At first, I thought I must have been dreaming yesterday morning. There was John Banks loudly attacking central government politicians from Wellington. How dare they impose expensive and unjustified costs on Aucklanders? Why were they so insistent on rushing through their own ideas rather than taking the time to come to an enduring solution that Aucklanders want?
Had Banksie come out against the Supercity? Was he finally thundering (albeit too late) against this uncosted, unpopular, unproven experiment in local government, the structure for which was apparently drawn up on the back of a napkin at a fast food eatery in Disneyland by Rodney Hide and then slipped by Cabinet while his ministerial colleagues dozed or planned their next taxpayer-funded jaunt?
No. It wasn’t a dream, but neither was Banks objecting to the Supercity. Instead, he was making a purely political play, appealing to Aucklanders’ parochialism by declaiming the Government’s ‘Plan B’ for John Key’s Rugby World Cup ‘Party Central’.
Party Central is a typical Key idea: big on sale, short on substance. It’s supposed to be the site where rugby fans, foreign and domestic, will congregate in Auckland to watch the big games and party afterwards. At the moment it’s a windswept old wharf with two rusty sheds. Not a place even rugby fans would choose to go to watch the games. With less than 20 months until the games start, the Government doesn’t even have a plan for what to build in their place. The initial ideas were universally rejected. So, the Government has announced it will either double the budget to $100 million and saddle Aucklanders with the bill, or spend ‘just’ $10-$20 million on some half-arse temporary fix.
Quite what the business case is for spending $100 million, or even $10 million, on ‘Party Central’ when there is the perfectly good Vector Arena just across the road and other venues like the Aotea Centre just up Queen St, the Government hasn’t been able to explain. But, then, we should be used to this gaggle of rich idiots ignoring good governance and benefit/cost ratios to play fast and loose with taxpayer money by now: housing rorts, travel rorts, national standards, helicopter flights, Transmission Gully, the Supercity, the cycleway etc etc.
So, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with Banks. The man is clearly playing himself up as the defender of Auckland against Wellington – that’s his only interest in the issue, because it might win him some supermajor votes. Banks was initially “excited” by ‘Party Central’, he has only changed his tune because it has become a fiasco. But he is on the side of the angels, now.
‘Party Central’ is a half-witted, ill-considered idea from a Prime Minister who is full of them. It looks more and more like we’re going to get a rushed hatchet job of a solution that will pour tens of millions of our dollars into creating something that will end up being an eyesore or a white elephant.