The first is a decision by Auckland Museum staff to dismantle one of the must popular exhibits, Centennial Street, depicting an Auckland Street in 1866, and replace it with an 'interactive' WWI exhibition. The second is Auckland Council's adoption of a 10 year strategic action plan for art and culture that puts iwi first.
On the first issue of what is going on behind the scenes at the Auckland Museum, Desley Simpson, Chair of the Orakei Local Board, has posted an an open letter to the museum director she received from a voter as follows:
Dear Mr Clare
Yesterday evening my husband and daughter and I listened to a representative from the Museum telling Jim Mora that Centennial Street was to be dismantled on Monday.
So the views of Aucklanders have not been listened to. Our history not respected. I had hope, at the very least that once people in Auckland actually knew about it, that you may have a moment to pause, to give Auckland a chance to take it in and a chance to understand, even the school holidays to take the kids to it (we have eight grandchildren who love it).
Truly you did a marvellous job keeping it secret. So far your plans have worked out wonderfully. I wonder how you will feel when the rest of Auckland, who did not hear the 'news', fronts up and finds that it is gone.
....what tangible things will we have in our Museum of our Colonial past? Things that make it an Auckland's museum.
Council focus on 'Maoriness' omits Auckland's cultural smorgasbord
A year of consulting over the final version of Auckland Council's arts and culture Strategic Action Plan remains as schizoid as the draft.
It is fatally flawed by the need to connect the chant that "Auckland's standout feature is our vibrant Maori culture" with the evidence contained within the report.
It's as if they're hoping that constant repetition of variations on the theme such as 'Auckland's distinctiveness is highlighted in a Maori identity' and 'Maori culture is Auckland's point of difference in the world' will somehow make the wish true.
While endlesslessly hammering away this message, the evidence in the report tends to contradict the ideology. Auckland is not Rotorua on steroids as the authors would have us believe, it is the most ethnically diverse region in New Zealand..
You just have to watch the cruise ship buses filing off Queens Wharf on the way to Rotorua to know that tourists don't regard Auckland as the Maori culture capital. Not the traditional poi-swinging tourist culture anyway.
As far as modern cultural activity goes, I've seen little sign it's even particularly vibrant. As something of a culture vulture, I would be pointing tourists to the Pasifika stage if they were looking for new and vibrant and ethnic.
In reality, Auckland's point of difference is not the glories or supremacy of one ethnicity over another, but our place in the Pacific as a smorgasbord of cultures and ethnicities.
Auckland and the nation is in the grip of a neo cultural cringe. We cannot be considered a modern city while we deny our past and the contribution of those who helped build the city and the country.