Defenders of the Urban Jungle


One drizzly Thursday night we were at home, curled in front of the fire watching prime time TV, when I had an epiphany: not everything you see on TV is true. While this may seem obvious to the point of obsoleteness, seeing the way my home town is portrayed to the rest of the country really hammered the point home.

First up was Police 10-7, featuring the story of a man found wandering on the motorway with a road cone on his head for ‘safety’. It is important to note that this is not the usual behaviour of the Aucklanders in their native habitat, but one specific to a sub breed of city dwellers known as ‘Westies.’ A David Attenborough-style comment to this effect would have made this segment much more educationally accurate.

Next up was motorway patrol, 30 minutes of the most spectacular incidents involving flying cars, motorists giving false details and the epic saga of the dog on the motorway. In Methven a wandering dog is an everyday sight, but not so in Auckland. Motorways typically boast 3 lanes of traffic in both directions, and in comparison to Canterbury roads they are remarkable for their lack of wandering livestock. Hence an entire segment was devoted to the Houdini hound, with several squad cars dispatched to herd it to safety. Just to clarify, this is not normal practice. We do have dog control up north, and our boys in blue are usually preoccupied reminding the populous they should ‘always blow on the pie’ to tend to AWOL animals.

Just in case such light hearted stories were starting to give the wrong impression of Auckland as a relatively safe place where people are concerned with animal welfare and the safety of bogans, these humourous snippets were interspersed with images of hardened criminals on the loose. Assaults, murders and various other criminal acts were outlined to remind the viewer of the dangers of everyday life in the Big Smoke. (It’s not that bad, honest!) The end result of these shows was that gridlock has never appeared so riveting – I can assure you that the excitement factor quickly dwindles after waiting 45 minutes to reach your off ramp less than 2km up the road.

Just as native city dwellers think of the Southern Isles as a giant diary paddock spotted with the odd Hobbit set, this TV line up would have viewers believe that Auckland is a dangerous metropolis, bustling with speedsters and potential criminals just waiting for their 15 minutes of fame on Police 10-7. There is definitely more to Auckland than fodder for cop shows like motorway patrol, but sometimes it is good to be reminded that pies can be hot.

Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian