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Conspiracy theories also opiate at local level

by 22 Oct 2007Local0 comments

Former Chandris property

Catastrophe Averted: The property formally owned by shipping magnate A J Chandris was obligingly designated development zone. But there was never, nor is there now, any conspiracy involved to develop Mahurangi West. photographer Lyn Bergquist

She writes refreshingly rationally.

Titled Conspiracy as the Opium of the People, columnist Tracey Barnett warns:

We’re fostering a world where the truth can be picked out of a hat. Arabs, Jews or Americans themselves felled the Twin Towers, depending on whether you sit in Tel Aviv, Tehran, or Texas.

From Princess Diana’s ‘murder’ through to the 11 September attacks and back to the assassination of JFK, conspiracy theories abound, worldwide. A staggering percentage—36% in one poll—of US citizens choose to believe that the diabolical downing of the World Trade Centre towers was either self-inflicted or ‘allowed’ to occur. This is about the same percentage of adults that exercises its right to vote, in that proud democracy.

The readiness to credit conspiracy for outcomes is pervasive. For the 33 years I have lived at Mahurangi West, people have insisted to me that ‘the council’ has an agenda that would see the much-admired natural Mahurangi harbourscape ‘end up like Whangaparāoa’.

In a blanket poll conducted by Friends of the Mahurangi in the 1980s, a range of visions was suggested and two-fold responses invited: aspiration and expectation. Across all areas, expectations were significantly lower than were aspirations.

In 1974, the need for ‘a plan for the Mahurangi’ was our founding chairman’s prime motivation. Today, there still is no plan.

If I was inclined towards the conspiracy explanation of everything, including every local thing, it would be easy to see that the continuing lack of a plan proves that Rodney District Council, secretly, has unpleasant things planned for the Mahurangi.

For a relatively brief period (circa late 1970s), the property held at Mahurangi West by shipping magnate A J Chandris, and that either side of it, enjoyed the designation ‘Development Zone’. There was no conspiracy; an enthusiastic Rodney County Council had leapt at the chance encourage, what it saw as, much-needed development.

The Chandris proposal involved extensive subdivision, a hotel, motel, golf course and marina—‘The full catastrophe!’ as that other Greek, Zorba, put it.

In the event, the Chandris Lines’ local agent, Phil Holloway, was probably more enthusiastic than his boss about the plans and the land was subsequently re-zoned Rural Conservation, by planner John Cameron. On appeal this was replaced with Rural A zoning, but the threat had passed, with the shipping line ending its long association with Aotearoa.

The Bullock Track was the only subdivision that occurred while the development zone was in effect. And nothing in the subsequent district plans indicates an agenda for the Whangaparāoa-isation of the Mahurangi. And yet the opinion, that such an outcome is inevitable, persists.

Conspiracies do occur. But if we are prepared to see them everywhere, it is doubtful that would we ever recognise the real thing.

With the singular electoral success of the Penlink Team, conspiracy claims will abound.

I have been told, by a number of sources, that ‘Hoppers’ financed the Penlink Team campaign. One claim lumped the successful mayoral candidate, Penny Webster, in with that alleged arrangement.

While the former is possibly true and, if so, probably entirely legitimate (although it is not mentioned on the team’s website), I would be hugely surprised if our new mayor other than paid for her own advertising.

With a culture of believing the worst, and a climate abounding with conspiracy theories, the Rodney District Council’s newly-elected representatives will have their time cut out to be taken at face value.

But we owe it to them, and certainly to ourselves, to judge what we can only hope will be a team, by its actions.

It would be timely if one of those actions is participation in the development of a plan for the Mahurangi. If for no other reason, to demonstrate that there is no secret dastardly plan…

…for our heavenly harbour.

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