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Tim Watkin: RWC crowd chaos

opinion

By Tim Watkin

Published: 3:32PM Thursday September 15, 2011 Source: ONE News

If only the Government's event management was as good as its political management. Its performance in the days following the weekend's crowd chaos on the Auckland waterfront has been deft, comfortably outmanoeuvring the Auckland Council.

My bet is that the Government's work this week will make sod all difference to the crowd experience during the rest of the World Cup, but nine weeks from an election, that's not their only concern. This is pure politics.

The government, as has been widely reported, stepped into the mess on Tuesday and took control of managing the Auckland waterfront and Party Central.

Rugby World Cup minister Murry McCully said "the ball has been dropped"  adding later:

"The news media have led the charge in pointing the finger at me. If they want someone to take responsibility, I will. I'm going to make sure the consents are in place, the buck does stop with me and that's how we're going to deal with it."

Some commentators pointed out that this was typical of a man famous for his micro-management. But it's also typical of a man famed for being one of the great political survivors. Or perhaps, it was a John Key move. Either way, the strategy was simple.

1) Move on Tuesday. Safe in the knowledge the Council wouldn't announce changes to waterfront management until its reports were released on Wednesday, the government moved a day earlier, announcing the exact same plans the council would have announced the next day anyway.
2) "Take control". McCully and co took the initiative while the Council was left to release its reports on what went wrong, meaning the public now associates the government with decisive action and the council with failure.
3) Take responsibility for this weekend's events. Which is as close as you can get to backing a sure winner. No fireworks, waka, Finn Brothers or opening ceremony; bad weather forecast; half of Auckland scared off by last weekend's debacle; the All Blacks playing in Hamilton and the Auckland game being between Ireland and Australia, most of whose supporters will already be staying in the CBD... Let's be honest, your grandmother could make a success of this weekend's events. With one hand tied behind her back.
4) Declare on Sunday or Monday that the government has saved the day. End of.

As I say, deft.

But while I'm making lists, let me, as a daily Auckland train commuter and someone who walked around the CBD for an hour or so before getting on one of the last trains out of Dodge just after 7pm, toss in my two cents as to what went wrong in central Auckland on Friday night, beyond the simple fact that there were too many people trying to use too few facilities.

1) Kicking off a CBD party in the peak rush-hour was daft. The trains are usually close to capacity at that hour on a normal work day. Why throw tens of thousands more people into that mix? Why didn't they play the opening game on a Saturday?
2) More giant screens would have made a huge difference. There was heaps of space around the Viaduct and Wynyard Quarter and spreading out the screens would have spread the crowd. New fan zones are a must.
3) Security guards on trains would have made no difference. With people crammed into a carriage like sardines, a security guard couldn't have moved an inch to stop anyone pushing buttons.
4) Communication on the trains and platforms has long been woeful. On-board staff have no way of checking with their control centre, drivers are usually silent or make silly jokes. Trains are often delayed and commuters stand on platforms around the city or in carriages with no idea why or when they'll get moving. It's annoying enough when you're trying to get home or to work; it must have been blood-boiling when you're about to miss the experience of a lifetime. Veolia must start talking to passengers - and keep it up after the cup is over.