Thursday, 31 October 2019

Future plans, past tragedies

I'm no fan of regional development as a policy priority - a remote sparsely populated country of five million people ought to be putting its energies into agglomeration benefits, not into dispersion inefficiencies - and still less of how we're executing it. But that said, I'm not sorry Dunedin's the latest winner drawn from the Lucky Dip bag ('Dunedin projects secure multimillion-dollar Provincial Growth Fund investment'). It would be one of my agglomeration corridors anyway, plus it's a surprisingly interesting place, as I've posted before ('On holiday? In DUNEDIN??').

Over the Labour Day weekend we went to the Dunedin Art Gallery which was hosting a near-definitive exhibition of Frances Hodgkins. We explored the thriving café scene - particularly good coffee at Heritage, and lovely raspberry and coconut cake at Perc - and had fine Chinese food at Papa Chou's. In Dunedin you have to visit the University Book Shop, where I bought Binyamin Appelbaum's The Economists' Hour: How the False Prophets of Free Markets Fractured Our Society (purchases are not endorsements), followed by a fossick in the Hard to Find bookshop, where I added to my First World War collection with John Terraine's 1963 military biography, Douglas Haig: The educated soldier.

The Great War kept intruding. Just to remind you of the seismic scale of the war for New Zealand, in the foyer of the wonderful Railway Station I read the plaque commemorating the Dunedin staff of New Zealand Rail who died in the war. Guess how many, just from one company's staff, in one city*. Or see the West Taieri war memorial across the road from the deservedly popular Wobbly Goat café in Outram (try the pinwheels), with the desperately sad pattern of multiple names from the same families. On the one small monument are three Sprotts, two McLeods, two Whites.

In the middle of nowhere we detoured from a day's fishing at Lake Mahinerangi to the Old Waipori cemetery, where there is a memorial (pictured below, with his image from Discovering Anzacs) to Wilfred Victor Knight, the first reported New Zealand casualty at Gallipoli. Knight came from Waipori, since submerged by the hydro lake, went to Otago Boys High, and was working on the Sydney trams when war was declared on August 4 1914. He signed up on August 22, made his will in his pay book on April 25 1915, and died probably on April 27. He was 25.

* 56. Bear in mind that the population of New Zealand was only one million at the time. Multiply by five to get an idea of a proportionate loss today.

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