In a sparkling performance at the Devonport RSA last week, Bob Harvey wowed the crowd with an inspiring vision of Auckland’s waterfront under the new council.
Before he began, David Slack reminded Harvey that he had once told him that you had to “get naked” in all good speeches. Harvey proceeded to tear off his clothes.
There was talk of tumescent traffic tunnels, theatres of dreams, plazas, parks, crowded clouds and glowing worms. Aucklanders, we heard, are destined to gambol happily in the gargantuan green belt that will extend from Victoria Park to Tank Farm, they will throng to the new arts and cultural centres, they will feast upon nouvelle cuisine of the highest quality while drinking in the view of the beneficent waters of the Waitemata from a multitude of architectural wonders.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the harbour, the dilapidated Devonport Wharf will crick its deformed neck to get a better view of the action on the far side of the harbour, and scowl crossly at all the bloody carry-on, while its two pyramidal humps point haughtily at the sky. People will fish from the wharf. The toilets will hum. People will hum as they wash their fish in the toilets (this already happens). Unless, timid burghers of Devonport, something changes.
Harvey confessed to suffering from an acute case of “waterfront envy,” having seen what had been accomplished in Wellington in the last twenty years and declared he was sold on Mayor Len Brown’s vision of making Auckland one of the most livable cities in the world. And as head of the new Waterfront Agency, he was damned sure he was going to make it happen.
Indeed, he left the stunned crowd of Devonportians in little doubt that there was no issue of “if”; simply “when.” And the first milestone in the “when” is this August, because the Waterfront Plan will be released for public consultation.
The man from the waterfront cast his spell, like a leader of a cargo cult promising the arrival of riches from a distant, unreachable shore. Then; a disturbance among the huddled masses in attendance and a cry went up; “Then why not Devonport?!”
“We’re not allowed!” came the staunch reply, and there was much lamenting and demanding to know who was not allowing what to whom.
“Invite us” came the reply from the naked man. There was a roar from the crowd. “Establish a working party from Devonport to present its requirements to the Waterfront Agency” the wrinkled birthday suit continued. The crowd clapped and stamped its feet.
A thin voice came from the back. “What are you going to do about the bloody wharf toilets?!” Devonport’s obsession with latrines again reared its ugly head, but the smiling naturist at the front of the hall was not discouraged.
“Report the toilets to the Minister of the Rugby World Cup” he demanded, to gasps from the audience. “Safety and sanitation are huge for the RWC; the Minister will take action.” The crowd was agape. Our toilets really were important after all!
Another question. “How is the expected influx of tourists into a small community like Devonport to be managed?”
“The strategy is called ‘Hey, Here They Come'” came the reply.
And that, residents of this ersatz port of Devon, represents a substantial opportunity. But will it be taken? The birth and evolution of any working party will be monitored with interest.
The moon had fully risen, and it was time for the man from the other side to depart. They clapped his triumphant exit, which was temporarily delayed by the garrulous plumber readers may remember from the first Borough Council meeting, who insisted on regaling our hero with more stories of copper tubes and cold solder.
And then he was gone, and David, despite an honest attempt, could not best the naked and now absent Goliath.