Sam Hazledine: Let’s stop being bystanders


OPINION: Our friend, a world leader in city planning, exclaimed “Jeez Louise!” as we drove past the Five Mile shopping centre.

This was in response to the buildings that have been erected along the road at the entrance to Queenstown.

While a minor attempt has been made to make the buildings presentable with the jagged mountainesque facade, instead of using them to hide the ugly air-conditioning units on the roof, they instead do nothing to mask the ugly protuberances that pierce the skyline.

Many of the units sit posterior to the dips in the facade.

Why didn’t the developers do more to ensure the facade covered the units to impose less on the stunning vista behind?

And I hear a lot of complaining these days about the overflowing rubbish bins in Queenstown.

I see them, they’re a pain, but are those same people who are complaining also picking up rubbish when they see it?

Or do they feel their complain-ing somehow absolves them from doing anything constructive?

I don’t think anyone would argue that we are all responsible for our environment.

But I think therein lies the problem: we are responsible, but we don’t make ourselves accountable.

The main difference between responsibility and accountability is responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot.

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was famously stabbed to death outside her apartment building in New York.

The reason this awful incident was made famous was because 28 people heard or saw the attack but did not call the police.

The incident prompted enquiries into what became known as the ‘bystander effect’.

That is when the probability that someone will help is inversely proportionate to the number of bystanders. In other words, the more people watching, the less likely it is that anyone will help.

I think Queenstown is subject to its own bystander effect.

As more of us choose to call Queenstown home, less of us feel it’s our responsibility to keep this place exceptional.

As a result, many developers are throwing up ugly tilt slab buildings to scrape the last bit of financial return they can and many Queenstowners are walking past rubbish and blaming the full bins rather than picking it up.

We complain but we don’t act.

Being accountable means ultimately being answerable for your actions and we also answer for our inaction.

What we don’t do defines us as much as what we do do.

If we all not only felt pride in our environment but also didwhat we all could to preserve and enhance it, don’t you think we’d all be better off?

I saw someone pick up rubbish the other day as they walked along Queenstown Mall.

Some developers are making a real effort, like the Porters with the stunning T20 building and the Pak’nSave supermarket.

All is not lost!

So, while you might not be erecting buildings, the next time you walk past rubbish in our many stunning areas, think twice.

Perhaps it’s not someone else’s job to do something about it.

Sam Hazledine was 2012’s Ernst & Young Young Entrepreneur of the Year, is a Sir Peter Blake Leader, founder of MedRecruit and author of Unfair Fight. For more check out: