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l'enfer du North Island

  subtle political allegory that also happens to be true Friday 25 November 2011 link

One issue I've had this election campaign is: as a cyclist, what should I do when I go past a demonstration of people waving placards encouraging a particular voting choice? In a car, I honk; on a bike, I feel like going "woo!" as I go past is probably the equivalent. But I feel a bit foolish doing that. A conundrum.

And they're everywhere. If you define "everywhere" as "by major intersections". There's clearly some time-sharing arrangement; either that, or pitched battles fought early in the morning to claim the spot. Inside my head, I like to think of the nice, middle-class supporters of Charles Chauvel and Katrina Shanks meeting at the foot of the Ngaio Gorge, at 6am, in the Spotlight carpark, and shanking each other with improvised weapons until one group retires, muttering about the next morning and waving tyre irons.

The intersection at the corner of Evans Bay Parade and Cobham Drive is on my commute. The other day, there were Labour supporters there. They stood at the intersection, but behind the (waist-high) fence so they weren't on the combined foot/cycle path. They were impassioned but polite. Tonight, it was National's turn; three people in their early 20s waving signs. They weren't behind the fence; they were in the middle of the cyclepath. Blocking it. And they were so intent on the passing cars that they didn't notice the oncoming cyclists (well, me) until they were right upon them; and then only grudgingly stepped out of the way to allow me to get past.

It's not a subtle political point, but it did happen. If you haven't cast an advance vote, get yourself out tomorrow and cast your vote. If transport is a hot-button issue for you, check Smart Transport's assessment of party policies.

  of course, i did sprain my ankle that time Monday 14 November 2011 link

Went to the Santa parade yesterday. It was a good parade, though Rebecca made the very reasonable point that it's not Christmas for another six weeks. One thing was a bit disconcerting: a guy walking along through the crowds, keeping pace with the Baptist float, with a small handwritten sign. On one side it said "IS SANTA FAKE?"; then he turned it, to reveal on the other "IS TAX THEFT?" I'm not quite sure what his point was, but he seemed very intent about it - kept trying to make eye contact with the young women dressed as angels. We avoided him.

Two more weeks until the election. Roll on democracy. Vaguely tempted to vote early, except that I do rather like the theatre of going to the polling station on the day. Our current question is whether or not Peter Dunne will get in. Based on the Johnsonville School gala a week or so ago, Dunne is campaigning hard and getting his face out there. Mind you, so was Chauvel and Shanks - Chauvel took a turn on the barbecue for the sausage sizzle, while Shanks was just running around showing her face. I was slightly weirded out by the way that the National team had small children in T-shirts singing the praises of our Prime Minister; if you're under 8, you're too young for a cult of personality in my book. It'll be an interesting race to watch. Dunne's held Ohariu since time immemorial, but the way the polls are running, we could get lucky.

The Ohariu electorate is often sneeringly metonymised as "the voters of Churton Park", but the electorate actually extends from Crofton Downs to just before Tawa, including Ngaio, Khandallah, Broadmeadows, Johnsonville, and across to Korokoro, Maungaraki, and Normandale. As well as Churton Park. While the electorate does indeed include the (admittedly) pretty boring new-build suburbia in the northern suburbs, it also includes rather a lot of Wellington's most well-established, most expensive, and most conservative suburbs. From my chats with people who actually live in Churton Park, most of them are people with young families who're living there because it's what they can afford and has decent transport links. I think the powerhouse behind re-electing Dunne isn't the endless winding roads of the new-build suburbs encroaching on farmland, it's the narrow streets named after old Imperial conquests, lined with mature trees and with gilt-edged property deeds. Or to put it another way: it's easy to make fun of Churton Park; and lazy, too.

I'll confess to a slight fondness for Churts - partially out of simple contrarian "if everyone hates it I must find something to like", and partly due to having actually spent a bit of time wandering around it. Yes, it's a soulless dormitory suburb, suffering the short-sighted planning decisions and poor oversight of decades past, with no suburban centre and an infrastructure so car-dependant it makes my teeth itch. But there's a good park, a sporting field/playground which acts as a de facto suburban centre for families with young children, a decent hidden valley, and a lot of hidden cut-throughs, walkways, and strange little byways. It's even getting some shops, enabling people to buy food without driving 3k first. I still wouldn't want to live there myself - I like being able to walk down the hill to the supermarket, or to catch the train - but it's got potential for becoming less of a dormitory and more of an actual community.

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