Matchbox or better? - Solomon Star News

Matchbox or better?

13 August 2015

Dear Editor – I applaud the Honiara City Council's vision to improve the image of Honiara by demolishing the first stretch of buildings along the Pt. Cruz shoreline.

Without the benefit of details, I feel compelled to express some reservation.

My biggest concern is what will become of buildings that are historically significant.  For example, the Lena Cinema, Lillian Dennis Building, Kingsley and Joy Supermarket?

These buildings are part of our history, they have a story deeply engraved in our lives.

So they deserve some due diligence before any plans to erect something else in their stead is carried out.  I must admit, it saddens me to see rampant profiteering reduce these buildings to a sad state.

In executing this plan, does the council have a heritage plan? The goal of a heritage plan is preservation, not to leave buildings in their current delinquent state but to revitalize them so that they remain intact and habitable by businesses.

In Honiara, we lost numerous 1942 built round houses in the name of progress.  It was sad that no one fought for their preservation at that time.  So now our future generations will only hear stories and see pictures.

But imagine how fascinating it would have been if they were able to walk into those buildings had they been given a new lease of life instead of being torn down.  They could have been tourist attractions that tell of our rich history during the Second World War.

Look at Chinatown.  As a child, even if I did not have money to spend, walking through the town was still a great experience.  I was fascinated by the authentic architecture and the town was actually a "China town".

Let’s not be benign but "China" also means a fine, translucent ceramic of the highest quality - that was the Chinatown I grew up in.

Now, it is simply a jungle of hurriedly built stores with bizarre names dreamt up by some poorly paid accountant pushing out business proposals to a growing clientele.

At Point Cruz, I think the argument is simple.  If you have no intention of contributing to the progressive development of Honiara either through preservation or improvement then you have no business clogging up prime real estate.

Finally, I was a student at the University of the South Pacific at the turn of the century.  I remember two businessmen who owned shops right outside of the university.  Pong and Fatty.

The year I was there Pong was a traditional Asian set up which many students claimed has been the same since they attended in the 70's.

Fattys was a broken, wooden creaking shop selling everything from firewood to who knows what.  A year later, Fattys became a new modern 2-storey building; the Fatty store in the middle, a bookshop on the left, a restaurant on the right and apartments at the back and on the top floor.

Pong remained unchanged still serving his customer's from his grilled window.

If we go the Fatty route, then our goal is to improve.  If we choose the Pong route, then our goal should be to invest in progressive preservation.

A concise plan spelling exactly how this can be achieved will ensure that either of these goals are met.

If the proprietors of the chain of shops littering our shoreline put profit over our communal interest to improve the image of our city then there is no doubt in my mind that another "modern matchbox city" will spring up in the middle of Honiara.

New, well lit, brightly painted but still an eyesore. A matchbox has no place in modern Solomon Islands society.

Honiara is designated a city.  It was never meant to be a rubbish dump.  We should take more pride in our city.

Lynnold M. Wini