A couple of issues currently being debated in the New Zealand media suggest why as a nation we struggle to think outside the box. It also illustrates how we are failing miserably to deal with a selfish and deeply ingrained culture of alcohol misuse that continues to plague our society.
Proponents of street racing in Christchurch have suggested that the best way to keep intoxicated young drivers off the street is by providing a burn-out pad adjacent to a residential suburb away from the city centre. The disadvantages of this idea will be immediately apparent to local residents who will be required to endure hours of engine revving, tyre squealing and the stomach churning stench of burnt rubber associated with this mindless “sport”. Construction of a burn-out pad therefore simply legitimises what is already a highly anti-social form of behaviour.
At the other end of the country there is much public hand-wringing and a media feeding frenzy over the lack of progress to develop the Auckland waterfront into “party central” in time for the predicted influx of visitors to the Rugby World Cup (RWC). But nobody has yet questioned whether there exists a real need. A quick survey of Princes Wharf and surrounds reveals dozens of existing bars and restaurants, many of which seem to be struggling to attract any custom at all outside of the traditional boozy weekend nights. Surely the basis for “Party Central” already exists. On the other hand, given the rugby playing community’s poor track record in treating alcohol responsibly, perhaps the Police would prefer all of the RWC drinkers to be corralled into a large centralised holding pen, as is being suggested.
The most disturbing aspect of these two debates is that the focus seems to be on providing a solution that caters for and indeed promotes boorish behaviour as a cultural norm rather than addressing the prevailing values in wider society. In a nation that seems overly self-obsessed with a two dimensional culture of sport and binge drinking, will we ever truly be able to nourish and grow an environment of creativity and innovation?