Monday, December 15, 2014

To be better informed about Auckland

Yesterday I mentioned people who complain about Auckland without really knowing what they’re talking about. Today I thought I’d share a few of the sites I use for better information about this city and the issues it faces.

Yesterday, I said: “Sometimes people outside the mainstream media do a better job of informing us”. The mainstream media can sometimes be incredibly informative and useful. But sometimes reporters have a clear bias against Auckland Council, or they go on some weird crusade. So, it’s necessary to take them with a healthy dose of scepticism.

Political blogs require even more scepticism because they tend to be pushing an ideological barrow. That doesn’t necessarily mean that their viewpoints are “wrong”, or even that their facts are wrong. It simply means they have a very particular political/ideological perspective they want to promote, and that has to be kept in mind.

I still read all of those, of course, but I also turn to some specialist sites for better, more in-depth information, and often in far more detail than I could hope to find on my own.

So here are sites I frequently turn to:

Talking Auckland "Conversations with You About Auckland": I’ve gotten to know TA’s Ben Ross through social media—Twitter and Facebook—where we’ve had many interesting conversations. Ben is, as he says on the site, “passionate about Auckland, thus actively involved across various fronts in doing my bit to make Auckland a better place.” Part of that means fostering discussion through the Talking Auckland site and Ben’s recently introduced podcast.

Ben’s relentless at getting details about pubic policy issues, and explaining what they mean, thereby making people better informed about the issues facing Auckland. Sometimes he’s complimentary about Council or its plans, and sometimes he’s critical. But he’s also independent, which makes the information he provides even more useful.

TransportBlog: This is the blog of advocacy group, Campaign for Better Transport, and was established “to provide commentary and encourage intelligent debate about transport issues, with a particular focus on Auckland.” They are one of the main promoters, along with Generation Zero, of the Congestion Free Network, a proposal so awesome—and common sense—that the Labour Party endorsed it in the election earlier this year. They also back specific projects to improve public transport in and around Auckland. The information they provide is solid and also very detailed and thorough.

Generation Zero: This is a youth-led advocacy organisation dedicated to fighting climate change, so is working on “providing solutions for New Zealand to cut carbon pollution through smarter transport, liveable cities & independence from fossil fuels.” They’re not a specifically Auckland organisation, but the issues they work on affect this city very much. In addition to the Congestion Free Network, they promote projects that can serve as models for other areas, like separated cycleways on Auckland’s Karangahape Road.

Basically, Generation Zero is a hothouse of ideas and solutions, and with the energy to promote them in a no-nonsense way—you’d expect nothing less of a group with a tagline: “A Future That’s Not Shit”, which is a concept I endorse!

What these three sites provide are resources to understand some of the issues affecting Auckland’s future. A theme running through all of them is the importance of designing future development alongside public transport, not developing the city and hoping to shoehorn in public transport later. Fundamentally, they all talk about how to move Auckland forward in ways that are sustainable, liveable, vibrant, and with a cleaner environment less dependence on private cars and fossil fuels.

One last site, as a sort of bonus: Hard News by Russell Brown on Public Address (which is “a community of blogs”). Hard News is a kind of “general interest column” by media veteran Russell Brown. I particularly like his clear-headed, no nonsense look at media obsessions. A good example of that is when he took the Herald on Sunday to task for a bullshit story on Auckland Mayor Len Brown’s “secret room” in his new office. Russell, in his classic style, headlined his piece: “Some reprehensible bullshit”. Russell’s blog also has a unique feature in that comments to his posts are always readable, and often add to both the discussion and one’s understanding of the issue being discussed. That’s true for other blogs on the site, too—and I can’t think of many sites I can say that of.

So there you have it: Three incredibly useful sites for understanding issues facing Auckland, including some issues the mainstream media cover only superficially—if at all. Plus, a fourth site for cutting through some of the nonsense in the mainstream media. Put all that together with the mainstream media and also expressly partisan political blogs, mixed with healthy doses of both curiosity and caution, and it’s easy to be well-informed about the issues facing Auckland.

Then, the next step is to act.

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