Sydney has its opera house, Paris has a Tower, New York has Lady Liberty.
And Napier has the wooden Sound Shell. This relic expresses all the sleepy backwater stands for. Iconoclastic as the structure is, it appropriately states that Napier is totally committed to looking backward. Napier is boldly defiant of the 21st century … holding down anything that is old and rejecting all that is new. Wow.
Here is a love of nostalgic things like the central business district (CBD), rows of old shops hurriedly thrown up in 1931/32, and narrow streets laid down for foot traffic (let’s get rid of cars). No sir, we are not having no ‘big box’ malls here, we don’t need modern shopping complexes. Westfield’s, go home! We are not going to upset lazy landlords who have been creaming good rents out of the retail center for generations.
“Tell me,” they say, “why should Napier move with the times”? All the wealth structures would be altered and local monopolies would be shaken. You wouldn’t do that if it were your property! That is not the way things have been done in Napier and it is not about to be changed! No sir, we do not believe we have to progress with the times. On the contrary, we are protecting our local business investors and there will be no new licenses issued here. We don’t care if the locals charge a bit more, no no sire?. It’s all about holding back the tide of the scary 21st century. Things were better in the good ole days.
Here’s the proof. “Look at our Marine Parade,” they say, “isn’t it beautiful? Wow!” Look at the businesses there. Council has spent millions and millions (and millions) along the Parade and see how these businesses attract the tourists. Wow. Why should we change? Why should we let business be the domain of private enterprise when Council can do it at a huge loss every year? Why, tell me, would you want to change this paradise into something profitable and forward looking and cost effective? These are our toys, our adventures into the business world (on your money).
We have our Marineland. Wow, how the budget tourists love it. They come here from Germany, USA, and Aussie, and all over the planet to see our dolphins Ooops, fish in tubs and stuff. There is nothing like it in the world. Fact – “I am not surprised,” said Lonely Planet’s 1989 edition. Budget tourists bring in a little trade to the city and a totally huge massive spin-off service industry with seasonal work for almost a hand full of students and a few Council employees. Wow, such cunning genius. No one can say Napier Council is subsidizing employment; that would be a lie. No, the strategy is that one day the tourism “attractions” investment will make a profit. But not in my lifetime.
In this town where time stood still, you can visit the Council-owned businesses, stay at a Council-owned holiday park, enjoy Council-owned theatre shows, retire to a Council flat. All the while knowing you will pay budget rates with a discount because the Ratepayers vouch for it. Ratepayers don’t care. They like you to have a nice time at their expense … they were born to this tradition. The economics are just as they were in 1949. Yes sireé, Council knows best, committees are better at decisions, and discounts are built-in when Ratepayers pay.
This little town is not going to change one iota. Can you imagine it in 20 or 30 years time? Stuck in this time warp with those narrow-alley main streets. Those Norfolk pines will take over, and we will be pouring millions into pompous business adventures. Wow. Still no new jobs coming up in the job market. Still pumping sewerage into the sea, still looking back at how things used to be, still whacking the Ratepayers and Wowing the budget tourists.