The Epsom Paradox

After watching several of my Twitter buddies disbelievingly live-tweet the ridiculous proceedings around the Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan the other night, I had some thoughts. The good folks of Twitter liked them, so I decided to expand on them in a post. Here it is!

The angry-making thing about the Epsom Paradox is it’s not hypocrisy. It’s pure cynicism. It’s the logical end behaviour of an ideology which believes the rich and powerful are inherently more deserving, more equal, more important than those people who live in “welfare suburbs”. The belief is not, “deregulation is good”; it’s “deregulation is good when it’s good for me.”

So when I want to build a set of leaky apartment buildings, sell them to unsuspecting people and then pull out of the shell company that holds all the liability, deregulation should let me do that. The market, after all, will somehow find a way to correct for massive issues which only become apparent years after I’ve made my profits and retired to a tropical island.

But when my next-door neighbour wants to put up a couple of townhouses on the back of their section, blocking MY view and meaning other people might be able to see into MY yard, well, that’s a travesty! An infringement on my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness! Don’t you know some of those people might be not rich?

I don’t want any of this to be taken as arguments inherently for or against development or intensification. Those aren’t my areas of expertise, and I can only speak from personal anecdata. I live on the back half of a subdivided section; I think the builders did a tremendous job of balancing the space and outdoor areas and maintaining good privacy between the two houses. I’ve also seen rows of townhouses crammed onto every inch of flat space on a section, where comfort and any thought of an outdoor lifestyle was clearly sacrificed for maximising the cash to be made.

I’m a big government kind of girl. I don’t think government, central nor local, always gets things right, but I hold two things to be true: we need to be smarter about how we use land and design housing; and the best way to ensure we do that properly is to be strategic about it. You don’t get much strategy telling the property developers of the world “go for your life, and in 20 years when there aren’t any kauri left on private property in the Waitakere Ranges the market will shed a single perfect tear.”

And the Epsom Paradox shows that there isn’t a strategy at the heart of private property profiteers. They just want to make money off the people who have no power to say no, and protect their own idyllic patches. It’s selfish and short-sighted, and if you ever want one sentence that sums up everything wrong with our current government and many of our local body politicians, look no further.

The ultimate proof of their short-sightedness is this: because the boomerbabies made a great hue and cry over Auckland Council’s rezoning proposals, the Council has withdrawn their submission. So at the next round of hearings on the Unitary Plan, the Council has no argument to put forward – but other organisations like Housing NZ do, and their suggestions are a lot worse for the leafy suburb-dwellers.

Too bad for them.

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