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Friday, December 10, 2010

Public consumption

Rudman's exposing of the cranked up attendance figures for Auckland's big public events is a fascinating study in survey techniques. I have always been sceptical of these huge numbers. I was told without a blink - from someone that attended - that 300,000 people were at the Santa parade. I was there too: it was busy it was crowded but there is no way that a quarter of the metro population was watching from the streets - impossible. They were just repeating the "official figures" as if they were fact. They are nonsense - and Rudman goes into a bit of detail.

My experience of the Santa parade - the official launch of Auckland's Christmas shopping season that occurs on the last weekend of November - was pretty much what I had as a child (when I was last at one), viz: corporate floats starting with the main sponsor Farmers (the parade used to end at their big Hobson Street store in the old days as I recall), and working the way down a list of companies from TV networks and childrens' entertainment to McDonalds etc. Kids and adults alike were waving corporate promotional materials and were paying extortionate prices for everything. Just like how I remember it.

The only difference was that it went on for what seemed like eternity - one and a half hours (two hours probably if you were at the end of the route) - was way too long for a child and too long for most of the adults to stand. We can't wait for Santa to arrive... no, we really can't wait... where the f**ck is he FFS... were the sorts of comments overheard between parents.

Getting rid of the religious groups early in the pre-parade so they didn't interfere with the corporate commercialism that is Christmas made the parade longer. It didn't stop the Sallies sneaking in near the end, just when we thought they had expunged all references to the Christ bit of Christmas. The accompaniment of bag pipers in between every float had a consistency of theme about it, but how odd to an outsider... because nothing says Christmas more than bag pipers; apparently. Santa was preceded with massed ranks of pipers - like maybe he'd had to draft in Scots elves to boost his numbers for the busy season.

So the parade was every bit as whored up as it was in the early 80s. What got me though was the workings and implications of the liquor ban.

It is getting so you can't drink in public at all - not just the CBD, but any park any shopping centre in Auckland these days. I warned it would get this way and it has. The presumption is turning so that liquor is banned completely from the public spaces and that anyone wanting to drink in public must have a permit from the Council. So there I was drinking alcohol at the Santa parade - right on Queen Street. How could that be given all the dire warnings and hype about consuming alcohol in public, liquor bans and the visible presence of cops?I've never paid $8 for a beer before in town, but that was the price at Stark's - in the Civic building (which cost the Council about $60m or so to refurbish). So because I was paying for an over-priced beer at (an arguably Council subsidised) bar I could sit behind the roped off part of the public pavement on Queen Street with the other patrons and drink in public. But the cops would have arrested anyone else doing that if they were not willing to pay $8 for a beer and thus chose to drink their own alcohol on the other side of the ropes.

It's OK when the wealthy, private and Council interests encourage the behaviour - but it's bad and against the law and a nuisance if anyone else does the exact same thing. That's just bullshit. It's a method of driving up bar patronage and an excuse for price gouging - it isn't actually about public order. The fact is that anyone drinking and creating a problem can be dealt with under the laws that deal with the problem. Having a law that deals with the drinking bit only (when drinking in public is OK if there's a little velvet rope involved) is hypocritical.

On the newly revamped Aotea Square is the newly revamped front of the Aotea Centre. You walk up the main steps and you are greeted by a sign about the drinks available during Happy Hour - and right there at the front is a big bar. Bar/cafe but might as well be a pub. Smack bang at the front of what used to be a public building - now a public bar. And the doors to the centre itself were locked.The Aotea centre has closed its doors - the public are now locked out. For how long? I talked to someone coming out and they said it would re-open, but doesn't know when. Meanwhile a pub takes up half the entrance and the forecourt. Sure, it looks nice - swanky even - but is this what our public institutions are for? - paid for as they are with over-ran budgets of ratepayers and taxpayers money - just to be whored out to booze?


At 11/12/10 10:02 pm, Blogger peterquixote said...

Wish I was there to drink a bottle of Cabernet with you Tim, and although the law is already there on both sides of the rope, the fact is that the alcopop drink on the street side is where the action occurs.
I don't think the system is discriminating here, the fact is that mature dudes like you on that side are unlikely to create disorder on the street, my god what have I said,
Tim Selwyn is orderly.


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