Advocate Article


Our town’s reputation is not so much about what we think of the place, but rather what people outside think.  Why does it matter what others think?  It matters because our community’s social wellbeing needs to be underpinned by growth and a vibrant economic environment.  This growth relies on encouraging positive, creative and energetic people to stay in or move to our region and to contribute to fulfilling its potential.  We are competing for these people with other upper North Island towns with similar climates, natural environments and proximity to Auckland.  These people will be influenced by our reputation and the stories told about us nationally and internationally. 


Marc Treib, an American landscape architect once wrote a paper entitled “Must Landscapes Mean?”  It examined a number of ways to introduce meaning into places through design and then argued that it may be better to focus on creating pleasurable places that people want to spend time in and that in spending time in these places will lead to people attaching their own meaning to those places.  I guess this explains why often it takes a while to really “get” a place. 


For my first 8 years association with Whangarei I travelled here each year from Christchurch, spent a month enjoying all that the coast had to offer and then headed back south without ever venturing into Whangarei.  Why, because as far as I was aware there was nothing to see or do there.  Now having lived here for some time I know that this is not the case and there are many great reasons to spend time within the urban environment of Whangarei.  I also know that there are many regular visitors to Whangarei’s coastal settlements that still do not see any reason to visit the CBD or Town Basin.  For these people to “get” Whangarei, to see what Whangarei means, requires an attractant that at the very least provides a reason to spend time in the town other than to buy groceries.


So if there is no compelling point of difference to our town, if there is only incremental change rather than transformation we will continue to struggle to encourage visitors to come into Whangarei’s urban environment let alone spend sufficient time within it to form an attachment to it.  Any such compelling point of difference is unlikely to be acceptable to everyone, if was it would not be a point of difference and it would cease to amaze and delight or provoke any reaction that would encourage further investigation.

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