Hobson Article - May 2016

Sunday, May 1, 2016

April this year marked the centenary of the opening of Auckland Grammar School’s main block.  The distinctive ‘Spanish mission’ style colossus visible from the Southern Motorway is an Auckland landmark, but more importantly it is a building that has helped inspire generations of boys.

At a ceremony to mark the occasion, old boy Professor Sir Peter Gluckman gave one of the speeches, and he made the point that while the size and scale of the assembly hall has an impact, the dominating impression for anyone sitting in the stalls is that one is surrounded by names.   Honours boards tower over the stage and encircle the stalls, mainly of university scholarship winners.   I remember gazing up during my time there in the 1980s.  Baragwanath was a name that jumped out as a Rhodes Scholar (Sir David Baragwanath, now a distinguished jurist); Schnackenberg was another (Tom Schnackenberg of America’s Cup design fame).   Pride, motivation, confidence and inspiration have all quietly seeped in, in a multitude of different ways, over the generations as young men have contemplated those walls.   It is truly one of Auckland’s treasures.

It is interesting, however, to think that the year after this great edifice was built, a sister school was established down the road, Epsom Girls Grammar School.   The decision makers at the time didn’t see the need to build something as inspiring for the girls.  My wife and sister at EGGS in the 1980s didn’t get to sit in a great hall surrounded by names, nor will my three girls.  They found and will continue to find inspiration in other ways, but the historical legacy remains.

Now, thankfully, expectations for girls and boys are equally high and resources are evenly shared.  We shouldn’t forget that this is a comparatively recent thing in this country.  When my mother swept in from the Waikato to St Cuthbert’s in the late 1950s, in her experience, scholarship was seldom seen as a priority for girls of her generation.  It was all preparation for life as a housewife, preceded by a short stint as a secretary, nurse or teacher.  Nor should we forget that in many parts of the world today, girls are virtually excluded from all but the most rudimentary education.

I’ll be thinking of this later this month when hopefully I’ll be able to attend the official opening of the huge new gymnasium at EGGS.

Meantime, I’ve said before in The Hobson that my favourite spot in the Epsom electorate is on top of Mount Hobson/Ohinerau.  But it has to be said, Mt Eden/Maungawhau is also pretty good, as is Mount St John’s.
Since the recent treaty settlement, management of Auckland’s Tupuna Maunga (Ancestral Mountains) has been vested with the Tupuna Maunga Authority, which comprises representatives from local iwi and Auckland Council.  

The Authority has been seeking public feedback on its management plan.  It’s great to see thought and resources being given to valuing, restoring, protecting and enhancing the volcanic cones.  I plan to send a submission by the April 28 deadline, encouraging  the authority to keep, or return, sheep to our cones. The top of Mt Eden used to have lovely sculpted grassy flats and banks, tended by the sheep.  Now it’s mostly overgrown apart from small bits expensively maintained by weed-eaters. I also think there must be one volcano in the Auckland isthmus where we can have some fun on mountain bikes.