World Class Auckland

Empty storefronts, cafes full to the brim with 1 or 2 people, screaming tweens out past their bed time with bits of hastily consumed McDonalds meals dribbling down their shirt-fronts, and lots and lots of $2 shops. This is what life is like in New York. Not the real New York of course, but Auckland, which likes to think of itself as New York. In fact if you close your eyes on Shortland Street you can almost imagine you’re on Wall Street(minus the stockbrokers and high-profile business deals of course).

Despite its huge urban sprawl, car & beach culture, and lack of pedestrian-friendly options, Auckland definitely IS NOT Los Angeles. LA is uncool these days, or, at least, not as cool as New York. Wait a few years till LA becomes cool again though, and you’ll probably find people making the more obvious comparison.

New bars open up all the time. In a presumably unintentional homage to No. 8 wire-style kiwi ingenuity, anybody with a bit of plastic sheeting can create their own cafe. Just wander down Auckland’s newest hip spot Wynyard Quarter and you’ll see a row of quasi-bivouacs all lined up and ready to charge decidedly non-bivouac prices. Sometimes it seems like the more plastic sheeting a cafe has, the more prestigious it is. Too bad nobody has figured out how to build buildings out of plastic sheeting, otherwise some of these cafes might have been able to have setup entirely new high class precincts(and thus save the Auckland ratepayer having to fork out for having to create a new newest hip dining precinct to replace the old ‘newest hip dining precinct).

Somewhat surprisingly, ‘high class’ is not really a term you hear in Auckland too often. Places are ’boutique’ or ‘luxury’-style. One class-based description does still get applied to Auckland by Aucklanders though, and that’s the term: ‘world class’.

Everything in Auckland is ‘World Class’. The University which lets almost everybody in(including students who never even qualified for that University’s more exclusive degree programmes) is world class. The other University a few doors down also claims the same world class status, with the fine-print being that nobody can really tell because neither institution is world class enough for anybody outside of New Zealand to bother raising an objection.

‘World class’ is the new ‘best in the Southern Hemisphere’. The first necessitated by the embarrassment caused by the latter. Because in most cases, the selective use of ‘best in the Southern Hemisphere’ often just seemed to highlight the fact that Auckland City often fell well below the standards of its Australian cousins, not to mention Rio De Janeiro, a city without a working sewage system.

And that, surely, is a point in and of itself. For Rio, what is the point of being the best in the Southern Hemisphere if they don’t have a proper sewage system? But at least Rio will get the Olympics in 4 years. Auckland has no such hope. And it remains a city where almost nobody enjoys a New York lifestyle, despite being forced to suffer through New York-style problems. This doesn’t really seem to bother anybody too much. As long as there are enough surface similarities to the place, then that’s good enough. So what if nobody can afford to actually go out for dinner in the Supercity, or if its an impractical or non-pleasurable experience walking within the city, or indeed if most of its cafes close at 4PM. As long as tenuous comparisons can somehow be drawn then everything is apparently fine.

So, if Auckland’s promises of being ‘world class’ fall short in reality, it surely leads the world in one category: self-delusion.

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