Last Friday night I rounded up a bunch of victims, ahem, friends, and took off to the DOC lodge at Fletcher Bay in the Coromandel for the long weekend. We left a bit late and the road is terrifying – narrow, gravel, with an abundance of wildlife to run over – so it was a long trip and we arrived just before midnight. We arrived, in fact, to a very grumpy camp manager.
The rest of our party was already there, so we could theoretically have just gone to bed without disturbing Camp Lady. But the DOC website stated the lodge would provide bedding, which was mysteriously absent, so off we went to see her and procure some.
Our fault for being so late, I suppose, and not nice for her to be woken up.
“Where have you come from?” she asked.
“Just down from Auckland,” I said.
“Oh,” she sniggered. “Thank you.”
I had a moment then where I wondered if I’d heard wrong, or if she’d heard me wrong, or if the mushroom risotto I had for dinner had been of the magical variety and I was perchance undergoing a hallucination.
“I’m sorry?” I asked. (Politely.) “From Auckland, 'thank you'?”
“Yes,” she spat. “I hate Auckland. Why else do you think I would live here?”
Suitably chastised, we took our bedding and our mushrooms and retired for the night.
I spend a lot of time out of Auckland – often in the wilderness in the South Island, tramping. I meet a lot of non-Aucklanders from all over the country and I’ve got to say I’m more than just a little bit over this notion of hating Auckland(ers) just for the sake of it.
If someone from outside Auckland came to the city and we asked where they were from, we wouldn’t be so openly rude. We might not know where Duntroon or Nightcaps or Gummies Bush was, but we wouldn’t hate them for where they came from. A non-Aucklander wouldn’t generally encounter this unwarranted open derision. They might find our driving quite appalling and Mission Bay's Sunday morning Lycra Army a little risqué, but they wouldn't be spat at simply due to their choice of domicile.
It’s a topic that inspired me to pen our cover story 'Finding Auckland's mojo' for Idealog #37. Why? Well, Auckland is our only international city. It’s home to more than 60 percent of the country’s top 200 companies. It’s got nearly a third of New Zealand’s business sites and again, nearly a third of paid employees. Half of us live within a few hours’ drive of Queen Street.
So if you’re going to hate Aucklanders, that’s a lot of Kiwis – yes, other New Zealanders – to hate. That’s half the country against the other half. That’s a country divided. And at the risk of sounding like a half-baked politician delivering a wet-blanket state-of-the-nation speech, a country divided is not a country that can ultimately succeed.
Moreover, the Auckland hate is now getting a little tired. Perhaps it was funny back in the late 90s when communication was a little more fragmented. Now, it’s somewhat irrelevant.
It’s also bad etiquette. It’s rude, childish, and shows that a person was dragged up, not brought up.
It’s time that Aucklanders starting pushing back on this unwarranted lack of manners. So if you're one of the repeat offenders, next time you’re rude to an Aucklander just for the sake of it, be warned: you might not get the apologetic, bowing-and-scraping ‘sorry for existing’ response you expected.