Rebuild it in Dunedin!

22:56, Jan 08 2012

I have always been amused by the childish and slightly embarrassing competitiveness that exists between New Zealand's various towns and cities as expressed by its mayors and city councillors. You know the sort of thing, where any time there's the chance to be seen to have the advantage over another centre some local elected representative will wantonly laud it over the other.

A live interview with two or three competing mayors will inevitably contain more blustery "Well Town X produces far more jellybeans/Shortland Street actors/woodchopping champions than Town Y, which is why so many people are moving there" bragging than is strictly necessary and there never seems to be any shyness in trying to "poach" the drawcards of other towns. From V8 racing to flower shows, you can almost hear the sophomoric sing song cry of "neener neener" echoing from the halls of power.

And you know what? That's fine. I sadly expect nothing more from local body representatives than the robotic "everyone should move HERE because we are the BEST" response to every ill, from traffic congestion to library charges. Fair enough, it's your job to promote the hitherto unknown features and attractions of your town, I don't begrudge you that at all. You're the one who has to look like a dick. I mean, there's generally a reason that cheerleaders aren't middle-aged men in suit jackets. But don't let that stop you from telling everyone about how the annual beetroot festival gives your residents a much better quality of life than the poor souls who have to live in Auckland. Yeah, nice story, bro.

But I was surprised to find Dunedin City Councillor, Lee Vandervis, rather going beyond his bragging remit in an opinion piece that featured in The Press on Saturday.

Because Mr Vandervis goes further than simply extolling the virtues of his city. He's of the opinion that we should rebuild Christchurch...but in Dunedin. And yes, he IS serious.

There's a lot that's simply wrong in Mr Vandervis' piece from his lack of understanding of the seismology involved (large earthquakes are ALWAYS followed by a long sequence of aftershocks) to his willful misreading of the geotechnical advice. But certainly his habit of stating opinions as if they are facts and then providing no compelling evidence of their "factiness" is particularly bad. Our airport and port "will always present a potential failure". Really? Isn't potential failure inherent in...I dunno...EVERYTHING? What does that even mean? Christchurch people are suffering "a permanent epidemic of social shellshock". I have no idea what that is, let alone if I might be suffering from it. Wait, is being confused a symptom?

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And possibly my favourite bit is where he says "when children become skilled at accurately predicting the Richter scale number of yet another quake, don't we owe it to them to bring them up somewhere secure?"

Won't someone please think of the children? As an argument this is a sure sign of someone who doesn't really have anything cogent to say on the matter.

Poorly written rhetoric aside, the other thing that really climbed up my a** and had a dance party about this was the fact that Lee Vandervis is just thinking of what's best for everyone. For the South Island. For the children. It's just a coincidence that it makes him sound like a greedy son arguing over who gets the good china while his mother lies recovering in a hospital bed from life-threatening surgery. Yes, recovering. Little hint, Lee, don't pick over the carcass until the patient's actually been pronounced. It's not classy.

That this piece was published in The Press, a Christchurch paper, is telling to me. It's almost as if Mr Vandervis is trying to win us over with is biblical allusions and badly expressed description of our "suffering" and convince us that Dunedin is indeed, the place to be. What he fails to realise is that we already know that Dunedin exists and that it doesn't have earthquakes...but we're still living in Christchurch. This isn't an accident, Lee. Most of New Zealand doesn't live in Dunedin...because they don't want to. Crazy, I know. Still, it's so very good of you to be so concerned about us, with no ulterior motive or agenda of your own at work. So kind.

I'm not going to bag Dunedin though. I like your council's progressive approach to providing free wifi, and your nice old buildings and, um, the penguins. But when Lee Vandervis says of Christchurch "who would want to move there?" I feel compelled to point out that people have been saying that about Dunedin for years. Sorry.

Certainly, if Lee Vandervis is an exemplar of the quality of city councillors that Dunedin has I feel no inclination to move there. Less inclination, in fact. Nice work, Lee. I think you may have inadvertently scuppered your chances of capitalising on an influx of Christchurch refugees because quite frankly your attitude sucks. I had thought that we Mainlanders were supposed to stick together and offer each other support but your "pull the plug and rebuild it in Dunedin" fantasy is both offensive and disappointing.

You love Dunedin. That's great. But I feel you may have fallen into the "moving to Dunedin is the solution to every problem" feedback loop that people in your position so easily revert to. But maybe you need to think bigger? Why stop at rebuilding Christchurch in Dunedin when there are so many other broken or dysfunctional things that could be rebuilt there? I took to the Twitterverse last night and brainstormed a whole lot of ideas. The following are ones I came up with but more can be found here.

Rebuild it in Dunedin:

Katy Perry and Russell Brand's marriage

The Bridge on The River Kwai

The Greek economy

Beyonce's vagina (update: Sorry, she had a C-section. Typical.)

The Sphinx's nose

Lindsay Lohan's career

Cher's facial structure

Scotland (No, wait. Nevermind...)

So I encourage you, dear reader, to come up with other things that can be rebuilt in Dunedin. My fellow blog stablemate, Chris Philpott was even so good as to make this handy dandy tool so that you can add a visual element to your "Rebuild it in Dunedin" suggestion, like this one I made.

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