Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Urbanland and Sprawlistan

Wellington polling booths by immorality - thumbnail (click to see full image - 27kB GIF)Last week I posted an analysis of all the polling stations in the Wellington region, according to a rather dodgy formula based upon the supposed "morality" of the various parties. I promised a map, and here it is: click on the thumbnail to see a high-res map of the whole region (it's only 27kB). The dot in the middle of the harbour actually represents the Chatham Islands, which for some reason had some Wellington voters.

Red booths voted predominantly for allegedly "immoral" parties (such as Labour and the Greens), blue for supposed moral guardians (such as National and United Future), and grey booths were fairly evenly divided. Bearing in mind the limitations of assigning booth voting patterns to neighbourhoods (people vote wherever is convenient, not necessarily where they live, so a lot of CBD votes may have been shoppers), what does this tell us about the local implications of the alleged "divide" in NZ politics?

It's clear that most of inner Wellington is staunchly left-of-centre. The only blue booths south of Khandallah are in the affluent neighbourhoods of Oriental Bay, Seatoun and the city end of Karori. Other well-off places like Thorndon, Kelburn and Mt Victoria lean to the left.

The other red neighbourhoods are in traditional working-class state-house zones like Strathmore, Wainuiomata, Naenae, Taita and Porirua. Interestingly, some other less well-off places such as Upper Hutt, Miramar and Newlands were generally neutral, and Tawa went very blue. Might this be the influence of the Christian right? That looks like the case in parts of Tawa, which had a relatively high United Future vote - the full Excel data might hold the clues.

The Mana electorate looks highly divided, with some of the reddest (Cannons Creek) and bluest (Whitby) regions just across the ridge from one another. This shows that the "Latteland vs Sheepistan" dichotomy doesn't really apply in the cities: there aren't many lattes in Waitangirua, and there are very few sheep grazing along Discovery Drive. So, if we are to give names to these two opposing lands, what should they be?

There seem to be two distinct blocs among the red booths: inner-city neighbourhoods and working-class suburbs. There are several different groupings of blue booths, including: the most affluent suburbs (Khandallah, Seatoun, Eastbourne); the more affluent of the post-war suburbs (southern Upper Hutt, central Lower Hutt); and more recent subdivisions (Churton Park, Whitby, the western Hutt hills). Is there one characteristic that divides the two?

I don't think it's that simple, but half-seriously, here is my suggestion. People near red booths are either those who can walk or hop on a quick bus to work; or who live further out but have no qualms about the "public" aspect of public transport. People near the blue booths don't want to rub shoulders with the masses in the central city and like the "freedom" that private cars offer, so they're happy to live in the dormitory suburbs where there are no nearby amenities but there's plenty of room to park the SUV.

So, if there's a division in New Zealand, it's not between urban and rural but between urban and suburban. Between apartments and state houses on one hand, and McMansions on the other. Between urban diversity and vitality, and the quietly comfortable "mainstream" respectability of suburbia. In short, between Urbanland and Sprawlistan.


At 9:33 pm, September 29, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Tawa has higher support for United Future because Peter Dunne is their popular electorate MP.

At 9:32 am, September 30, 2005, Blogger Tom said...

I thought about that, but my analysis looked purely at the party vote, and while O-B certainly had a higher party vote support for UF than the nationwide average (5.5% vs 2.7%), it was certainly nothing like Dunne's 47% of the candidate vote.

The Tawa booths had a higher Dunne vote than the rest of O-B (7% higher at 50%), but the party vote difference was stronger: 30% higher at 7.2%. So maybe there is something in it: the rest of O-B like Dunne for his "sensible" mortgage-and-motorway electorate appeal, but Tawa also has the Christian vote. I haven't checked any census data for religious demographics in Tawa, but have you seen the number of churches on their main drag?!?


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