I was a bit puzzled when the Auckland City Council announced it would like to ban billboards from the CBD in the interests of becoming an “international city”. Just what international city is it that we colonial hicks aspire to be like? Can’t be London, with its neon-clad Picaddily Circus. Can’t be New York. Can’t be Tokyo or Bombay or LA.
It turns out the council must be thinking of Sao Paulo, where billboards were banned on January 1. How’s it going? Check out these pictures on Flickr of some newly-decommercialised city space (via BoingBoing). There’s no question that some ads are a lot nicer to look at than the buildings they obscure—and Auckland has plenty of crap buildings in the CBD, which is something the council could have done something about.
Meanwhile, hearings on the proposal start tomorrow and we’ll find out next month what the council plans to do. It’s not that I’m necessarily against removing the hoardings from the CBD; if we had an attractive, inspiring city centre then I’d be happy to be banish the plugs for beer and undies to the motorways and airport.
These hearings are planned to take nine days, and at this point the proposal looks dead in the water. No doubt, though, we’ll go through the whole sorry charade before it’s formally axed. What a pity the councillors, staff and lobbyists can’t just agree to ignore the agenda and spend the time working on dealing with more important issues like the outdated infrastructure, near-unusable public transport, expensive communications, streets in a constant state of (re)repair, and the future of the low-cost shoebox apartment buildings that blight the CBD.