Sunday, November 7, 2010

the absurdity of sameness

In the past month or more that I have been tripping around New Zealand I have visited around 20 towns, and driven through dozens more. New Zealand towns are all go through a 70kmh zone before slowing to 50kmh past the Lions and Rotary signs and whatever garish entity is the soul of the town (a kiwifruit picking pukeko or some such lovable mascot).

A four square or dairy is the hub of the town and the petrol station is getting just a bit glitzy if it's open past 7pm. A smatter of odd shops toddle down the main street and the odd side street leads to the mechanics thats been run by the same family for generations. There's comfort in the predictability but enough variation to give each town a quietly distinctive character. Of all the towns I have been to thus far, the unique and special mainstreet of Takaka has now become the benchmark. What a funky town...may well have been the inspiration for that song...

The town doesn't have a sprawling big box retail development on the outskirts....that acts as a magnet to commerce, annihilating the heart of the township. The Pagani/Starbucks/Flight Centre/Muffin Break/Countdown/$2 Shop/Whitcoulls splatter is all a bit painful when you can stand in the centre of it and quite literally be anywhere in the country.

What it means is that if this trend continues of such cookie-cutter commerce worming its way into enclaves of development under the banner of 'progress', and small communities dont resist the tentacles of the Westfield empire then we may as well all stay home. No need to travel anywhere because they all look the same anyway. It's like the most perverse form of relocalisation and strikes you as the planning equivalent of Groundhog Day. Twenty times over I have driven in to the same place....its surreal...resist the scourge...

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