We can be a sedentary lot when it comes to standing up for ourselves.
Of course, some people are better at getting off their backsides to fight for their corner than others. But the Facebook era (“give ‘em a spray and I’m away”) has allowed too many to sit at their keyboards and imagine they’re making a contribution with a flippant remark or ill-informed comment.
Interesting to contrast two stories on this page: the opening of the new $26m shared path and the cavalier attitude of a developer (with little concern from the council) over the burnt-out shell of the old Four Kauri Medical Centre building.
Go back 12 to 15 years when the SH20 extension to Waterview was starting to bubble, and study the effort and impact of true neighbourhood activism over a cause that might otherwise have slipped under the radar.
It took a handful of people to stand up and mobilise a community against the prospect of a 1950s motorway cutting a swath through their backyards. If not for the commitment and energy of that initial handful – and the support they gathered along the way – would we now have the Waterview tunnels and the shared path? Doubt it.
Now turn to the Four Kauri site. To me, it’s a disgrace it has sat there for over two years since it was sold, and judging from the reaction to the story, most people agree with that.
Why hasn’t the council required the developer to demolish the ruins and spare neighbours and the rest of us the ugly sight at the main gateway to Mt Albert? The council says it doesn’t have the power. Really? Well it needs to get the power and show us those fancy salaries are worth our rate money.
While the hovel sitting in an overgrown jungle at 728 New North Rd is hardly in the same category as a motorway charging through our neighbourhood, the response was interesting.
The Mt Albert Community Facebook page, with a mix of commonsense, concern and dopeyness, featured a lively debate over the Mt Albert Inc story. But no one stepped up to say ‘let’s do something about it’ – in the way Margi Watson and the others did over the motorway all those years ago.
I also got this note from someone who lives close to the ruins: “I doubt very much that the owners, property manager or the council will read the article and take any action whatever.”
The story would not have shaken the town hall foundations, sure, but correcting wrongs takes a bit of effort. You’ve got to climb off your backside and get away from Facebook screens!
If 20 people used the story as a catalyst for action and formed a united front, badgering the local board and demanding meetings with our ward councillors – and keeping on their backs right through to the next election – we might be surprised at what could be achieved.
But playing keyboard warrior on Facebook will certainly get us nowhere.