Not for a long time have I been so emotionally affected as when I went up to the Auckland War Memorial Museum early on the Sunday morning prior to Armistice Day, to walk amongst the nearly 19,000 white crosses. Each one of these crosses represented a life lost.
I walked amongst them, wondering where this country could have been if it hadn’t been for this absolute obliteration of our young men, from every corner of our country. There was no city or town that the angel of death did not fly over. The ringing of the doorbell was a frightening occurrence for thousands of families, with the grim news being delivered that their son had been killed in a far off land. I must admit, a few tears rolled from my eyes as I sighted a small area that indicated a line of families who had lost four sons and right behind that, a larger area of families that had lost three sons, and then an even larger area of families who had lost two sons. I spent an hour walking, thinking and looking over the Waitemata Harbour as the sun was coming up, and tried to imagine as the father of five sons, what the effect would be of losing one son, let alone the unbearable pain of losing four. At that time the whole population of New Zealand would have been less than 1,000,000 people, of which we sent 10% of our youth. We sent 10,000 horses and only four came back.
Like most of us I have travelled around this country, but I have always had time to stop at the small War Memorials in the out of the way places. Recently, down in the Catlins, I stopped and read the names of nearly forty young men in that area who had gone to war, and never returned. In the Hunterville area, there were nearly 80 young men who never returned. One only has to walk up the hill to the Devonport Primary School and see the World War I memorial stone, names carved out of granite, telling the story of young Devonport men who left the Peninsula and did not return.
While we are on the topic of Memorials, and please don’t get grumpy with me as this is only one man’s opinion, and as much as I have great sympathy for the families who lost loved ones in the Pike River Mine disaster this recent announcement of the re-entry of the mine at the cost of some $13 million, when there has already been spent some $25 million over the last 8 years on investigations and feasibility studies, it seems to me perhaps this money could be better spent elsewhere in the region.
Everyone should expect to come home safe from work each day, and the thousands of young soldiers who fought in World War I hoped to return home safely too – but like these miners, many young soldiers never came back. So many of these young men are still entombed in the mud of the Somme, Gallipoli and Passchendaele where over 800 young New Zealanders lost their lives in one morning.
Wouldn’t all that $40 million, and probably closer to $50 million by the time they’ve finished, be better spent on the construction of a new high tech, groundbreaking Primary School, or upgrading the local Hospital in memory of these men.
Recently a water main was broken at the intersection of Eversleigh Road and Lake Road, opposite Takapuna Grammar School. The water main was only a metre down, but somehow it took five weeks to excavate the hole, uncover the water main and repair it and cover it up again. Road closure was in place for five weeks, and my reliable sources at the coal face tell me, that the road management controls cost $8430 per day for the entire five weeks, so work that out for yourselves just how much just the road closure cost, let alone the daily cost of ten men standing around in their high vis jackets for that time.
I mention this now, and I still have to get my full facts about it but I have heard that the North Harbour Stadium is going to be turned into a baseball stadium, to house the new franchise Tuatara baseball team. This to me is a very, very minority sport and will come at the cost of losing a northern grandstand at North Harbour Stadium. I believe, and on good authority, that this will include the media box which was left as a legacy after the 2011 Rugby World Cup that was held here in New Zealand. These changes have been brought about by the stadium arm of the Council and I believe, again on good authority, will come at a cost of millions of dollars to enable the grounds to be reconfigured for the game of baseball. I personally do enjoy a game of baseball, especially at the wonderful AT & T Stadium in San Francisco which is a purpose built stadium for baseball. The reason why all these earthworks and the demolition of the northern grandstand have to be done is to allow the batsmen the approximately 400 feet required to hit the ball.
Anyway, I am putting this out there and I will find out more facts about this and let you all know in the New Year. But to me, this situation will then not allow any tests or any Super Rugby games incorporating the Blues to ever be played again at the stadium. We won’t have the capacity that the Rugby Union requires.
Ok, have a great Christmas, remember as I say every year to look after your family and your mates and be safe. Enjoy the barbecue season, the wonderful walks on our beaches and be kind to everyone.