Startled to read in my local paper last week that our supposedly cash-strapped council is considering closing the Tropical Display House in Cliff Rd to save $100,000 a year. This is the same council that decided to stop mowing reserves so often to save money and then back-tracked when there was a public outcry.
Their rationale seems to be that because the visitor book isn’t signed very often, clearly it doesn’t have enough visitors to warrant keeping it open. Yep, these are the people running our fair city. I visit the display house regularly – it’s a good place for photos – and never sign the visitor book. It’s not compulsory and it’s hard to think of anything meaningful to say, apart from the banal and obvious.
The outcry that has followed is predictable and bewildering in about equal measure. The paper quoted Facebook comments, many of which were along the lines of “I’ve lived here 15/12/10 years and I never knew it was there”. The lack of curiosity people have about where they live never fails to astound me.
One councillor then thought it would be a good idea to do the contractor – Aztec Gardens (Liani Smith) – out of her job and let a “community group” run the place. Read more about that here. All I will say about that is, Cr Curach clearly has no idea how difficult it is for volunteer groups, any volunteer group, to attract enough members, especially members who are fit and able and who have expertise.
The council is also considering selling reserve land to a developer – low-lying land below a bluff, across from an estuary and right beside an expressway. It’s much more valuable as reserve and I would pity anyone who built a home there.
But this new set of councillors (elected last October) are either panicked or wanting to be seen as granite-jawed budgeters and are trying to trim and snip and slice at all sorts of things. True, toxic mould has unexpectedly been found in the council HQ, shifting staff all round town (and no doubt the council is having to pay jacked-up rents), but the building was due to be retro-fitted for earthquake strengthening anyway, and the councillors were aware of that, so some of the cost would be planned for, and have a contingency in it. And, let’s not forget, that the building has leaked before and after it was “refurbished” with an extra floor on top so it can’t have come as a huge surprise that the regular soakings have led to mould. It might be cheaper to demolish the whole thing and start again.
In 1999 the Robbins Rose Garden next door to the Tropical Display House was in a sorry state – uncared for with sparse plantings and the site under threat of being turned into a carpark by the council. Ten years later, thanks to the contacts and hard work of (now former) parks co-ordinator Ned Nicely and head gardener Megan Webber the garden was something of which the city could be proud.
The Tropical Display House is pretty good too.