Be a tourist in your own city

There are certain kinds of people who I never see using the buses around Auckland city. Really skinny women with long blonde hair who wear their sunglasses on top of their head are one of those kinds.

I went down to the Viaduct Harbour. I object to that name for the simple reason that the viaduct no longer exists. I remember back when the road stretched across the entrance of the harbour, and there was the part of the road that lifted up to let boats pass, but at some stage most of the viaduct was removed. Now it’s just a regular old harbour.

I walked along to the end of Princess Wharf. It’s very stark, but I think that’s deliberate. At the end there’s a balcony on the first floor of the Hilton Hotel. There’s no sign saying so, but it’s actually a public balcony, so instead of getting magnificent harbour views standing at the end of the wharf, you can get magnificent harbour views a couple more metres up, and within ear range of the drunk people lunching at the Hilton’s restaurant.

Despite being in the middle of the city, it was actually quite peaceful. From my deluxxxe viewing platform I could see a young lady tourist put her digital camera up on a car, set the timer and take a photo of herself posing with the harbour behind her. An old man wandered along and she got him to take a photo of her.

Back at the Viaduct Harbour, I saw a few of the Cow Parade cows. The idea is that artists get these lifesize fibreglass cows and paint them, and it creates fun public art and raises money for charity. The cow outside the Loaded Hog had a sign asking patrons not to sit on it. What’s the fun in having cow statues if you can’t sit on them? The cow statue in Hamilton has been sat on many times. So has the sheep.

There was one cow statue that I liked the best. It was one that wasn’t trying to be a pun or a parody; it just looked good. I walked around the other side and saw the artist’s name. It was done by Otis Frizzell, a.k.a MC OJ. Actually, now that I think about it, that cow was painted like the van in the KFC ads. Maybe Otis did that too?

Rounding out my journey downtown, I had lunch in the foodcourt in the Downtown mall thing. It’s just an average foodcourt, but at the far end there’s some seats overlooking QE2 Square which is currently being designed. So I sat there and watched a guy in a digger scooping up piles of dirt and dumping them on the other side of the rectangular hole he was in.

I’m not entirely sure what’s happening, but I do know that that part of Queen Street is going to be opened up to traffic again, but only buses. I think that’s ok. I mean, there are some pedestrian malls – like Cuba Street in Wellington – that work really well, but QE2 Square has always seemed really cold, bleak and gloomy. I think the new plans are going to put more stuff into the place, break up the big area into smaller chunks and have some much-needed shelter.

It’s all part of the Britomart redevelopment. I remember back in 1999 when the old Post Office had all the plans in the design contest. Now the winning entry is being built and it’s going to be opening later this year. Yay! A real, proper central transport terminal. Yes, I am genuinely excited.

This also means that the downtown area, specially east of Queen Street, is going to eventually be redeveloped. Does this mean that all the strip clubs and massage parlours down Fort Street will be turned into cafes and bookstores? Not that getting rid of a redlight district is a good thing. Decades ago lower Greys Ave (where the back of the Town Hall is now) used to be filled with houses of ill repute. The solution was to condemn all the buildings and pull them down. K Road is slowly getting gussied up. The infamous pink bits have recently been sold and are currently being done up (I will miss the “JULIE’TS” sign). That leaves a handful of adult stores and the Vegas club. Paranoid South Islanders will have to find themselves another cliche.

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