NOT PJ: Long hard road in Mt Albert
This week Bernard Darnton takes all the jokes other people have made about Melissa Lee and gathers them in one place.
Mount Albert voters have had a week to absorb the news that they’re going to get a new motorway. Where Labour had promised them a tunnel, National offered them two tunnels. At half the price. For a limited time only. Act now! Pick up the phone because our operators are standing by.
The only downside was that the motorway was going to bring in criminals from south of Auckland to steal people’s houses and bulldoze them.
There are always people who complain when new roads are built. When the Wellington bypass cut through Te Aro a few years ago some of the scruffs who lived nearby were quite upset. The odd thing is: in Te Aro none of the Not-In-My-Back-Yard types who complained about the bypass actually owned any of the back yards that the road went through. All the land was purchased voluntarily.
Not so in Mount Albert. There are residents there saying that the motorway will be built over their dead bodies. That will only encourage the land thieves. Ask the residents of the Bolton Street Cemetery, who gave way to another Wellington roading project in the 1970s, the Wellington Urban Motorway. They’d be turning in their graves if they still had graves.
The taking of part of the cemetery caused huge controversy when it happened. I’d like to think that turfing living people out of their houses would be just as – if not more – controversial. The media are more interested in Melissa Lee having her foot in her mouth than having her jackboot up the backsides of the local residents.
Not that any of the others are any better. National and ACT are happy to evict the residents of 400 houses before the government bulldozers flatten their soon-to-be-empty homes. Labour would have done the same for about two hundred homes around the tunnel entrances. The Greens would happily shift the entire population into detention centres – er, sustainable eco-villages – to make way for the 930,000 km of canals that would be required to shift all of New Zealand’s road freight onto solar-powered mule-drawn barges.
As usual, it’s only the Libertarianz candidate, Julian Pistorius, who’s suggesting that if you want something you should ask the owner nicely. It’s always valuable to be reminded that a government big enough to insulate your home today is big enough to smash it to bits with a wrecking ball tomorrow.
Faced with the stormtroopers of “progress” and the blitzkrieg of eminent domain, we should be more like the French. Wait – that’s obviously not right. Forget that analogy.
The government should be more like the French. Usually when I say that I mean that they should take long lunch breaks, long summer breaks, and don’t – under any circumstances – do anything under urgency. In this case I mean it more constructively.
French roadbuilders pick multiple routes, buy options on properties on all the routes, and then when one route is complete all the property owners on the route are paid out in full. The road is built. It turns out that pocketing a fat wad of Euros and buggering off is more popular than living in an intact house next to a motorway.
There’s no reason that the same scheme couldn’t be used here for roads, electricity pylons, nation-spanning cycleways (assuming that wasn’t just a joke – I live in hope), or any other construction that comes in an inconveniently long skinny shape.
If a politely worded letter and a suitcase stuffed full of cash is all it takes to make the French look organised we should at least consider it. If the letter was polite enough and the suitcase stuffed enough, it might even persuade miseducated lifestyle-block housewives that electricity pylons don’t microwave their kids’ heads and make them explode.
But the biggest advantage would be having a government that wasn’t a gang of looters and pillagers. Returning property rights in New Zealand from myth back into reality will be a long hard road but one well worth building.
* * Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column appears every Thursday here at NOT PC * *