Former New Zealand Society of Authors (Pen NZ Inc) president and President of Honour, Gordon McLauchlan, moved two motions at the monthly meeting of the Auckland branch of NZSA (Pen Inc) on Friday night:
1. That the sponsors of the Montana awards in future ask the committee to take some notice of demographics when appointing judges.
2. That the National Council consider lobbying the government to move the base of some national cultural organisations, notably Creative New Zealand, to Auckland.
Both were carried by large majorities.
At the meeting, McLauchlan made a case built around the following.-
The time has come to stop Wellington’s stranglehold on New Zealand culture. This year again, Wellington will have two judges of the Montana National Book Awards, Christchurch one and Auckland none. Of the eight category advisers only one is from Auckland.
This sort of occurrence is increasing. Even though the population of the country is shifting north at an accelerating rate, Wellington exerts control on every area of New Zealand cultural life by controlling the national cultural infrastructure...
The issue that brought this little rant on was the naming of the Montana judges for this year. Last year? Again Wellington judges dominated. The convenor was from Victoria University Department of English. The fiction category adviser was, I understand, formerly on the same staff. Who were the winners? Mr Pip, quite deservedly, I think. Who were the runners-up? A dead Wellingtonian and an unreadable Wellington novelist published by Victoria University Press. Who lost? Well, most obviously C. K. Stead, whose novel Judas has been published since last year into Polish, French, Croatian, Hungarian, and Spanish. The unreadable Wellington novelist hasn’t, to my knowledge, been published in any other language, perhaps because they haven’t yet found a translator who stay awake to do the job.
After that debacle, the Auckland branch moved that the Montanas should appoint an international judge. What happened to that motion? Don’t know.
So over the past five years nine judges have come from Wellington, five from Auckland and four from the South Island.
Wellington, far from being contrite on this matter, has upped the ante. If we take the past three years into account: six Wellington judges, three from Auckland and three from the South Island.
North Shore City…184,821 --- increase between 1996 and 2006: 12,657.
Waitakere City…168,750 and 13,135.
Auckland City …367, 737 and 21,966.
Manukau City …283,197 and 28,290.
Rodney … 76,185 and 9699.
Papakura… 40,665 and 978.
Upper Hutt…36,368 and minus 345.
Lower Hutt… 95,478 and minus 393.
Porirua… 47,367 and plus 744.
Wellington City…163, 824 and 6102 (how many of them bureaucrats?)
Kapiti Coast …42,447 and 3861.
People are actually leaving two of their cities.
The totals here are these.-
■ The six Greater Auckland centres total: 1,121,355.
Growth between 1996 and 2006: 86,725.
■ The five Greater Wellington centres total: 384,584.
Growth between 1996 and 2006: 9969.
All four Auckland cities are larger than Wellington City. The people who came to Auckland between 1996 and 2006 numbered half the total population of Wellington City. Not only has Greater Auckland almost three times as many people as Wellington, it is growing more than eight times faster.
Now, I’m not saying demographics should rule. I would fight for Dunedin and Christchurch to have a guaranteed amount of influence on our culture and literature . They are cities which exist on productive enterprise and are economically and culturally self-sustaining. But we need to make some gesture to where most people live. I just want to break this stranglehold that Wellingtonians hold on our culture (many of them with an insufferable smugness) for no reason whatever that I can discern.
Imagine the Australian reaction to the appointment for two years in a row of two judges from Canberra and one from Perth for their premier literary awards.
I have no problem with the National Library being in Wellington, but let’s think about the National Museum and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The former is an architectural joke and is also an inferior New Zealand historical museum by a large margin. Yet I have to pay for both via taxes and rates, whereas Wellingtonians have to pay for only one via taxes.
One claim is that Creative New Zealand, the National Orchestra, National Radio, the Film Commission and other organisations need to be near the seat of Government. I believe that each of them would be better away from Government, acting independently as they are supposed to.
Perhaps the most egregious Wellington manipulation of literary and taxpayers' money is the 'New Zealand Book Council', which was for years an organisation of self-appointed Wellingtonians, parlty fund by Crearive New Zealand. They had one ghostly Auckland representatuive who could not attend meetings because they would not fund the travel.