Richmond-Nelson rivalry defies logic

00:36, Jun 14 2014

Let me declare my bias up front - I am a Richmond resident.

My husband and I bought our property in Richmond shortly after moving here from Wellington three and a half years ago.

We bought our particular house because it suited all our needs, including me working from home, having a great view and within reach of all the exquisitely beautiful places that we moved here to explore further.

We would have been just as happy to find this property in Stoke or another suburb closer to Nelson; it just happens that it was here in Richmond.

Having declared that, I also need to say that we have been a little bemused by the Nelson/Richmond rivalry that we have observed since coming to live here.

By Wellington standards (and we left Wellington in favour of moving to Nelson, so I'm not advocating that we adopt Wellington standards), Richmond is an inner-city suburb!


I was surprised when Nelson residents said to us, Why are you choosing to live right out there? Right out where? Just beyond Stoke do you mean?

So when Councillor Pete Rainey said recently that Richmond is just a suburb of Nelson, it made sense to us.

Perhaps Richmond/Tasman residents have found that little word "just" hard to swallow, as it implies some sort of diminishment, but there has certainly been a backlash against his statement, with Richmond supporters coming out to testify in its favour.

This had me thinking about some broader issues, way beyond how we should classify Richmond and the relative worth of living in Nelson or Richmond (which must be a personal choice).

So why do we have these rivalries about where we should live and the merits of one place over another, and why do we feel the need to defend our choices against all comers?

When we were in Wellington, it was the great Auckland/Wellington debate. Why would we choose to live in funny, cold, windy, quirky Wellington when we could live in the urban, modern and much warmer Auckland?

It's the same in Australia - the Melbourne/Sydney debate and the why would anyone live in Adelaide? debate.

Is it because we all want to feel a sense of belonging somewhere, and then want to defend our belongingness against all others?

And is it also because, at some level, if someone criticises where we live we interpret it as a criticism of us?

If we hold these positions from our own narrow perspective, we tend to polarise people and have them choosing sides.

I've done the same myself in defending Wellington against Auckland, so I certainly don't hold myself immune from this tendency, though I do see it as unproductive. So how can we rise above the debate to a more inclusive view?

At a dinner party on Friday night, we were talking about the Nelson/Richmond debate.

There were four Richmond residents and two Atawhai residents.

Our conclusion was that we all live in Nelson.

That's exactly how I see it. I live in Nelson.

So this piece is a plea for us to look beyond our parochial sense that our own bit of this wonderful district is the best, and to look more deeply into how we can help one another, and function as a single community with common problems and a common purpose.

Can we do that, Nelsonians?