Whether you are a tourist or a local, you need to treat Queen Street as two very different worlds. It is all about the timing as to when you decide to visit the ‘golden mile.’ During the day it is busy with workers and shoppers and it feels safe. The behaviours of the people are fine and the police hardly need to show more than a presence. Sure, the street is not quite the quality shopping experience we associated it with the past, but it is doing its best to reinvent itself with up-market shops scattered along its length. For a more ‘label-fuelled’ shopping excursion, maybe you should head to New Market or some of the better malls in the suburbs. Still, it has the advantage of ‘kissing the harbour’ and promises the outer Gulf just past Rangitoto Island.
After dark, most of the people on the street leave for the suburbs, but an increasing number head for the apartment belt that now inhabits the fringe (or even on the street) of the main district. Whether they hang around, way below their tiny apartments is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they don’t, for a very good reason.
As the shadows deepen and most of the shops close, a transformation occurs. Yes, some visitors eat their fill in the restaurants and movie-goers wander around before and after their chosen offerings. Gradually, and then with a growing momentum the nature of the crowd changes. The age of the newbies goes down and feeling changes as the alcohol partaking increases. After mid-night, there are less elderly faces, and those who remain move around cautiously with visages showing disapproval of what they are witnessing.
They dare not say anything because any respect that the imbibers had for old people rapidly retreats to another place in their minds. The said minds operate with less and less functionality until by the wee small hours, an entirely different world has taken hold on the street.
If anyone unlucky enough to be heading for an early start to their work day or someone wanting a kick-start to their day, having risen from one of the apartments, then they need to watch their step. They will need radar-like vision, because the street will be strewn with sleeping bodies, sometimes in bus shelters and in alcoves or on the very footpaths the ‘walkers’ are traversing. They will need to avoid the vomit, some of which is produced live, in front of their eyes and God knows what other substances.
Some of the revellers have not finished their ‘city-visit.’ Indeed they are intent on destroying one another, over some imagined or perhaps real insult, thrown casually from an inebriated mouth. Fights are common, most not too serious, because the low-lifes are incapable of anything of substance. The police may differ in their view about the fights. They have had to clean up the human wastage from the fights and vomiting and general flotsam that inhabits the street.
Even after the sun has made an appearance, the streets have to attempt another transformation. As workers and sober visitors arrive, for a while the two worlds coexist. The night people slink away and the street cleaners do their thing. Queen Street almost looks normal.
Is this what we want for what should be our premier shopping and entertainment area in Auckland?