The MP for Auckland Central Chloe Swarbrick has requested that the government help Auckland central’s restaurants.
Her letter is supported by more than 60 restaurant owners pleading for help. They want commercial rent reductions, more wage subsidies, extension of the IRD interest-free and government-backed loans schemes, and support for Auckland Council so the restaurants can get free rates, licensing, and administration fees.
Swarbrick says that “This is cultural infrastructure that if we lose is going to take a heck of a long time to try and build back and, frankly, will never be the same.”
Last year she called for funding to revive going to the theatre.
It is weird when even the youngest Member of Parliament, from the Green Party, doesn’t see a revolution when it hits them.
The revolution has evidently started without her.
The truth is that restaurant trade depended on a thin haute-bourgeoisie sector choosing to go out for dinner, and an even thinner sector of business executives with business credit cards to demand wine costing more by the glass than the staff serving them were getting paid by the hour.
Most diners were flown in as tourists. The bars and restaurants that used to teem with customers had a CBD full of … cruise ship travellers and package tour operators. And we used to have people going to mass concerts and sports events. They arrived on jet engines, marine diesel engines, combustion engines, taxis and buses, to eat imported food flown from across the globe, using people working precariat contracts doing 60 hours a week on minimum wage and tips: the people Swarbrick is defending who chose the CBD as entertainment are some of the most exploitative and energy-wasteful people we have. Swarbrick’s defence of the ultra-rich’s entertainment deserves a good solid fuck off.
The news Swarbrick and the rest of the elite rich need to get is that Auckland is never going to come back to what it was, and will be a speck of its former self for years to come. Whole industries have already died, like foreign language teaching, and others like cinema are rapidly dying. CBD restaurants: let them.
Even if we wanted to head in, petrol is rising to $3 a litre and rapidly inflating, on-street car parking is over $10 an hour, cycling remains terminally unsafe, no one is going to the cinema or orchestra or plays, the CBD club scene is dead, massed sporting events are void this year, Sky City is a husk, City Rail Link will suppress business through to its opening in 2025, the hotels will shrink down to a bare few once MIQ is stopped, and a large proportion of people will never work in an office again.
This is the revolution, and it has not been televised.
If you really wanted a revival of Auckland’s CBD, the Council could, like the Mayor of Brisbane recently has, make all on-street parking free, all train trips to the CBD free, and shut Queen Street completely to enable open-air dining permanently. They won’t. They have zero money left for anything.
The Prime Minister warned us this week that we needed to “prepare for winter.” We have multiple waves of this virus to come, waves of societal devastation. Waves of social dislocation: it’s a paradigm shift. In its place we are getting a leaner, safer, more productive, more networked, more efficient, less wasteful Auckland.
Minister Roberston could of course accede to central’s haute bourgeoise princess by finding further New Zealand taxpayer money to prop up the wealthy couples from Milford and Kohimarama draped in organic cotton overdue for their Lewis Road-butter-drizzled Stewart Island Paua for their plates at Ahi.
But while reading Swarbrick’s letter pleading for dinner outings, Minister Robertson would do well to reflect that 90% of Aucklanders will never feel comfortable in the CBD to go there, nor dare to afford to be entertained there, have nothing but contempt for those food businesses who have treated them with nothing but contempt for decades, don’t feel safe travelling or even being there, and won’t get anything for Saturday night other than McDonald’s or Domino’s.
This really is the carbon reset the Green Party have been looking for. And it is devastating.
Chloe Swarbrick needs a reset.