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Tāmaki Makaurau & Sydney - A Tale of Two Cities

By Thomas Giblin (he/him)

The Beginning

Last weekend the Wallabies suffered a humiliating defeat to the All Blacks at Eden Park. Less than 12 hours later, the All Whites lost to the Socceroos on the very same field. These games are fuelled by this trans-Tasman rivalry. But whether you’re a sports fan or not, they do not address the age-old debate: which is the better city, Tāmaki Makaurau, or Sydney? If you browse the internet, you will find countless articles arguing the pros and cons of each city, but none give a definitive answer. Thankfully, this writer, a budding Paul Theroux, will attempt to provide one for you by breaking down the issues that matter. I've spent sixteen years in Tāmaki Makaurau and six days in Sydney, so I'm more than qualified to investigate this issue. My trip to Sydney makes up for all the times I had to watch my classmates flex their holidays in Fiji on Snapchat. After each school holiday, I told them I'd been overseas, even though the furthest I'd travelled was across the harbour bridge. I should also mention that if Flight Centre or any other travel company wants to pay me and my editor Sam to become travel bloggers who review 5-star resorts, drink cocktails and go swimming while the sun sets - we will happily take your money.

The Bridge(s)

A quick Google search will reveal that Dorman Long & Co, a now defunct Teesside steel firm, was involved in the construction of both the Auckland and Sydney harbour bridges. These two feats of engineering are uncannily similar, both in their origin and appearance as steel monoliths. But it's hard to ignore the stark contrast between the two - their usability. The Auckland Harbour Bridge, while iconic, is at capacity and plagued by a lack of progress. The Skypath, which received approval for council funding and planning consent, was never built. A second harbour crossing is not likely to be built for decades. Ironically, the original proposal for the Auckland Harbour Bridge included rail lines and walking paths. We can only look at Sydney with envy as their harbour bridge, in contrast, serves as a microcosm for a transport network that is operated with competence and forethought. The Sydney Harbour Bridge boasts a dedicated cycleway, pedestrian- only footpath and railway system that runs alongside the bridge. Two sets of harbour tunnels also alleviate congestion and intertwine with a transport network that I would happily sacrifice a cancelled Outer Link bus service for. Residents also don't have to wait days for their Opal card (Hop card equivalent) to top up, as they can use their contactless card or device instead. Sydney 1 - Tāmaki Makaurau 0

The Coffee

If you're on TikTok (who isn't), you'll know that earlier this year, a video of an Australian woman complaining about a pricey coffee order went viral on the app. She was charged AU$8.90 (NZ$9.50) for a latte at one of Sydney's inner-city cafes, so when I found myself standing in front of an independent micro-roastery pining for an iced oat milk latte, I was prepared for the worst. I was charged a mind-boggling $7.50 for an incredibly underwhelming coffee that left me in a daze of indigestion. I was familiar with the high prices of coffee in Tāmaki Makaurau, but now it was certain: I would never be able to afford a home. At least student favourites like the Receptionist, Remedy Coffee and Chuffed don't make you take out a mortgage to get a caffeine fix. Inflation, shipping and climate change all play a part in rising coffee costs on both sides of the ditch. But when the price of the caffeinated lifeblood for all students is rising to preposterous levels, is it not another sign that the time for a revolution has come? Sydney 1 - Tāmaki Makaurau 1

The Art

If you're reading Debate, I'm willing to hazard a guess that you're a proud tote bag owner. With Sydney being home to several major art institutions, the city offers the perfect opportunity to view world-class art and acquire some tote bag drip (I'm using the word ‘drip’ ironically, so please don't send hate mail). Museum of Contemporary Art Australia: spectacular location, but surprisingly small. The formation and curation of the exhibits left me feeling disappointed, as each piece of art has a strong identity, but it felt disconnected as a whole. There was only one tote bag available for purchase, but I was fortunate it had a beautiful design adorning it. 6/10

Art Gallery of New South Wales: Arguably the most important public gallery in Sydney and one of the largest in Australia, this art museum left my mouth agape. Daniel Boyd's Treasure Island, which celebrates the interconnected histories of First Nations peoples, is rich in texture, history and thought. Sol LeWitt's Affinities and Resonances is mesmerising and when experienced with the commissioned musical accompaniments, it is transcendent. However, with no tote bags available for purchase, my visit ended on a slightly sour note. 8/10 White Rabbit Gallery: The best gallery Sydney offers by a clear margin; it is a must for any visitor to the city. The White Rabbit is home to one of the world's most significant collections of contemporary Chinese art and it’s curated to an exceptionally high standard. Their current exhibition, I Loved You, is an evocative exploration of how love both turns up in unexpected places and haunts us like a ghost. I left with a stunning red tote bag with "We live in a beautiful yet violent reality", a quote from Zhao Zhao, printed on its side. 10/10 Sydney 2 - Tāmaki Makaurau 1 *This section may have been slightly biased, but I'm easily swayed by beautiful art and pretty tote bags.

The End

To say that "everything Auckland has got, Sydney has better" is ignorant and belittles the beauty that lies in each city. I love Tāmaki Makaurau and now I love Sydney too. But spending six days away from Tāmaki has made the heart grow fonder. Yes, travel is for the soul, but the soul often returns to the comfort of home. I was lucky enough to call the suburbs of Coogee, Randwick and Maroubra home for a few days, but my home is Tāmaki Makaurau, forever and always.


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