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February 25, 2008 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

The Devil’s Advocate: In defense of the Hutt

Where are you from?

Such a loaded question and one I am now always hesitant to answer. All the implications it has of how you will be perceived from that moment on and the idea that somehow that town’s culture will have shaped you.

Growing up in Maungaraki I considered myself a Hutt dweller by virtue of the fact my school, job, and shopping mall were all in the Lower Hutt CBD.

Also, if I said where I really lived I was greeted with blank stares and would be forced to elaborate that it was near the Hutt Valley anyway. But this was never a problem for me or something I believed decreased my social standing. In fact, during my high school years I thought claiming I was from the Hutt put me in reasonable social stead.

There has always been a great difference in my mind between the different suburbs in the Hutt Valley region. The Hutt was a classy establishment and far better than the likes of Porirua or Wainuiomata. Even Nae Nae or Taita, respectively rather closer than the Hutt, were Bogan, Polynesian, impoverished places – completely separate worlds to the sweet suburban Lower Hutt I knew.

Oh how naïve my perception of my sheltered little world turned out to be!

With my exodus last year out of the bubble of the Hutt into central Wellington, I had some rather rude awakenings thrust upon me. I am scoffed at, looked at in pity and even in (debatably) mock disgust when I say I am from the Hutt. First thing I realized when moving was the Hutt had a bad name. Why this was I was not quite sure, so I simply rolled with the punches and laughed at the wisecracks I didn’t really understand. Little by little the reason for the stigma of the Hutt came out and I concluded that the Hutt is seen as a dirty, trashy, mongrel place where we are all bogans, boy-racers/car sluts, and crime and violence are of pandemic proportions. No, I scream, No! That’s not Lower Hutt!!! That’s the other suburbs! That’s Upper Hutt and Stokes Valley, totally separate places. But my protests were all in vain, for this perception of the Hutt is well ingrained and widely held. Every single person I have met this year who is not from the Hutt has made some derogatory comment about my Hutt-ness.

Oftentimes my Hutt-ness has been used as the trump card in any verbal banter or as the rationale for everything. I have been witness to conversations where literally hours have been dedicated solely to the topic of the trashiness of the Hutt. A classic example I can recall of anti-Hutt sentiments is the Car Park Rebranding Project. This is the proposition that the entire region from the Ngaraunga Gorge to Wainuiomata should be filled in with concrete and used as a car park for Wellington.

I pointed out the logistical flaw that anyone having to park as far away as Wainuomata would have a massive walk and this was glossed over with the solution of shuttles… although this would make the car park rather redundant, it was argued that this would still be a much better use of resources than the Hutt. Therefore I would have to say that I grew up in the Car Park, but I have been informed that this would still be better than admitting I came from the Hutt.

Another favourite of mine in the long list of Hutt-bagging conversations was one about the number of STD checks at Vibe and Family Planning in the Hutt. The speaker claimed that because a medical utensils supplier sends 90% of their cervical swabs to the Hutt, it must have high STD rates. I jumped to my homeland’s defence, suggesting this meant we were sexually and medically responsible – as well as STD free – thanks to all the checks. And then the strangest thing happened: a non-Hutt person also seemed to support my cause.

They advocated that cervical swabs would be for cervical cancer smears as well. I was lost for words and elated at the unprecedented comradeship… but these feelings were dashed as they went on to say that cervical cancer “is usually common in low socio-economical areas; which would stipulate they are from the Hutt”… truly charming!

I do not understand how I spent 18 years of my life in the Hutt and nothing I experienced ever once alluded to the nationwide reputation of my home town. How my entire social placement and people’s prejudices can be based on such unsubstantiated facts baffles me. The trash of my region belonged to other places, other suburbs, other circles of humanity! Not Lower Hutt and certainly not Maungaraki! I refuse to believe the gross generalizations of my birthplace!

However I have to face the fact it is in my best interests socially to suppress that burning sensation of loyalty to my hometown and just take the insults with a grain of salt. I’ll just make sure the haters never have any substance, and keep to myself the totally irrelevant events of that time last weekend when my car was stolen from Maungaraki… or that time I went to the bogan Airborne gig in the city and the singer yelled out “who here’s from the Hutt Valley” and the whole crowd cheered…


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