On this theme we released a journal late year on the topic of 'institutional love' and how perhaps the most radical thing we can do at the moment is to care for the organisations and institutions around us, to make them better. Here is pdf version of it. Free download
Great article Russell. It reminds me of the final essay in Don't Dream it's Over: Reimagining Journalism in Aotearoa NZ in which Simon Wilson suggests a more productive local focus for the Herald that would both serve Auckland better and build a more loyal following. Is this plunge into rapid shallow journalism similar to Mediaworks and really about preparing a company for sale rather than building a business?
Thanks Bruce, thats a really well made point.
Jack, that is a further point I write about. We can't solve our own issues because we don't have democratic representation down here. Christchurch is dominated by the national and National government at both local and regional levels, and this is tacitly supported by the rest of the country by 'it not being their issue'. I don't think that is fair on the rest of the country, it is someone else's city and the issues are complex. But until we get some control back down here, you ARE involved, like it or not.
The funny part about all that is that he ended up supporting Gerard's thesis by making NZ media synonymous with Auckland media.
oh, and here's the essay I wrote! https://medium.com/@mrbarnabyb/design-and-democracy-339fa4688d70
Enough from me!
Jeremy, please don't go there about what we've done in terms of positive things. How about helping out helping found and organise the Festival of Transitional Architecture (festa.org.nz) that has brought, 50,000 people into the struggling city, how about publishing 2 books that have highlighted all the amazing things happening in the city, or the 30 or so public talks I've given carefully explaining the positive energy and potential of the place, or the Songs for Christchurch CD that raised $10,000 for community groups, or the $2500 we've given to City Mission to help with the homeless here. It's taking quite a lot of willpower not to swear at you, but I'd appreciate that you don't cast judgements on people and things you obviously know little about.
Here is just one example of many odd things happening down here that isn't being covered either here or up in Auckland:
THE LITTLE WE KNOW
A few weeks ago the PM was in Christchurch to present to launch of the partners for the new Convention Centre Precinct in the heart of central Christchurch. This large, expensive project has been mutely accepted as inevitable and part of the rebuild. Personally I don’t understand why there has not been more discussion of the project, and more analysis of what it means for the city and what it represents for the future of the city. The Government is refusing to offer any real information on the project, so a nuanced discussion is impossible. Below I have presented the facts as we know them.
What do we know about the convention centre:
1. It is going to be placed on two of the most important central city blocks in the city. Between Cathedral Square and the Avon River.
2. It uses land that has been compulsory acquired. That is the full force of the state to force land off its owners.
3. There is $284 million dollar of government/public money going into the project.
4. The total project will be around $500 million.
5. That means a public to private ratio of less than 1:1. International experience shows normal public private ratios should be from 5 and up to 10: 1 before been considered seriously.
6. The project will be built by a large consortium of companies, including a urban design firm Boffa Miskell that used to be owned by the head designer of the government agency running the project (the CCDU) Don Miskell.
7. The Carter Group is a major part of the consortium. Philip Carter is the brother of the speaker of the house and National Party MP David Carter.
8. The Minister in charge of the rebuild is refusing to give any information on the financial or contract information on the Convention Centre until after the election.
9. Convention Centres are almost never put in the centre of the city because they require very large access areas that become deadzones.
10. The entire centre will be operated by a very large internation French compary Accor, so presumably any profits will go overseas.
11. Publically owned streets and footpaths have been taken by the crown and included in this project. We don’t know if equivalent or better (and true) public space is going to be part of the design.
12. We know that contracts have been signed and construction is due to start in 2015.
13. The economic logic of Convention Centres is that they bring high-yield business customers into the city and the country. However most of the workers running the centres are low waged.
14. This isn’t the type of project that was asked for in the Share an Idea consultation 3.5 years ago. (The last time anyone was asked about the central city)
15. We do know that the CCC built a Convention Centre in just north of the Town Hall in 1997 for $15 million. This new one is a little bit bigger and 25 times the cost.
What we don’t know:
1. The business case hasn’t been made public for the merits of this building.
2. We don’t know what the ownership model will be.
3. We don’t know what areas will be publicly accessible or usable. Convention Centres are like stadiums, they either really busy and you need to pay to get in, or huge and empty (most of the time)
4. Despite $284 million of public money, we don’t know what is going to be in it.
5. We don’t know what urban design characteristics it will have. How they will activate the edges? How will trucks enter the site? How much parking is part of the project?
6. The launch cost $16,000. You can see it here. We don’t know how you can possibly spend that much on a launch for around 50 people.
7. We don’t know why if this is project makes so much sense economically, it needs $284 million of public money?
8. We don’t know if there has been extensive economic research to see if a very large convention centre will work in Christchurch.
9. We don’t know who will be liable for the costs if it doesn’t work.
10. We don’t know how the spaces in this project fit into the broader ecosystem of venues and facilities in the city.
I find it very frustrating that these huge financial and planning decisions are being made with little critical examination or discussion.
It's too simple to say 'the media doesn't cover it because people aren't interested.' People become interested when they are told stories about things that are told well. So the lack of interest is, in part, a by product of A. lack of coverage, and. B. lack of quality in the coverage.
We only need to look at how much American television occupies peoples minds, or how easily political opinion can be influenced to see how powerful the media is in establishing interest.
There is however no conspiracy, and I don't think any accusations that anyone is uncaring or unsympathetic. It's just an unintended consequence of the way a system operates and works. The reality is that most of the population, most of the advertisers and most of the media makers are based in Auckland, and so perhaps inevitably other parts of the country (chch isn't by any means unique in this) struggle to get in the picture.
You can forget about empathy or sympathy, no one wants that. What is sad is that A. There are so many incredible interesting starting life changing stories down here that everyone is missing out on. B. The NZ economy is currently being propped up by Christchurch and most people have little nuanced knowledge of whether this money is being spent and taxed and governed well. C. Its really hard to have proper functioning democratic institutions when the media serves a population based 1000k away.
Its a fair question and I don't honestly know the answer. I don't think the CTV problem is a uniquely Canterbury thing though is it, as hardly any of the regional TV stations have much of an audience do they? They also don't have the capital to make the high quality productions that mainstream TV affords.
You are also probably right about there being a kind of fatique with everything. After four years of dealing with a thousand problems people are tired. But this doesn't make the problems go away, and it doesn't make the governments handling of them any better.
We launched our book at the writers festival last week and the session of well over 150 people was sold out, and the book launch had a similar amount of people turn up. There's no lack of interest or engagement with what we are doing from what I can see.