Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Guy Fawkes Fudge

The Government has fudged their ‘get tough on fireworks’ stance with a ‘neither one thing nor the other’ .  Environment Minister David Benson-Pope has said that fireworks will only be sold for three days next year, only to those over 18 and that sparklers will only be sold as part of larger fireworks packs. 

“What do you mean you ‘can only get sparklers’!”

The Government maintains that (i) those selling fireworks will break the law if they sell fireworks to people under 18 and (ii) those buying them will have to present identification in the same way as purchasing tobacco or alcohol.  These same measures haven’t prevented underage drinking and smoking so quite how they will prevent vandalism, arson, injuries and lifelong scarring I’m not sure.

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The Police Force formerly known as…

The inhabitants of the police station at the bottom of our road changed their name this afternoon.  No longer will they be officers of North Shore/Waitakere/Rodney and Auckland Metro Road Policing.  Top cop Viv Rickard announced that they’ve shed the quadruple-barreled moniker with officers now comprising part of the slimmer, sleeker Waitemata Police District.

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Knights departing Auckland?

The Knights, the beleaguered Auckland-based soccer team are all over the press this week – for the wrong reasons.  The Knights, languishing at the bottom of the Hyundai A-League with just two wins in 17 matches, learned last week that Football Federation Australia have revoked the franchise’s license. 

Half-time in last night’s match against The Victory, the team of fellow Oceania Metrobloggers Melbourne, couldn’t come quick enough as The Victory compounded the pain with four goals in ten minutes.

The scramble is on to find new investors to prevent the franchise heading back over the Tasman.  NZ Soccer have stepped in to help keep the club in New Zealand and have not ruled out the possibility of the club moving to Christchurch or Wellington, cities with more soccer-friendly reputations, if the cash is found.  Though the team have until January 31st to secure the franchise, the Australian cities of Cairns,
Wollongong and Canberra are all keen to snap up the league slot if it becomes available.

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Sign felled?

As I mentioned two days ago, the city council are keen to ban billboards and the billboard companies are not best pleased.  Now the Sign and Display Association are joining those on the ‘shell-shocked’ side of the debate, having learned that the ban could well apply to the enourmous free-standing and roof line signs so beloved of the fast food chains.  I have to say that, from an aesthetics point of view, I agree; the character of streets the world over has been lost or devalued by the gaudy clutter of plastic and vinyl.  Just today, I heard a scientist on the radio stating that a large percentage of three year olds who were unable to offer their family’s surname could, however, recognise and associate McDonald’s golden arches logo with food.

Chief among the SDA’s concerns are increased business costs and the always-popular looming job losses (though wouldn’t all the changes in signage increase business and jobs?).  If the bylaws goes ahead unaltered, all signs above verandas will be prohibited, size and style of signage will be restricted, signs will have to comply with the new bylaw within 18 months of it coming into force and dispensations will last no longer than five years.

The council will be seeking comment from businesses and public between January 15 and March 2.

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Removing Dan Carter’s underwear

Yesterday, Auckland City Council took the first step towards banning advertising billboards in the city centre.

Apparently, the thinking behind this move is that the ban, if ratified next May, will help make Auckland an “international city”, though quite how isn’t clear.  Adverts such as the one featuring All Black Dan Carter in his underwear are popular talking points in the streets and around watercoolers for obvious reasons.  However, those promoting the ban claim that folks would prefer the opportunity to appreciate naked buildings and the urban landscape than a near-naked Mr Carter.  Let’s be honest, architects and city planners, your neat cornice work and fancy window details just don’t have the same eye-candy appeal as a 200ft rugby player or supermodel in the skinny.

The proposed bylaw would see billboards disappear from Hobson St across to Anzac Ave, Britomart, Karangahape Rd and the Viaduct Harbour.  It would also mean the removal of billboards from around retail areas like Newmarket, Ponsonby, Parnell, Otahuhu and around the Valley Rd shops in Dominion Rd.

I can see both sides but I’m still not sure about the move making Auckland an international city.  Having lived, worked and visited a good many cities around the globe, I have found funny, inventive billboards a common sight – and not one that necessarily detracts from the landscape.  On the contrary, I doubt Piccadilly Circus or Times Square would have the same tourist pull without the billboards and neon lights.

As the advertisers would say, watch this space.

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Why are Kiwi motorists so threatened by bikes?

flickr photo: psd

Today, the Herald ran a story regarding the upcoming installation of cycle lanes on a busy road that runs past my office.   Good news but the detail of the piece serves to highlight a less palatable fact: kiwis are not that cycle friendly and are no more keen to relinquish road space than their UK or US cousins.  Consider these points, if you will:

  1. Residents are concerned about losing on-street parking.  As the local community board chairwoman pointed out, most homes in the area (and indeed NZ) have enough off-street parking for two cars.
  2. Residents are complaining that they have to cross a very busy road to parking on the other side – and say that it is dangerous for cyclists too.   More dangerous than being hit by a car door and spilled into oncoming traffic?
  3. Opposition to the planned loss of 174 parking spaces saw this reduced to 113, with a 1.4m cycle lane running outside them, to placate the residents.  This concession was at the expense of the flush median strip (prevalent in NZ), the removal of which has led to more road traffic accidents elsewhere. So, the argument goes, bike lanes cause accidents. QED.

All this tends to point towards an unpleasant, shortsighted NIMBY attitude among car-loving Aucklanders but things are little better in the suburbs.  One of the local papers ran another piece this week on a woman who is an experienced cyclist and who had been in a driver-at-fault accident.  After emergency care and hospitalisation, she is now recovering but, when interviewed by the paper, she pointed an ironic fact of life for cyclists in New Zealand, which I have tried to capture in my own words. 

The average Kiwi loves and embraces almost any sporting endeavour and will support New Zealand athletes to the ends of the earth.  It is strange and sad then to think that those who cheered Sarah Ulmer to her Olympic Gold Medal victory most probably include the antagonistic, abusive and aggressive who drive cyclists, literally and metaphorically, from the roads every day.

Those looking for further supporting evidence need look no further than the soon to be published Long Cloud Ride by the much acclaimed world cyclist Josie Dew.  In nine month’s cycling, she covered 10,000 kilometres across both islands of New Zealand. During this time, according to the pre-press and accounts elsewhere, Josie was spat at, shouted at, honked at and run off the road.

Come on, Kiwis, embrace the bike and hug a cyclist today.

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NZHerald spooked by Metroblog

Obviously spooked by the appearance of Metroblogging Auckland, the New Zealand Herald web site is undergoing a hasty revamp and will launch it’s fresh look on Monday. As well as stylistic changes for tried and tested content like breaking news, the site will be re-engineered for easier navigation, will feature more hi-res images and promises more in the way of multimedia content.

Elsewhere, the competition are using different techniques to grab and keep their market share.  The Otago Daily Times provides online content in a fairly traditional fashion but offers various paid subscription options on digital editions of its print version.  However, The Dominion Post, the second largest paper in the country and centred around the capital Wellington doesn’t offer online content.

I heard about all this from the always interesting Mediawatch with Colin Peacock & Cushla Managh on National Radio. Last Sunday’s programme (Windows Media) concerned the changing nature of news reporting and the balance that newspapers are now trying to strike between printed and online content.  Likewise, Radio New Zealand are, like broadcasters the world over, providing an increasing amount of broadcast and original content in podcast form.

Don’t hold your breath for the print edition of Metroblogging Auckland.  Instead, why not check out the other 50 cities in our network and extend your world view?

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Snow Patrol to play Trust Stadium

In what will be their debut New Zealand gig, indie-darlings turned mainstream stadium-fillers Snow Patrol, surfing the success of their Eyes Open album down under, will play Auckland in February next year.  Tickets went on sale here in NZ earlier today and, given their rapid sell outs in Oz, I scooped a pair up before they disappeared.  The venue is the Trust Stadium, which is just a 15 minute drive from our house.  This will mean a quick drive to Lincoln Road to park up, and grab a bite to eat before a leisurely walk to the stadium.

Snow Patrol’s output to date is on my youngest teenager’s iPod as well as mine.  So, as it was she, the budding indie rock chick, who told me about the gig in time to hit TicketMaster, it only seems right that she gets the other ticket and goes to her first ever gig.  I can’t remember who I saw at my first gig but I can recall the anticipation, buzz and excitement that preceded going to a concert as a teenager.  I saw it all that (and a little disbelief) in her face when I called her over to look at the email confirmation on my iBook.  As a grumpy old man-in-waiting, I am shamelessly flattered that she’d even be seen at a gig with her Dad.  I suspect that the thought hasn’t crossed her mind yet and I’ll be having to promise that I won’t dance or sing along when the time arrives.

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It’s just as well I’m here

The 2006 Census QuickStats National highlights from Statistics New Zealand reveals a possible reason why I was granted residency – there’s a shortage of men in New Zealand. The resident population of New Zealand now stands at 4,027,947 but there over 90,000 more women than men. However, the fact that they also granted residency to my wife and four daughters means a net gain of four on the Venus side of things.

Auckland was found to the fastest growing region at 12.4% against the national average of 7.8%. Inevitably, this news will not be well received by those living south of the Bombay Hills, who are not well disposed towards JAFAs at the best of times. That said, the sheer cultural, ethnic and economic diversity of the Auckland population is what makes it a great place to live and work.

You know you’re in New Zealand when…

…the shock news story surrounding the shock retirement of TVNZ celebrity newsreader Susan Wood jostles for column inches with the news that a special police convoy carrying Maori elders sprayed 10,000 litres of Waikato River water in a bid to free the spirits of crash victims.

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