The oceans are rising and the ground’s getting shaky – time to move the capital to Hamilton.
As hellworld boils and our cities descend into the sea, writhing throngs of climate refugees will soon be forced to head for higher ground, scrambling over one another like a scene from the Old Testament. The effect will be particularly pronounced in capitals like Mumbai, Dhaka and Jakarta – cultural and financial epicentres, home to millions, the seats of government and law – causing huge economic and political upheaval.
But President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, who last month announced his successful re-election, ain’t having it. He’s decided to move his capital from Jakarta, home to more than 10 million people, as far as 900km to an entirely different island.
His audacity, alongside news this week that parts of the Ross Ice Shelf are melting 10 times faster than expected, and insurers are considering leaving parts of the market altogether, leads me to one obvious conclusion: we need to move our capital too. I suggest Hamilton.
Hamilton – nee Kirikiriroa – is the seat of power in the Waikato Region. Ensconced betwixt verdant fields, rural hamlets and the mighty Kaimai and Bombay ranges, the city is the birthplace of such august New Zealanders as Helen Clark, Jacinda Ardern and the mighty beaver Stephen Donald.
More than 40,000 tertiary students call Hamilton home, and it was in Hamilton that the aforementioned Ardern gained her education, studying a very real and prestigious Bachelor of Communication Studies at Waikato University. By the way, twas not policy that made the name Ardern synonymous with the most virtuous of Kiwi traits. The age of the Vic policy wonk is over. Comms grads rise up.
The move would also force politicians at large to mingle with the proles, dragged kicking and screaming from the ostentatious Backbencher pub with its bloody puppets to somewhere more earthy like the historic Hillcrest Tavern, which celebrates its 50th birthday next year. I was there just last Friday sinking $3 handles of Waikato Draught in chainsaw pants, and I’ve never felt more Kiwi. Politicians could learn a lot from that.
Because among the many reasons Americans voted to give Trump nukes was the disconnect and mutual resentment which had fomented between rural plebeians and coastal elites. Moving the capital to Hamilton, which has neither beaches nor anything resembling elites, could help prevent a populist and protectionist uprising here at home.
Nor would our elected officials want for intrigue. The local political scene is already replete with eccentrics and scoundrels aplenty. Take anti-vaxxer and fluoride activist Siggi Henry, who never lets being wrong get in the way of saying whatever she wants and loudly, or this racist cop who won’t own his shit, or this guy who was ‘just making a joke’. Simon Bridges and his slushy wouldn’t even make the starting team of deranged public servants should the capital move north.
Hamilton has none of the delusions of grandeur or societal import evident in the mythos of comparable cities like London, Los Angeles or New York. And after all, communities and culture both grow out of people like a cordyceps mushroom, bursting from their heads and into reality. For artists and creatives to congregate, an area first needs to be affordable (read: a bit shit). And, for those who know where to look, Hamilton has culture absolutely running down its legs.
Take the gardens, where every winter the graves of European settlers are covered in magic mushrooms, and in the summer a fabulous cat show is held. Take any of the restaurants, eateries, boutiques or ice creameries in Alice Neville’s ode to the Good City. Consider the 20-plus bars (except this one) within five minutes walk of the Riff Raff statue, one of our finest and most ambitious pieces of public art.
Here’s a short list of other things Hamilton has that Wellington does not: a river, a lake, bridges, Duck Island, The Outback, Garden Place, Wong’s Kitchen, New Zealand’s only free subterranean strip club, butter chicken chips, my family goat, the bloody old Mooloos and even the god damn Mooloo Song.
One year ago Stuff reported ‘nobody was saying’ Hamilton should be the capital, as if the very idea were preposterous. Well, times have changed, and unfettered from the corporate media and Big Click I am saying it. I’m saying the river runs deep, the river runs low – bring the Beehive to the mighty Waikato.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.