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The Press – Opinion June 23

Back to School and Recovery Delays.

On Friday I went back to school. Thirty years on, since I first rocked up as a angelic little third-former, I was back as guest speaker for the St. Bede’s Annual Dinner. Since then, I’ve been wallowing in a haze of school days nostalgia, with the memories flooding back. Forgive me for such personal indulgence this week, but isn’t it amazing how your high school years do leave such a profound and defining footprint on your life. I recalled some of my fondest reflections at the dinner on Friday, particularly the exceptional teachers who set alight to my abiding passions and shaped my career trajectory into the media world of current affairs and travel.  My geography teacher, George Young, and English teacher/debating coach, Penny Raine,  may never truly know how influential they were.  As I walked into the school gym, I gazed across at the old science block, which I nearly blew up as a fourth former, via a highly unorthodox and unauthorised chemistry experiment, which inadvertently billowed out of control. I also gazed up at Brodie block, where I was caned in my final month at school in 1989, after being sprung smoking in the bushes. (I was one of the last New Zealand school students to have legally received corporal punishment, before it was abolished that year.) It was incredibly sobering to see these towering structures all abandoned and fenced off, on demolition row. Along with virtually every other school building, from the time I was a pupil,  they’re either going, or have gone. The great exception is grand old Durham Hall,  the oldest and venerable school landmark, which was extensively earthquake strengthened 30 years ago, and has now just been fully restored. Surveying my old school was like looking at a microcosm of Christchurch, with a formidable rebuild programme still awaiting action.

Time Out.

Good on the Christchurch Mayor for exhorting the Prime Minister to sure up the timetable for the Convention Centre. With delays now plaguing virtually every major public project, the Christchurch recovery is now on the oh-so-slow-drip. We need forward-leaning momentum. Wasn’t 2015 meant to be the “It’s Happening” Year? Whatever happened to all that hype, hoopla and urgency that launched the Central City blueprint? Just as Gerry Brownlee is playing silly buggars over the Convention Centre’s timing, have you noticed Victoria Clock just cannot keep to schedule? Fresh from a $1 million restoration, the council has confirmed to me they still haven’t ascertained why the timing mechanisms are so wildly unreliable, nor when it will be fully fixed.

Mike’s weekly opinion piece, first published in The Press newspaper.

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