Thursday, April 20, 2017

When Auckland Council forces us to drink water from its toilets…water, water everywhere….

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Auckland Council appear to be promoting this culture, with their planning of Council facilities bereft of any human, health, hygienic or public-need considerations.
You do not have free drinking water at almost all its railway and bus stations, unless, of course, you DRINK FROM ITS PUBLIC TOILETS.
The bigger irony is that Western Springs Lakeside Park which is built on the site of former Auckland Reservoir, which provided water to early settlers, is as dry as Sahara Desert. None of its fountains have running water. If you are thirsty in the park – DRINK FROM ITS TOILETS.
Another irony is that the $28 million dollar Otahuhu bus and rail station which opened last year (October, 2016) and which has won an award, still has no free drinking facilities – YOU HAVE TO DRINK FROM ITS TOILETS.
We just hope Auckland Council gets planners who are more visionary. But who listens in a heartless UNCONTROLLED organisation. 
Hope they can learn something from Fiji….read on.

The recent deluge and flood in Auckland did not only sink parts of New Lynn, but also sank the credibility of advisers of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff. He was made to apologise for Act of God, blaming the downpour on climate change.

We had a similar deluge and issues in Suva, Fiji some fourteen years ago, and I was at Suva City Council then. If I was an advisor to Phil Goff, I would have drafted the following release for him, similar to what I had done for Suva’s Mayor:

Any municipality makes facilities for normal functioning in normal situations.. Men-made facilities are rarely capable of handling catastrophe brought by extreme Act of God like floods, cyclones and Tsunami.

What happened on Sunday 12th March 2017, in Auckland was no exception. Metservice advised that parts of Auckland received over 60mm of rain in an hour that day. This is phenomenal, in fact unhistorical rainfall. A month’s average rain fell in a day, most of it in one hour when the soil was already heavily saturated from previous continuous rain. To make it worse, the timing was not in our favour. While I have been assured by my contractors that most drainage and waterways were periodically checked, the seasonal autumn foliage compounded the problem. Geographic make-up of Auckland also contributed, being on same level as sea and hence cannot drain away so much deluge in such a short time. In such a situation, the earth just topped up with water which could not be drained fast enough, as no systems are made for that amount of water in such a short time in such low topography. 

In a layman’s language, our infrastructure provides six inches of drainage, while the rain we got was double that. No system can answer that call of nature (excuse the pun) from open skies. Hence, our system just could not cope.” 

No beating around the bush, no apologies for which you were not responsible and no scape-goats. Just plain facts. House guttering could not cope, they were overflowing, same thing happened with the City’s drainage system. So, why the Mayor has to blame it on the controversial subject of climate change?

Now, still on WATER - what I really wanted to say, before this distraction.
If an Extra Terrestrial (like Steven Spielberg’s ET), which survives on clean water, with clean habits, accidently landed in Auckland, it would not survive. If it were to travel by Auckland’s public transport via train and bus, it would “thirst’ (starve) to death.

This is because Auckland Council intends bus and train-station users to drink from its dirty environment of toilets. People are forced to drink from toilets, as no separate hygienic free water is available at any of Auckland’s bus and train stations (except two).

Water ..water everywhere, not a single drop to drink. Western Springs Lakeside Park, which is built on former Auckland reservoir, has no free drinking water, unless you drink from its toilets. This drinking fountains has been dry now for some years now, and the other fountain has also gone dry. perhaps nobody cares, nobody knows, and nobody will do nyhting about it.
Jokes and sarcasm aside, let us face reality from an observant terrestrial. You travel on a train or a bus network from Waitakere Station in West Auckland to Pukekohe via Papakura (including Sylvia Park network) in South, with an empty water bottle, you will find no place to fill it or drink free water, except in Auckland toilets. Same thing applies if you travel on Northern Busway, from Albany Station to all stations to Britomart. In Britomart, you had to go a floor down, but two months ago, somebody saw light, and has one fountain on ground floor after recent renovations. New Lynn also has a low-pressured lone drinking fountain. That is the sum total in Auckland- JUST TWO. Not even the most recent multi-million dollar showpiece at Otahuhu Station (or Panmure) has a drinking fountain. Just recently, Auckland Transport (AT) spent hundreds of thousand dollars beautifying fascia of all its Busway Stations – but no relief for those looking for clean free water. 

Ha Ha Ha. The new $28m Otahuhu bus and train station, whicc opened in October, 2016, also has no drinking fountains-UNLESS YOU DRINK FROM ITS TOILETS. Ironically this staion has just being given an award. The judges said the design team expertly wove together "multiple cultural and historic narratives." Perhaps one of them is the new Kiwi culture of drinking from public toilets!
Auckland, as a supposedly most liveable city needs to live up to that name. Health and well-being of its citizens is it prime priorities. Free water contributes a great deal to healthy bodies. Tens of thousands of school children use these facilities, and are encouraged to buy frizzy and sugary drinks instead of free water supply in a country overflowing with so much water. Ironically NZ does not blink an eye-lid to give free supply to overseas companies who profit on our natural resources. Yet our city is unable to give it for free to its ratepayers and people using its facilities. Some stations sell Coke products and supposedly healthy glutton and fat free products, but fail to provide healthiest essential product for life -WATER. Does Auckland Council have shares in Coke? Or water bottling companies which sell its products at twice the price of petrol?

Another laughing matter-while Auckland Council does not provide free water, it makes money by allowing Coca Cola to sell 'unhealthy " drinks, and also water , at almost double the price of petrol. I wonder is Auckland Council has shares in Coke Company, or one of the water bottling companies.

I suggest Phil Goff to do as legendary ‘Phantom” (from Phantom comics) used to walk the streets in a disguised form. Change your appearance, ride on your motorbike, thirsty and with an empty water bottle, see where you can have free fill or drink of water, from a water fountain, and not from a toilet. Travel to major stations like Swanson, Henderson, Sylvia Park, Otahuhu, Papakura, Manurewa, Pukekohe, Middlemore, Papatoetoe, and all Northern Busway stations. And then he will recall the deluge of 12 March 2017, and exclaim: “Water Water everywhere, not a single drop for the Mayor (unless he drinks from the toilet). Now where are our City planners…Hope they are not sunk in the sinkhole at New Lynn?”

Northern Busway has been hailed as pride for public transport inititive. Its stations: Albany, Costellation, Sunnynook and , Akoranga - none has any drinking fountains -UNLESS YOU DRINK FROM THEIR PUBLIC TOILETS.
I suggest Phil Goff also send some highly paid Auckland City planners on a junket to Fiji to see how we do it in a Third World Country. All our municipality markets and bus stations throughout Fiji have separate pipes and free water for its thirsty citizens (not in toilets). Fiji may be poor, but its decision-makers have a heart, and compassion for the people who pay their salaries. And yes, if that ET lands in Fiji, it will survive through our public transport network, as we do make our people to drink from toilets. And then Auckland Council can copy Fiji and provide separate free drinking water, and not make us to drink from Auckland toilets, as they do now!

[About the Author-Thakur Ranjit Singh manages blog site FIJI PUNDIT and also manages the Facebook Page- “Auckland Council WATCH”, where he raises pertinent issues relating to Auckland Council, hoping somebody, some day, will take notice.]