arrogance of this masthead in calling for the resignation of Julia Gillard “so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again” is absolutely breathtaking. I don’t even feel that it’s necessary to talk in detail about my reasons for such a reaction, as you need only look to your own implicit and complicit involvement in the tear-down of this government on a basis that has nothing to do with “policy” and “democracy”, via an endless and frequently baseless obsession with the leadership issue. I am disgusted to hear this view espoused by a newspaper that I once considered reflective of liberal democratic Australian views. Your official editorial stance at this late hour will prove to most Australians of a reasonable intellect the exact nature of your betrayal of the very principles that you claim to stand for. This is nothing but a cynical attempt to distance yourselves from your own role in crushing any ability of this government to talk about policy, as it has actually been doing for the last 3 years, despite every news outlet’s claim to the contrary.

I am an intelligent, educated, rational and considered individual with complex views on the full range of policy addressed by this current administration. I have very good reason to disagree with a lot of decisions and details about policies and legislation that this government has endorsed, but almost never have I formed the opinion that Julia Gillard has not been selling her policies and explaining her position. I resent and refute your claim to represent the views of Australians that this government has ”struggled to explain and justify its policies to voters, and to remind them of its achievements”. I am intricately aware of their achievements, in spite of The Age’s lack of ability to report on them in any level of detail. They may not be achievements that enjoy a majority poll favour, but since when has poll favour determined policy achievement? You insult my intelligence over and over again. It is for these reasons that Australians like me feel that it is not political leadership for which we are underrepresented, but indeed journalistic leadership that is found grossly wanting in this current era of Australian politics. We may be a minority, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t count, and we are the kind of minority that looks to your newspaper for leadership in these matters.

Australians are now finding alternative ways of informing themselves about the actual meaning of policy decisions as they relate to our lives, and are in fact more and more disillusioned as to the Australian mainstream media’s ability to investigate such meaning. Your newspaper, by virtue of this very editorial article has a duty to Australians to engage our politicians in policy debate and in so doing, strengthen our democracy. Your call for Julia Gillard to stand aside in light of her failure to maintain the strength of our democracy proves to me your own abject failure in this regard, and as a long time reader, I feel deeply ashamed and betrayed. Average Australians do not have the privilege of a microphone to put in front of our leaders, and are not therefore able to hold them to account. You should treat that privilege as what it is, a privilege, and not a right to repeat the current narratives of the press gallery and other media outlets. I would ask that you resume your own self-professed duties in this regard, and prove that you have editorial integrity when claiming to be interested in the strength of the Australian democracy.

Regards,
Matthew Ellis

 

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It’s not about twenty cents, but it IS about transport

NOTE: This article has been kindly cross-posted from our buddies up in at The Volcanic in Auckland.  Thanks to Anna and Connor for making the connection. Freerange Volcanos! 

Except where stated, all images are courtesy of Pedro Paulo Ferreira.

Except where stated, all images are courtesy of Pedro Paulo Ferreira.

When protests began in São Paulo about a week ago, over a rise in public transport fare of twenty Brazilian centavos (approximately eleven NZ cents), the majority of participants were university students. The rest of metropolitan São Paulo’s 20 million residents were too busy with their every day lives to take much notice – too busy dealing with long commutes (an average of 2 hours and 40 minutes a day in 2011), too busy trying to fit into packed metro cars and buses (some metro lines reaching up to 12 people per square metre at peak times), too busy trying to negotiate apocalyptic traffic in their cars while avoiding hitting one of the thousands of “ motoboys” – guys on motorbikes who dart between cars in a constant quest to beat delivery deadlines, too busy trying to dodge those cars on their motorbikes and avoid being the one motoboy killed on São Paulo streets every day, too busy trying to work out how to cross the highway on their bicycle, or maybe too busy just trying to walk somewhere with their baby in a pushchair – an obstacle course of potholes, irregular footpath levels, and incessant traffic.

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I lived in São Paulo for three years, from 2009 until 2012, and I loved it. I loved the electric vibrancy of the city, loved the warmth of Paulistas, loved their positivity in the face of a city blighted by traffic jams, crime, floods and pollution, loved the orchids flowering on trees, and the street art and the street markets. I could easily write an entire post about how much I enjoyed my time there. But it was an exhausting place to live. A huge reason for that was that every trip outside the door was a battle.  Mainly for the reasons outlined above, trying to get anywhere in São Paulo is extremely stressful, and the stress compounds over time into a general fatigue with the city. The smaller the radius you can live within, the better your life can be. For the majority, however, that’s not an option. São Paulo is a city with massive spatial divisions. Most of the poorest people live around the edges, while jobs are heavily concentrated in the centre and a few wealthy surrounding neighbourhoods, giving people little choice but to accept long commutes in order to make a living. Research by the LSE Urban Age found that Paulistas with a low education level were likely to live twice as far (24km) from their employment, than those with higher education (12km).

When I first noticed the São Paulo protests appearing in the media – both Brazilian and International – I was frustrated by the heavy emphasis the articles placed on the violence that had broken out between protesters and police, although I was not surprised that there was violence. I’d seen police storm a small peaceful protest on the same major avenue, Avenida Paulista, in SP a couple of years before, and was once in a Carnaval street party in Rio de Janeiro, hundreds of thousands of people strong, when police began firing rubber bullets from within the crowd. Police in Brazil aren’t known for keeping calm, especially not the military trained Riot Police, “or Shock Troops” as their title directly translates. Aside from a brief reference to the 20 cent fare increase as the reason for the protest, there seemed little media analysis of why this apparently small amount, “lower than inflation”, as the government kept emphasising, could have triggered such an outburst, especially in a country which has been famed in recent years for its significant economic progress. As is frequently reported, millions of its poorest have been elevated to “middle class”, new family benefits are linked to children attending school, the country avoided the worst impacts of the global economic recession, and major investments in public infrastructure, including transport, are being undertaken in the lead up to Brazil hosting of the Football World Cup in 2014 and Olympics in 2016.

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I was frustrated, however, that there was no analysis of what was actually going on with public transport there. There was so much to talk about, and it was being overlooked! Finally one São Paulo newspaper released data showing that public transport in the city was attaining the lowest satisfaction levels in 20 years (more or less since last time there was a massive social movement in Brazil, coincidentally).

Then all of the sudden, the protest became protests – not just in São Paulo, but also in Rio de Janeiro, and other cities across the country – about so much more than transport. In São Paulo members of the media, as well as middle class students, were violently targeted by police, and suddenly mainstream media was on the side of the protesters. People were shocked into action by such public police brutality, which is usually confined to the poor peripheries, and more or less ignored by the media.

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“If the fare doesn’t drop, the city will stop”

This brazen suppression of democracy suddenly woke Brazilians up – they have had enough of all the small difficulties, the big corruptions, the way that increased consumption power hasn’t really gone hand in hand with better public health, education, or quality of life, and certainly not transport.  During my years in Brazil I was impressed by the way Brazilians could remain positive in the face of these challenges. Brazilians have an admirable ability to make the best of things – to find their way around excessive bureaucracy with a “little solution”, to make a joke out of outrageous corruption, or to stick to dreaming that one day, maybe far in the future, but certainly not now, things could be different. However, this also frustrated me. How could they accept so many blatant injustices?

And now it seems, they can’t. They are saying that enough is enough. IT’S NOT ABOUT TWENTY CENTS has become one of the catchphrases for a swelling non partisan social movement, raising concerns about corruption, continuing inequality, inadequate public services, and huge amounts of public funds being invested in World Cup stadiums, many in impoverished cities, or linked to evictions of informal settlements.

And it’s not about the twenty cents. And it’s about so much more than just transport. But transport shouldn’t be forgotten, not only because it is my very favourite topic, but because it is a very interesting viewpoint from which to consider Brazil’s social awakening. It is an issue which cross-cuts every single one of the concerns that the wider movement is now raising, and affects every single Brazilian, no matter what their occupation, education, or social class.

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Firstly, transport in Brazil is a focal point for class divisions and prejudice. I found this hard to comprehend, coming from an egalitarian country like New Zealand, and living for many years in Wellington, where most of my friends didn’t even know how to drive, let alone own a car, because public transport and walking are such cheap and easy options. It may seem like a novel fact that São Paulo is famous for having the largest private helicopter fleet in the world, patronized by the largest concentration of billionaires in the word. But this is no laughing matter.  In Brazil, using public transport is strongly associated with being poor. Cycling is considered either a leisure activity for the middle classes, or transport only for those who have no other option. Pedestrians killed in traffic accidents are disproportionately low income. Partially as a result of these class prejudices, public transport suffers from massive underinvestment. It’s true that São Paulo has one of the best metros in the world – it’s new, clean, and safe. But it covers a tiny proportion of the city, and many lines reach astronomically cramped levels on a daily basis, and the lack of investment in complementary express buses to ease the pressure is just one example of officials turning a blind eye to a huge problem, with a clear solution. It’s no surprise that people aspire to own a car, when the alternative is a three hour commute standing up in a rickety bus.

Secondly, transport equality advocate and former Mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa, has pointed out that mobility is perhaps the only quality of life element that does not improve as GDP increases. It’s hard for people to enjoy their new disposable income while they are stuck in traffic, missing out on time to spend with their families, on leisure, or on further education. Increased cars in cities are also associated with deterioration in public space, and safety for pedestrians. Rapid motorisation in Brazil has been one of the strongest indicators of the increased consumption capabilities of the new middle class. An exponential increase of cars has pushed the number of private vehicles in São Paulo over seven million. The roads are so over capacity that even the slightest disruption somewhere in the system – let alone a typical tropical downpour – can lead to hours trapped in traffic jams. And still, being stuck in your own car is preferable to hours squished in a bus or metro. So people keep buying cars, and the roads keep getting worse.

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Image courtesy of Sarah Bryce

Thirdly, the current transport situation in São Paulo actually makes existing inequalities even worse. São Paulo is one of the most unequal cities in the world. Research by the LSE Urban Age showed that the combination of São Paulo’s low quality public transport and peripheral location of poor communities compounds existing economic and social exclusion, even worse than cities with comparable income inequalities. High quality public transport can reduce the impacts of income inequality. But in São Paulo, the lower your level of education, the longer it is likely to take you to reach basic health or education services by public transport – up to 40 minutes. Not only are you receiving a poor service, but you are paying a lot for it. Twenty cents may not seem like much, but this is a city where many of the poorest residents already spend more than a third of their minimum wage on public transport – for the privilege of standing up for hours on buses which are poor quality, unreliable and way overfull. Research by a São Paulo university has found that in Rio and São Paulo, residents earning the average income must work 13 and 14 minutes respectively to gain the value of a public transport fare. This is in comparison to approximately six minutes in Ottawa, Paris or New York.

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There is so much more I could say – I haven’t even begun to go into corruption associated with major transport projects throughout the country, or the politicisation of the public service which makes so many promising transport projects near impossible to complete. On the other hand, I would also like to emphasise that a lot of great progress has been made with public transport in Brazil in recent years, particularly in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro (you can see an article I wrote recently here, on page 8). Meanwhile São Paulo has seen a great reduction in pedestrian fatalities thanks to an ambitious cross-department programme. But for now I’ll leave it at this. It is amazing that Brazilians of all societal levels are finally standing up, and saying “enough is enough”. A broad discussion of the issues of corruption, misdirection of public funds, and poor public services is important. But I hope the issue of transport and mobility doesn’t get lost. Because a more transparent approach to transport, with investment based on the actual needs and priorities of the public, rather than on prejudices or on opportunities for kickbacks, would be a fast and powerful way of addressing many of Brazil’s bigger issues.  In response to this swell of people power, officials in São Paulo and some other cities have already agreed to revoke the fare increase. We eagerly await their next steps.

The LSE Urban Age research on Transport Equity in São Paulo that I referred to in this article was presented by Philipp Rode at the Urban Age conference in Hong Kong in 2011. You can view it here: : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLuda4sCJWQ

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This isn’t about the Christchurch Town Hall.

Well, obviously it is. But I suggest that the recent reemergence of the future of the Christchurch Town Hall in public conversation isn’t about the Town Hall.   There is a short and a long explanation to this:

Short Explanation.

There is no real doubt about the future of the Town Hall. The Christchurch City Council owns it.  They know pretty much it is going to cost to:

A. Repair the damage,

B. Mitigate against future quakes by fixing the land, and

C. Bring it up to current building codes.

It is not especially cheap to do this. But it is costed, and budgeted, and the council is diligently working toward this after the Councilors voted unanimously for this last November.   It’ll open sometime in 2017.  It is a crucial building in the life of the city, it is one of the nations most significant pieces of architecture, and internationally it is widely recognized as one of the great acoustic spaces. If you don’t believe this read some of the testimonials here from architects, musicians and acousticians:

‘The interior of the main hall is an acoustic wonder.’

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Professor of Fine Arts

‘It might not be too far-fetched to assert that, assuming the conductor knows his business, the hall acoustic afforded by the Lilburn Auditorium is little short of miraculous.’

Sir William Southgate

‘If demolished, it is unlikely to be replaced with a new building which possess the same qualities: architects of Miles Warren’s calibre are few and far between.’

Letter signed by Tony Van Raat signed on behalf of 20 architecture staff and 127 students at Unitec in Auckland.

 ‘Buildings are at one level physical artefacts, at another they are the repositories of our memories, places of celebration and commiseration, and the stage for life. The Town hall is exemplary in every respect and an inspiration to the whole of New Zealand and beyond. It is perhaps though as a symbol of renewal that it could be even more important now than it ever has been before. The opportunity to for it to be that awaits your decision. The like of it will not be seen again.’

Patrick Clifford, Past Pesident New Zealand Institute of Architects

 ‘I firmly believe that Christchurch Town Hall is of such architectural and cultural significance that every effort should be made to ensure its survival. It is perhaps one of only a few works of architecture in New Zealand that have had an influence on other buildings around the world, its acoustics much appreciated by famous international musicians.’

Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design.

This is the short answer.  In principle that should be the end of the story.

Long Explanation.

But as we are living in a post-earthquake city with extraordinary complex planning and rebuild decisions to be made, of course it is not this simple.  If only. With the short explanation in mind you may well be asking yourself: If the decision to keep the Town Hall has been made, why is the minister in charge of rebuild, Gerry Brownlee writing in the media that it should be demolished?  It is a good question!

To answer this we need to step back a few steps and look at the broader context of the government city plan and the current negotiations about who is going to pay for which bit of it.

As you all know in the months after the February 2011 quake the Christchurch City Council was asked to develop a draft city plan. To do this they did some very broad (over 100,000 people were involved) and not very deep citizen engagement. Which is exactly what they should have done at that point. Exemplary and award winning.  A plan was developed, which was to some extent based on the work done before the quake with Danish firm Jan Gehl Architects. (an extremely highly regarded firm internationally who have worked in New York, Melbourne, London, Copenhagen and many others). This plan was put out for public feedback, revised and submitted to minister Brownlee for consideration.  For around 5 months over the summer of 2011/2012 there was silence about this plan as the Minister considered it. Around March 2012 the Minister largely rejected the plan and to set up his own group of design experts, we have no knowledge what led to the decision (but plenty of rumour). These experts included lots of local and some international figures. They were are professional and well regarded bunch who were given 100 days to work together with other government agencies and some members of the Christchurch City Council to come up with a new revised plan.  So far, so good. A bit strange rejecting the first plan, but we all know here that we are all making this up as we go along, so change is ok.

100 days later our prime minister comes to town, launches the new city plan, expensive videos for international investors are shown, the bubbly flows, everyone looks smug and all the property owners and business leaders smile.

The new city plan has a lot of lovely things in it.  A new big stadium, a convention centre four times the size of the old one, a new city library, a justice precinct, a new hospital, a sports centre, a new river park, a performing arts precinct, (remember this one) and lots lots more. Seventeen Anchor projects in total. There are a couple of things to note here:

Firstly, all these projects were put in the plan because the government had decided they should be in there, not because the 100-day plan came up with them. The 100 days was basically an exercise in placing these projects in the best place possible, not an exercise in working out what the city needs.  While saying that some new projects were introduced in the process such as the important east and south frames.

Secondly, the Minister may claim that the Share an Idea campaign and the previous council plan informed the new design, and he may claim that this constitutes public consultation.  In some respects he might be right, but we have to take his word for it as the entire process has been secret.  I don’t like taking ministers’ words on things.  Perhaps he could answer: What methodology did you use to sift through 100,000 ideas and turn it into a workable framework?  Did you check to see if the resulting framework was true to the ideas of the community?

As this process was happening there was, as with many hundreds of other buildings in the city, some concern about the damage to the Town Hall, and a lack of good information about it.  The council had a due process to slowly go through its building stock and do proper engineering reports. Which in regards to the Town Hall are available here.

The damage assessment by Holmes Consulting Group in August 2011 says:

‘In general terms, the building has been relatively undamaged by the shaking’ and that ‘the Town Hall has not sustained damage that would be considered substantial,’ and,

‘In summary, we do not consider the damage resulting from the earthquake to pose a significant structural hazard in relation to the occupation of the building.’

http://resources.ccc.govt.nz/files/canterburyearthquake/Engineering-reports-amistadium-townhall-convcentre/106355.01DetailedStructuralAssessment-Qualitative110808.pdf

Ok, so the building is ok, but what about the land? The geotech report states:

‘Once excess pore water pressures from the 22 February 2011 and 13 June 2011 earthquakes and aftershocks have dissipated, it is likely that the strength of the soil underlying the buildings will return to the pre-earthquake levels.’

http://resources.ccc.govt.nz/files/canterburyearthquake/Engineering-reports-amistadium-townhall-convcentre/110808-TownHallGeotechPreliminaryreporCCCBriefing.pdf

Additionally the original acoustic firm Marshall Day have had a preliminary look at the auditorium and commented in a report that: there is no visible damage to the auditoriums acoustic fabric”.

If I can risk paraphrasing these two reports on the structure and the ground I’d say:

1. The building performed well in the quakes, it is sound and stable.

2. However it has settled unevenly, so the floor level is not even through the whole complex.

3. The building needs to be brought up to contemporary building codes.

4. The land is prone to liquefaction and lateral spread, so while the building is in good condition it may again become uneven in events in the future.

5. There are a number of ways to mitigate this which are been explored.

These reports were published in August 2011 and to the best of my knowledge there has been no major change.

So it was with some surprise when the new city plan was launched with a complete  absence of the Town Hall.  In the visual document a green lawn has replaced the Town Hall. The only mention of the Town Hall in the document is in the section about the Performing Arts Precinct which is:

 ‘proposed to offer facilities for music and the performing arts, and to act as a catalyst for recovery. The precinct will embrace different sites and will support co-location of organisations as far as is possible.’ Then there is a very important sentence that says:  ‘The precinct designation will be sufficient to provide for a range of facilities in the event that the Town Hall cannot be repaired.’ (All this can be found online here: http://ccdu.govt.nz/sites/ccdu.govt.nz/files/documents/christchurch-central-recovery-plan.pdf)

This is a strange comment that assumes the building isn’t repairable, and only makes contingency for this scenario.  There is no mention of what happens if the Town Hall is repairable.

A FAQ on the CCDU website reiterates this position here and says:

‘Why is the Town Hall not shown on the Blueprint Plan? There are still some decisions to be made as to whether all or parts of the Town Hall can be repaired by CCC. If it is not able to be repaired, a performing arts centre containing two auditoria of 500 and 1500 seats respectively will be built in the Performing Arts Precinct as shown on the Blueprint Plan.’

Keep the key words ‘If it is not able to be repaired’ in mind.

Another side story, for reasons unknown to me the Council was underinsured on a number of buildings including the Town Hall and instead of insurance covering the $129 million dollar bill, only $70 million is coming from insurance.

The next part of this story is that Bob Parker asked the council staff to look at demolishing everything in the building apart from the auditorium (which is recognized as the most significant feature of the building). I don’t know where Bob got this idea from.  The council staff ordered heritage, and architecture reports to be made in response to this.  In general the feedback from experts was that this partial demolition makes no sense and the building was designed as a complex so needs to stay that way. Strangely the Council staff ignored this commentary and advised the Councillors to adopt the ‘destroy everything but the auditorium’ strategy.  The Councillors on this committee rejected partial retention recommendations and put this recommendation to the full council.

At this point Minister Brownlee seemed to get very frustrated and vented his anger at the decision to keep the building in a number of media. Including this interview with Mike Yardley.  I responded by rebutting his points in this article on the 19th of November http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK1211/S00510/response-to-brownlee-on-christchurch-town-hall.htm

A few weeks later the full council voted unanimously to support the full retention of the Town Hall, and it was put in their budget to pay for it.  Remember the phrase, if it is not able to be repaired.  Well it is able to be repaired, and the CCC will pay for it.  The CCDU blueprint is part of the recovery plan and this is a legal document so while Mr Brownlee has extraordinary emergency powers powers he can not break due process and if he did try to over-rule the council there is good chances he would be  challenged under judicial review. Hopefully we don’t have to find out.

So the next question is: If we have an amazing building, of great value, that is repairable then why does the minister still want to demolish it? Again, another good question.  When I say this isn’t really about the Town Hall it is because it is the $70 million of insurance money that is really at stake here, and this comes back to a very hard ball negotiation happening between the CCC and the government at the moment.

In the first draft plan by the CCC the community was consulted on what they wanted and they proposed a number of buildings at certain sizes. The sizes of the buildings were also the scale (both in a business and urban sense) that the council staff thought was appropriate for Christchurch.  The new government-led blueprint, bravely or foolhardily, upscaled the convention centre and the stadium significantly and added other projects.  They have fronted for some of this money, and the council has too, but there is apparently (again its all secret so what would I know) a gap between the two.  The CCC has the advantage because they have the moral authority to argue for the smaller versions and it is also prudent of them not to end up having to maintain large expensive items like Stadiums and Convention centres.  The government has however bet the bank on the BIG blueprint and don’t want to lose control now. Negotiations continue. (announced next week!) Now some would suggest that Minister Brownlee’s quite verbose media presence in regards to the Town Hall and the consenting problems in the last week is less about those actual issues and more about putting pressure on the councilors during negotiations.

There is a report from Council staff to the councilors due in the next few weeks which outlines more precise costs and plans for the Town Hall. I don’t think any of us can really comment this until it this is made public. We will know more then.

I would like us to not get caught up in the framing that Minister Brownlee is making of this.  It is only the CCDU that has set up this weird choice that either we have a Town Hall or an Arts Precinct.  Or as he puts it, ‘You can either have your old broken run down past it used by date Town Hall, or you can have a new state of the art shiny fantastic arts precinct.’  To which I’d reply ‘You can keep your world renowned Town Hall that has served the city so proudly for the past forty years and has some of the best acoustics in the world or you can have an uncosted sketch of an idea with no details, no business case, or no idea of the desired quality.’

The 100-day plan came out almost a year ago, and at the time I wrote that it looked ok but that more details were needed to really understand it.  Almost 300 days later and we still don’t know what is planned for the convention centre, stadium, arts precinct, or any of the anchor projects.  It’s extraordinary. So we are meant to support the demolition of one the most important buildings in the country without any knowledge of what might replace it? Because that is what the minister is asking us. Really this is what he expects us to do.

Now I completely accept that some arts and cultural groups in Christchurch might be really excited about the new arts precinct.  I respect that.  But until we get some idea of what the government is actually proposing this is a false argument.  As a guide though there is a rule of thumb that very high quality auditorium spaces as we have with the Town Hall cost around $20,000 per seat. That puts the Town Hall at around $300 million dollars.  A similar building (based on the acoustic design of our town hall) in Paris has reached almost half a billion.  Now, do you really think that the government is seriously looking at that sort of money an arts precinct.  And if not why would we not spend $50 million to protect the town hall we already have.

Some suggest (Link to article on rebuilding Christchurch) that the $70 million is needed to not only help get the arts precinct going but a business plan is also linking this into the convention centre too. So in a twisted way the construction of the CCDU’s big convention centre is based on the need to demolish our best live arts space.  I don’t know if there is any accuracy to this, because, you guessed it, the whole process is being done in secret.

The other thing to mention is that the proposal is for the demolition of an Town Hall and replacement with an performing arts centre. Town Hall’s are fundamentally civic in nature and performing art is about well, performing arts. If we keep the Town Hall we get both, if we demolish it we lose the civic aspect.  When people say ‘we need a new Town Hall’ they misunderstand that this isn’t what is proposed.  In fact we don’t even know who would own the new one, or who would run it.

The most frustrating thing about this is that this public battle now means that the government and the council aren’t talking to each other and the plans to keep the Town Hall are not being considered as part of the city rebuild.  What we really need is:

A. Some information about what we need as a city, what can we actually support.

B. More information from both the CCC and CCDU about what their plans are for the Town Hall and performing arts area.

C. A short and in depth consultation with the relevant parties to see what great and creative solution we can come up with.

It’s completely irresponsible to talk about demolition when all the options aren’t even on the table yet.  This is banana republic stuff.

Call me naïve, but why can’t we just have all the information in front of us and have a serious grown up conversation about what to do. I suspect we still might be able to come up with a plan that means we all win.

How about a smaller and more flexible arts precinct, keep the Town Hall, fix up the auditorium, re-invent the James Hay, and have all this facing into the victoria Square with the new Ngai Tahu cultural centre. Can someone in power explain to me why this can’t work?

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I am Bradley Manning

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