The fine art of research

Our correspondent finds too much quality of life for one evening

Our correspondent finds too much quality of life for one evening

Hamish Coney


It’s a matter of great pride when little old NZ makes some top ten list or other. We always do well on the per-capita-basis stuff like magazine readership, cardigan ownership and household debt, but recently we’ve been sneaking into polls that actually matter. A poll that really caught my eye recently is the 2006 Mercer Consulting Worldwide Quality of Living Survey. If you’ve read it, you’ll know that Auckland has just burst into the number five position while the best the Aussies can manage is Sydney at number nine.

Just how Jaffaville makes the global top five may take some figuring out. But before you capital shakers in your governmentfunded glasshouses start reaching for your stones, I hasten to add that the good folk at Mercer Human Resource Consulting have chucked a dog a bone by ranking Wellington at number 12, a good five places ahead of Melbourne.

So after enjoying a few good swigs from the cup of urban smugness this Jaffa started to ask himself a few questions. First, what’s the point of a stupid poll comparing Auckland with Hamburg (#26), Zurich (#1) and Baghdad (dead last, just ahead of Brazzaville)?

The point, apparently, is to create a chunky research document to flog for large wads of cash. The content of the survey is based on a set of objective criteria dreamt up by the boffins at Mercer, formulated around a unique matrix of 39 key measurables that dictate the final outcome and justify the aforementioned wince-making fees. Mercer takes the results, chucks them into a blender and hits the button marked ‘Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics’ and out pops Auckland at number five with a bullet just behind Vienna (fluke!) but comfortably ahead of Düsseldorf and Munich. Still, given my hometown does pretty well out of it, I have to congratulate the Mercer team on their rigorous methodology.

But you don’t need 39 criteria to measure quality of living, based on my street-level research. Auckland is a rocking art town. Quality of living is all about doing the stuff you like to do, eh? You can have that bit of research for free.

I like going to art galleries and looking at lots of art. Like any good researcher I will now present unchallengeable evidence to back up my assertions.

In any given week, Auckland now has more gallery openings than it is possible to see and hold down a job. Recently, I tried to get around all six gallery openings on a balmy Auckland winter evening (according to the Mercer folk we score highly for our lovely temperate climate). First up was a beaut art-meets-ceramics show at Anna Bibby Gallery. Then it was a dash to Artis Gallery in Parnell to see Pamela Wolfe’s enormous flower paintings. I really wanted to see the Christian Jankowski’s cool video work at Sue Crockford, but couldn’t find a park. (Okay, parking in Auckland is a bitch, but we still make the top five so imagine what it must be like in, say, Cairo, #131.)

Still cursing, I immediately moved onto Starkwhite for the latest exhibition of 2002 Walters Prize finalist Gavin Hipkins, where I got waylaid by some brilliant art and some superb wine. I ran out of time and couldn’t get to the Dale Frank show at Gow Langsford or Michael Hight at John Leech Gallery. The combination of too many shows, parking hassles and the much-improved wine served at openings—I’m sure they picked this up in the Mercer survey—meant that try as I might I just couldn’t see everything.

However, I had as much fun as anyone can legally have on a Tuesday night, saw some excellent art, swapped a few yarns with the art crowd and quaffed a few quality vinos … all for nix.

I’ve yet to forward my findings to the team at Mercer Consulting but I’m sure I wouldn’t be telling them something they don’t know already.

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