Why Live in a Shoebox When You Could Live in Napier?

The latest trend in NZ big-city living! (Please note: accomodation pic is actual size)

The latest trend in NZ big-city living!
(Please note: accomodation pic is actual size)

There’s been a fair amount of coverage of / promotion of tiny houses recently.

I can’t help but wonder how much of it is “Hey, that’s a neat idea – living in a caravan / container / kennel” and how much is an almost subversive attempt to phase out the classic / idealistic NZ “1/4 acre (albeit more like 1/8th acre these days) dream” mentality and make living in a tiny house or shoebox apartment seem more normal or acceptable?

To me, these tiny houses seem to be a move towards something between the old “workingman’s hut” of the depression era, Japanese “capsule hotels” and human “battery farms”.

In New Zealand we are very fortunate to have the amount of space we do. Heck, we have room to spare!

New Zealand is geographically bigger than Great Britain, but with only a tiny portion of the population and huge, uninhabited swathes of the country still covered in native bush / farmland / epic, majestically mountainous movie-background terrain that would give the most sure-hooved chamois vertigo.

So, when the inevitable comments focusing on the housing crisis and massively inflated prices in Auckland, Christchurch and (to a lesser extent?) Wellington once again come to the fore as reason for such close-quarters accommodation in New Zealand’s biggest cities, it raises a major question in my mind:

“Why must business in New Zealand still be SO main-centre focused??”

With the rise of E-commerce and so much business internet-based, why does it still “need” to be based in our main centres, exacerbating the high demand / high price problem, while regional cities, like my own home town of Napier, have been struggling to attract skilled workers and businesses in recent years?

• The average (full-sized, with a yard) house price in Hawke’s Bay is somewhere around $350,000 – $500,000 – a third to a quarter of those in Auckland.

• We have the infrastructure, including UFB network access, to easily operate a national / international level “E-business” from Hawke’s Bay.

• With its smaller population (more room, less congestion) and wonderful natural features encouraging healthier, outdoor pastimes, Hawke’s Bay has a relaxed lifestyle second to none!

Yet where is all the commercial and business development focus?

In New Zealand’s main centres 🙁

Managing Accountability at MTG


The question is often asked “What planet do politicians live on?” In the case of Hawke’s Bay’s local body politicians the answer must be “Planet Teflon” – as nothing ever seems to stick, especially accountability.

From storage space shortages, to wildly inaccurate consultants’ reports on projected visitor motions (pun intended); things did not get off to a good start for Napier’s revamped cultural and historical hub – “MTG”, or “Museum, Theatre, Gallery”.

Now, after another council-commissioned consultant’s report – The “McDermott Miller Report” has been released into just what went wrong, where, how badly and how it could be fixed.

I have read the report and it makes pretty good, common sense. Perhaps its only down-fall is that it cost Napier rate-payers the equivalent of New Zealand’s average annual wage to tell them what a Napier ratepayer on the average wage could have told them after a visit or two to MTG.

After a flurry of publicity and changes in the last couple weeks, I now understand that Napier City Council announced they will not be blaming, firing, or holding anyone accountable for MTG’s much-publicised failings.



In fact, the council appears to have taken a “move along – nothing to see here!” (Inferences like that will NOT help visitor numbers, by the way) approach. Napier City Council’s new CEO Wayne Jack even said he was “tiring of the barrage of criticism” being levelled at MTG.
My advice to Wayne in helping avoid such situations is simple:


Not to be outdone, former Napier mayor, Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust chairwoman, acting trust general manager and MTG project champion, Barbara Arnott has already identified who is to blame – saying she “believed the whole MTG issue had been blown out of proportion by some people who had expressed their feelings and opinions without “thinking it through”.” in the local newspaper.

Of course, how silly of us – it’s all the rate-paying public and fact-quoting media’s fault! What an absolute load of imperious rubbish!

I was saddened not to hear or see any rebuttal from Hawke’s Bay Today Editor, Andrew Austin, supporting his reporters or readers / online commenters on such a ludicrous statement to what is a very public issue.

In the real world, when things this big go this wrong, people lose their jobs. MTG is currently going through a round of staff redundancies as a result of their current review. If MTG’s marketing department had indeed ignored a large portion of the community as potential visitors because of their socio-economic status, as McDermott Miller claims then, yes, heads certainly need to roll – A region’s culture and history is made up from everyone’s input, so no-one should be exempted from being able to view and appreciate it. But you can’t help but feel that deeper problems, well out of the control of staff, have not been accurately accounted for.

How are Mrs Arnott and former NCC CEO and MTG project manager Neil Taylor, despite their deep involvement in MTG’s development, apparently completely free from criticism or accountability?

Current Mayor, Bill Dalton says he “did his apprenticeship” under Arnott and the majority of the current council is unchanged from the one led by Arnott for so many years, so there is doubtlessly still a sense (or burden) of loyalty there.

But there appears to be far less love between current council CEO Wayne Jack and his predecessor – Jack having to tidy up a number of messes left over from the previous regime in his first months in office. In fact the way in which Jack does a number of things is a complete reversal to Taylor’s modus operandi, so it would not have been too surprising to have seen Taylor being “Thrown under the Art Deco Bus (another of his projects)”, But no – no accountability there either

Come to think of it, any and all past and current Napier city councillors involved in committees for and voting on MTG’s errant planning and enactment have somehow escaped any and all responsibility or accountability for some very expensive mistakes that are very embarrassing to Napier.

How is that fair?

All this MTG publicity couldn’t come at a worse time for the “Friends of MTG” programme, as they are in the middle or their annual membership renewal programme.

My wife and I are “Friends of MTG” and have been for a number of years – so any “conflicts of interest” claims that those mentioned above have completely avoided will doubtlessly now be levelled at me…. 🙁

I and a number of my fellow “MTG Friends” think for all its faults MTG does indeed have a lot of unfulfilled potential – it’s still a bit of a “blank canvas” if you will. But we also want to see those responsible for some major errors held accountable for their actions.

What do other “MTG Friends” think?

I would expect this year’s membership numbers depend on it.

Napier, its history, present, and future, its art and culture deserves better.