Helping hand to Hamilton

Hamilton emerged on the edge of our consciousness for a micro-second recently when some foreign...
Hamilton emerged on the edge of our consciousness for a micro-second recently when some foreign-owned media conglomerate that owns a newspaper in the flat country centre in the North Island mentioned our name.
Sometimes other New Zealand cities erupt in jealousy when they compare themselves to the city of Dunedin. David Loughrey provides some compassionate advice for one of those, the North Island city of Hamilton.

The last time anyone in Dunedin either mentioned or thought about Hamilton is understood to be 1993, or thereabouts.

Hamilton, which apparently is in  "Waikato", is an under-the-radar kind of place that would be unlikely to register in the consciousness of the Dunedin resident concentrating on their usual pastimes of art, literature, philosophical pondering and generally being renaissance people of the highest order.

Sometimes we think about Invercargill because it’s down the road, we go to Auckland now and then for business, and we spend time in Wellington because we have a close relationship involving a deep mutual respect.

Not so much for Hamilton, however.

Yes, some of us have travelled through Hamilton on the way somewhere else, though usually by mistake.

On the very odd occasion we might use Hamilton as a warning to recalcitrant children of the consequences of continuing their poor behaviour.

Once, one of us possibly wrote a risque but amusing poem using Hamilton as a slightly smutty recurring motif.

But the city did emerge on the edge of our consciousness for a micro-second recently when some foreign-owned media conglomerate that owns a newspaper in the flat country centre in the North Island mentioned our name.

The "writer" was upset Dunedin was referred to too often as one of the big four cites in New Zealand, when, she claimed, it had 22,700 fewer people than the overgrown farming centre in which she lived.

Well, you can do anything with "figures" and "statistics" if you are of the mind, but let us not get distracted by such trifles.

Let us merely note with equanimity and perhaps just a little wry amusement her suggestions we have no summer in Dunedin and that we have no vibe and our beaches have no sun and their food is better and our heritage buildings are falling down or something.

Apparently, their students create prosthetic hands while our students burn couches.

It is so difficult to know how to respond to these suggestions when one only feels compassion and a quiet sadness for Hamilton.

Of course the view — the metaphorical view at least — from which we in Dunedin see the world has changed so much of late as we have developed into one of the world’s great small cities.

It’s not that we look down on places like Hamilton; it is just we wish they would do more to help themselves to climb out of the sad swamp of mediocrity they are stuck in through their own poor choices, instead of lashing out at their betters.

We wish only good upon them, and with the positive frame of mind that has made our city not just a destination for the highest quality people, but a hotbed of cultural literacy, we wish more than anything to shed a little of our light upon their darkness and impotent rage, that they too may emerge into the sun.

With just a little of the high level of education and advanced level of wisdom we in Dunedin have, Hamilton could surely at least better itself slightly, giving it some hope for the future.

So as a member of the elite group of cities that laugh and drink fine sherry at parties Hamilton is never, ever invited to, here are a few possible ways forward to help that benighted township follow in our footsteps.

Lower your expectations.

Stop comparing yourself to places that are clearly so much better than you, like Dunedin.

There’s nothing wrong with being a flat little city in the middle of a paddock.

• Find something in your city of which to make a fuss, then use it as part of your tourism focus and to kick-start some sort of economic development.

Nothing much really springs to mind here, but the unrelieved flatness of your topography could be a goer; some people don’t like hills, or views, or natural beauty.

Get an advertising campaign together and target those people.

• Shift the city to a seaside location.

All great cities in the world have a port or a harbour or at least a nice beach.

Raglan and Tauranga are two spots Hamilton could move to, with convoys of vehicles shifting the city brick by brick to one of those better locations.

• Think positively.

Make a decision only to see the good in yourselves and others, and stop beating yourselves up over your perceived failures.

With a positive outlook anything is possible.

Try praying.

• If all else fails, start again.

The city has done its best, and the obsessive building of malls was a brave response to its many inadequacies.

But there is no loss of face in changing tack, accepting one experiment doesn’t work and launching another.

Demolishing the city and rebuilding with a clearer focus on what makes a good city is not admitting defeat, it is the start of a new era.

As a positive spin-off the move would provide work for demolition firms and then for construction companies.

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