SAD Victory on the Esplanade

Arthur Bragg, Surfdale Automobile Drivers Club. (SAD)

So the Esplanade is going to be re-opened for the use of cars. Yippee. As an ex-boy racer myself I am whole heartedly looking forwards to being able test the boundaries of traction on the tyres of my Hummer as I round the point at 60kph.

While no actual bribes were required – it has taken a considerable number of lunches, drinkies and photo ops for FayJo and Co to get this one passed. But now as my friends in the petrol head team celebrate their victory I have had the terrible realisation that perhaps we may have miscalculated, perhaps we should have been more honest in our arguments as to the reasons for wanting the road.

It seemed to make sense at the time, It didn’t feel right that we should just come out and say we wanted the road open – because we happen to like driving along it, because its a handy short cut to the ferry, because its flat and my V12 just burns fuel going up that hill out of Oneroa, and because it makes our houses more valuable. We could have won that argument hands down because secretly lots of people agree with us.

Instead we fell into the greenie, veggie, pedal pusher’s trap and made out that our argument was about making the road available for everyone. Making it available for sweet grannies who can only view the world from the comfort of a sedan – and who will bitterly regret not seing the point one more time. Making it available for emergency vehicles who desparately needed a second route around the island should Ocean View road ever have a road closing accident on the 100m stretch just above Little O’. Not withstanding the rather more obvious pinch point on the single road from Oneroa to Matiatia.

Oh no we airily said – its all about maintaining the road for all users – walkers, cyclists, mums with buggies, school kids, and cars of course, just occasionally. We can share we said – little considering just what that means.

Guys – get this – we can’t share, we don’t want to share! Have you thought about what sharing a road with a MWB actually means? It means US having to drive along at 4kph for the full length of the road. It means never being able to race around a corner without the danger of some bunch of school kids on rusty old bikes scratching your paintwork and breaking your windows with their poncy plastic helmets. It means traffic lights enforcing a one way system that means you have to wait 20 minutes to let one car come the other way before you get your turn. It means speed bumps every 20 metres as a ‘traffic calming measure’. A TRAFIC CALMING MEASURE I ask you – after losing yet another exhaust pipe to a clumsily laid pile of dirt and tarmac I will be anything but calm. Your chance of catching the ferry in a last minute dash could be wrecked by some loose dog walker out enjoying the morning sun.
Roads are not for sharing! Thats why we have motorways, thats why we have footpaths, kerbs and channels. Thats why we have smooth oil based road surfaces that suit our rubber tyres instead of Horse Shoes.

Its a victory – but a phyrric one. We will get to drive around the Esplanade again – but we will get no fun out of it. No fun at all. Dammit – We should have traded them the Esplanade for a 100kph stretch on the Onetangi straight.


A Late Night Bouquet.

OK, politics fans. It’s late and I have radio and theatre to do tomorrow so I’ll make this one brief.

But it needs saying.

I know it looks as if I rag on our two newspapers rather hard. That’s probably because I do. It’s not like it’s DIFFI

CULT. By and large, both are wretched on a week to week basis. The days of towering figures such as Simon Johnson and Greg Treadwell are far behind us it seems and we are the worse for it. But if I seem to go on a bit it is because I bloody CARE! I grew up with both politics and newspapers as the background to my life. I love both in equal measure.
Actually, that’s not quite true. I love newspapers and love watching politicians get tormented by them would be closer to the mark. So if I set about our local media with cudgels various it’s done with a caring touch.

There. Aren’t I being nice?

So, never let it be said that I don’t give credit where it is very much DUE. And those of you who are still up might like to check into the Gulf News website and see the excellent story posted as a News UPDATE no less, (When did Granny Gulf News ever do THAT before eh?) on the Open-Gate mystery.

A tip of the hat to Martin Moore for managing to do some proper digging and lay out some fresh facts on the matter. And well done The Gulf News for doing the whole online news update thing. Keep it up. It suits you.

Can I also add, while we are here and chatting, that my considerable interest in this story lies not with the golf club or the riding club. I know many of you and you know I have no axe to grind there. But what I do want to focus on is the unusual degree of local political involvement in this seemingly innocuous case and the decidedly iffy media coverage that flowed from it.

So while I’m grateful to all of you who have dropped me fascinating facts about the horse, the putting greens and, one supposes, the odd horse jobby, I’m rather more interested in the growth of the exotic political house plant that has sprung, unexpected, from such humble manure and the horticulturalists that are watering it.

The Thunder of Hooves

Some political scandals have the most prosaic beginnings. A hotel gets burgled, a dress fails to make it to the dry cleaners or a TV cameraman ‘forgets’ his tape recorder in a café. And when such events develop a life of their own and begin to gi

ve off a scandalous aroma then the first eager scribe who gets to dissect the story in public is duty bound to name the affair by choosing some key word and tacking the suffix ‘Gate’ onto it.

Well, what do we call this nasty business on the golf course? ‘Horse-Gate’? ‘Golf-Gate’?

No. If we are being realistic then the only gate in this case was ‘OPEN-GATE’.

Someone didn’t secure their horse, the horse went walkies and took a short cut over the golf course without replacing its divots as it went. Regrettable certainly, but hardly the stuff of which political upheavals are made. The event stirred a brief flurry of comment on Facebook last Sunday but as just a basic animal control issue it hardly seemed worth getting that excited about.
That was until the limp organ formerly known as the Waiheke Marketplace decided to cover the story, and in doing so surrendered the last tattered shreds of its credibility as an independent voice in local media. The page two story was the usual mess of disjointed squawking that we’d expect, full of baseless assertions about willful damage and deliberate vandalism. But the photo that went with it seemed a bit odd. What was so dreadful about this incident that local board leader Faye Storer was called away from her Sunday breakfast to be pictured with golf club staff and police, crouching on the dented greensward and looking concerned?
There could be a perfectly innocent explanation of course. Perhaps the Leaderene was breakfasting at the golf club that morning by chance? I’ve heard the café there is very good. It is possible that, seeing some fuss being made outside, she set aside her coffee and croissant and ventured out to see what was amiss, arriving at the same time as the photographer and being ‘smudged’ by simple chance.

That alone was hardly earth shaking stuff. But to get to the meat of the matter one has to turn to what passes for a letters page. Now most weeks the Marketplace letters page is a sad affair, rarely covering half a page and filled with tiresome bleating content from the semi-literate.
Not this week! Let’s turn to that page and see what we can make of it. Firstly there is a slab of bombastic nonsense from golf club president Graeme Orr. In it he makes it plain that in his view the incident was deliberate. Someone saddled up their huge and possibly rabid horse and intentionally rode it back and forth across the greens to cause maximum damage. Nothing resembling proof is offered of course, but hey! Who needs PROOF when you’re on a roll?

Then there is a similar letter from S Williams of Blackpool, also taking the view that the damage was entirely deliberate and couched in the kind of terminology usually only used for deploring major acts of terrorism. I mean really!
Riding Club president Claudia Lapp is allowed to ’Call for calm’ as the paper hysterically puts it, and suggest the possibility that this was simply an escaped animal.

But it is the letter from Faye Storer’s faithful sidekick Jo Holmes that gives the game away and shows this for the deplorable beat-up it clearly is. Holmes’s letter is so ludicrously over the top, so revoltingly embellished with hyperbole that a chap could develop indigestion simply looking at it. The best is saved for last as she tops off her frenzied epistolary confection with that famous quote concerning good men doing nothing and the consequences thereof.

Well…I see your Edmund Burke quote and raise you one Shakespeare;

“The lady doth protest too much methinks…”

Way, WAY too much. So much in fact that it would alert even the most room temperature intellect to the fact that this is about a lot more than just a temporarily damaged golf course. Because let’s face it, when it comes to willful vandalism this island is not short of egregious examples, many of them council approved and drawing no comment at all from our local board.

So what is really going on here? Could this be the opening salvo of the current board’s election campaign? Didn’t that chap we all elected to fill the vacant spot on the board have something to do with the long running tension between those who like pretending they are in charge of what is really a powerful motorcycle with a nasty, brutish intelligence tucked away somewhere behind the scary lawn mower attachment at the front and those whose lives revolve around the questionable delights of poking a small white bouncy ball around a lawn with a metal stick?

Of course he did. And now it seems that the board, annoyed at finding themselves stuck with a new member voted on by a population still seething with annoyance over their clumsy and arrogant behaviour following the last election, are looking for ways to destabilise him. Well, that’s politics I suppose, and if Paul Walden is feeling beleaguered right now by the crass and vulgar attempts of his fellow board members to smear him with this then it is really part of the game.
Yet he should take heart and look on the bright side. The attack on him has been so crudely handled that it seems very likely to rebound on those who staged it. The obviously coordinated nature of the letters in both the Marketplace and the Gulf News must have seemed like a good idea to the perpetrators at the time but in cold print they look as phony and contrived as an episode of Masterchef.

The efforts of both Storer and Holmes to stir the pot are so cretinously shabby that they reflect shamefully on both. If this is any indication of how they intend to carry on in future then their removal from office next election seems not only desirable but imperative.

The person whose careless attention to detail on the matter of horse confinement caused all this really should own up. It’s only fair. Horses are huge, dangerous things and allowing one to roam is reprehensible. I know these things happen from time to time but in this instance your lack of care has caused a truly toxic outcome.

But above all, to George Gardner, editor of the Marketplace,
Was the final loss of your paper’s independence and credibility really worth it? Are you now so lacking in editorial control that you were required to stand aside helplessly as your paper was hijacked for a beat up as cheap and trashy as this? Are you really expecting any of us to respect your paper’s integrity, (such as it was) in future?

A bad business all round folks, and where will the trail of poison lead next? I have a few ideas and I very much doubt that this will be my last word on the matter.