Thursday, December 17, 2009

Getting The Pip

One of the pleasures that come with the start of summer is the arrival of new seasons fruit. After months of controlled atmosphere apples and kiwi fruit, it is such a relief to see fresh strawberries, peaches and plums available again.

In winter and spring fruit prices usually rise along with tomatoes, but over the last few years I have been pleased to see apples and pears remain at affordable prices. Sadly, I heard in the news that apple and pear orchardists have been suffering to make this possible. Some of them are pulling up their trees because of very low returns in comparison with other land uses.

One of the major complaints seems to be the loss of ENZA as a co-operative with single desk overseas marketing powers. Today, there are many exporters who compete to get overseas customers and this has apparently made them price takers instead of price makers. As a result, apple and pear growers are expected to cope with second and third world incomes.

A similar situation now seems to exist in the meat and wool sector after the disbanding of the Wool Board. On the other hand, Fonterra (dairy products) and Zespri (Kiwi fruit) appear to have done much better. I suspect that this is due to the unified grower support that helped them to successfully fend off the packs of asset stripping monetarists that were let loose the 1980s.

Ever since then, I have noticed the name of Tony Gibbs frequently appearing in the headlines as he accumulated a fortune as an entrepreneur. Lately, his connection to Turners and Growers has led him to take on Zespri after successfully supporting the privatising of ENZA.

So far, over eighty percent of Zespri’s share holding growers have stood firmly against changes - with many stating their fear of sharing the same fate as apple growers. Our Government has noted that support and also rejected any changes, but Tony Gibbs is not a man to give in easily. It looks as tho’ he ‘got the pip’ and is now off to the Courts to force a legal settlement.

Kiwi fruit growers have every reason to be concerned and I hope the Government will maintain its power to over rule the courts if a decision goes against Zespri remaining a co-operative with sole exporting rights. I have yet to be convinced that monetarist theories of wealth producing “Free Markets” (whatever that means) without regulation actually work in practice.

In the New Zealand situation, competitive inputs (e.g. private land ownership, market set costs) and co-operative outputs (single desk marketing) seem to produce consistently rising farm gate incomes. On the other hand, fragmented competition in all areas of production and marketing seems to produce falling incomes – due largely to powerful corporate overseas buyers being able to depress prices.

You can see this sort of thing in nature as well. If we did not have national parks and wildlife sanctuaries then most of our unique native birds and trees would soon become extinct. I would be surprised if many tourists would come here just to see the same sparrows and pine trees that they have back home.

Perhaps Mr. Gibbs does not fancy sharing his home patch at Matakana with the Kakas and Bellbirds that are spreading out from Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier island reserves. If I was in his shoes I would be delighted to lose a few mandarins that way.

Until the day when Fair and Free Trade is agreed on by all the great economic powers in the world, I think co-operatives like Fonterra and Zespri should continue to get Government support. Why mess with organizations that work well for their members and produce overseas funds that enable us to maintain our standard of living? If it means paying a bit more to keep them going, then so be it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Scotch On The Rocks

Scotch On The Rocks

“When you reach my age my boy, I think you will find that you will enjoy eating raw oysters, join the Lodge and even get to like the taste of the finest whisky.” I looked up at my father and wondered what the heck he was on about. After giving it some thought, I decided that it must have something to do with the amber coloured stuff that he was sipping from a cut crystal glass.

“Enjoy raw oysters!” he must have been pulling my leg. No way was I going to let something, that resembled the insides of a squashed hedgehog, go down my throat. As for joining a lodge, well I could see no attraction there either. Who in their right mind would want to dress up like a penguin in a tuxedo and recite mysterious texts wearing an apron covered with gold embroidery?

Of course, in time, things change and some of his prophecies have come true. I am sure he would be pleased to see that I do indeed now enjoy raw oysters dipped in vinegar. But I would think he would be sad to see my lack of interest in Freemasonry. I suspect tho’ that he might put his disappointment aside over a wee dram or two of whiskey, if our conversation shifted into the lofty realms of politics and ideas.

I bet he would have been as intrigued as I was when I heard that a team of Kiwis are heading down soon to the Antarctic to unearth a box full of Shackleton’s whisky. Shackleton must have left it behind after an abandoned attempt in 1909 to be first to reach the South Pole. It was buried beneath a building (which is still there today) and has remained stuck the permafrost ever since.

Whisky connoisseurs all over the world have shown a lot of interest in the expedition, especially the present owners of the McKinlay brand that made the whisky. They might even be able to extract some and perhaps recreate a kind of ‘Polar Explorers Brew’. It is likely to be peaty in flavour (a style trend at that time) and hopefully the bottles were stored standing up, which would minimise any cork damage that might allow air to leak in to spoil the treasure.

The descendents of Scottish emigrants to New Zealand are the second largest cultural/ethnic group here and they have had a huge impact on our culture. Curiously enough, many of their hardy Scots ancestors showed a strong preference for plain living and religious Puritanism and wanted to see the end of whisky as a legal beverage. In 1919, a referendum almost banned the consumption of alcohol, but returning troops only just tipped the balance the other way.

It all seems very strange now, however I have seen alcoholism destroy lives and I can see why the prim and proper wowsers wanted to take the dreaded alcohol away from us all. Like many other tempting drugs, whisky can mask underlying social ills and personal problems. The poet Robbie Burns certainly did not help matters when he wrote this poem in 1785.

Gie him strong drink until he wink, that’s sinking in despair;
An' liquor guid to fire his bluid, that’s prest wi' grief and care:
There let him bouse, an' deep carouse, wi' bumpers flowing o'er,
Till he forgets his loves or debts, an' minds his griefs no more.

These days we have other methods and medications that help us cope with sadness. So let them deal with that and allow us the pleasure of sharing good company with a drop or two of Caledonia’s gift of liquid amber. Robbie Burns was fond of whisky and it certainly did not stop him writing his amazing poems and songs. He was against pointless suffering and injustice and also opened our eyes to appreciate the natural beauty and the joys of life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Johnny Comes lately

He’s done it again! As we watched the unseemly ministerial squabble in the Beehive over who would get to bid for the New Zealand rights to televise Rugby World Cup – in rode sheriff John Key. In no time at all, they were back into the Heavenly Choir of Coalition Compromise singing something like the same song.

No wonder his poll ratings are soaring to record highs. TV3’s Reid Research Poll has John Key at 55.8% in the Preferred Prime Minister stakes and opposition leader Phil Goff at 4.7%. However, Key’s decisive interventions in this affair and the Super City wrangle, raises questions in my mind why he allows cabinet ministers to make independent stands on issues without consulting one another. This is so very different from Helen Clark’s style. She had staff (like Heather Simpson) skilfully sorting out coalition compromises well before Government decisions were made. After nine years, she became so adept at it, that she gave me the impression of being almost a power freak who was in total control.

The last election proved we wanted something different and we certainly have got it. MMP means we can watch Parliament as a new kind of reality TV. For me at least, it is just as entertaining as a footy match. I watched Pita Sharples pull off a masterful interception and was heading for a certain World Cup try between the posts, when Murray McCully and Jonathon Coleman came in on the blind side and caught him right on the score line.

Alas, a video replay was called for and the try was disallowed. A disgruntled Pita Sharples cried foul and said the game was rigged. The ref threatened him with suspension for the rest of the season and Pita cooled off and said something like, “Hei aha, that’s MMP politics, you win some and you lose some. The seabed and foreshore game is the biggy, so let’s not let this get in our way.”

It appears the Government is going to ask voters at the next election whether we want MMP to continue or opt for another voting system. This is probably driven by hardcore conservatives and an influential elite who want to ditch MMP in favour of First Past the Post (FPP) or something similar.

I suspect that the public spats between coalition parties will provide more fuel to their argument that MMP is destabilising. I disagree with this point of view because I have been on too many committees to believe that going back to the old system will change MP’s behaviour. Any group of Kiwis from diverse backgrounds are bound to indulge in some ‘argy bargy’ from time to time – it is how we are.

What MMP does for us is to bring out into the open the various factions seeking power and we all have seats in the font row to watch the action. We now have a more diverse bunch of MPs ruling over us and I would hate to see us return to FPP. In that system, a lot of power broking was being done behind closed doors by a small number of people imposing unpopular decisions. It also had more potential to allow an autocratic leader to get control.

John Key has proved himself to be a masterful reader of public mood so far and he comes across as a good humoured listener and decisive when the situation demands it. I think he epitomisers some of the best sides of our national character, but just how long he can maintain this halo of popularity remains to be seen.

If he steers us safely thru’ the repealing of the Sea Bed and Foreshore Act he will deserve a knighthood. We might even see attempts to phase out the commonly used Kiwi greeting of “Gidday Mate” and replace it with a glowing endorsement like “Key Aura Bro” instead.

Getting Up Your Nose

I like dogs, but I prefer not to have one. Unlike a cat, they are closer to us in their natural behaviour and deserve almost as much attention as a child. If you cannot provide that care twenty-four seven and have some space to let them run around free, then (in my opinion) you are likely to impose an unhappy life on a beautiful animal. Cats are easier because they are more self-sufficient.

I explained this to my family many times while we lived in a small town. However, when my girls grew older we bought some land in the country and my argument began to wear a bit thin. I eventually found myself out voted and Cheka came into our lives.

She arrived from the animal shelter as a small pup with the assurance “An ideal family pet and she is not a big dog.” I took one look at her large paws and said I had my doubts about the “not a big dog” bit. I was silenced with, “What do you know about dogs Dad!”

With her inherited Alsatian/Rhodesian Ridgeback genes, Cheka did indeed grow to be a large and powerful dog. But I did not expect to be educated by such a responsive, loving and intelligent friend. When we went on our walks across the countryside, she revealed to me so many things I would normally have ignored – the most important was smell.

I would watch her sniff the air, think about it and then look at me as if to say, “Hey Dave smell that, could be worth investigating eh!” When I had the usual blank expression of the ‘smellologically handicapped’, she would flick her head forward, wag her tail and signal that she was going to show me anyway. I found myself trying hard to detect any odour I could find, but I never caught the faintest whiff of the possum or rabbit, which Cheka was determined to hunt.

Recent advances in technology have enabled us to gain a deeper appreciation of what a complex world of smells we live in. Businesses like Mind Lab in Britain have created a demand for their services from real estate and air freshener companies who are very interested in BO – Building Odour.

Mind Lab employ neuro-psychologists to investigate why people react instinctively to the unattractive smells other people give to buildings when they live in them. We now know why coffee, freshly cut flowers and baking smells are positive and sweaty, damp and musty smells are a turn off.

One day, door-to-door sales people might be able to carry a device that will give them a psychological profile of the occupants of a house even before they knock on the door. For example, I can imagine Apple (computers) bringing out a very handy ‘Odourama’ application, for their iPhone that could determine a prospective clients potential from their lingering smells around the entrance way.

Mind you, if I had any say in the matter, I would prefer to see research money being spent on inventing a device to enable us to communicate with dogs. Their sense of smell is thousands of times more developed than ours and can detect a change of character of other dogs or humans that surround them, just by smelling the slightest increase or decrease of their hormonal levels and their sweat.

As a spin off, we might also find out what ‘a man’s best fiend’ really thinks about us – which I suspect many dog owners would not find very flattering. When I think of Cheka tho’, an adaptation of a verse from a Cat Stevens song comes to mind, “Morning has broken like the first day…my dog has spoken like the first dog.” I would like to think she would have said she was really pleased to be with me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hooked on Housing

Rachael Carson has been quoted as saying, “Change is the only element of life which is constant.” How true that is, but there are times that I wish it did not move so quickly.

I was just getting used to the idea of a long drawn out recession when, ‘blow me down’, international trade has picked up and the banks are lending again. Dairy farmers are getting an increase in milk payouts too - even at a time when the New Zealand dollar has surged in value, making petrol and imported manufactured products more affordable.

Does that mean the recession is over and the warty ogre of depression has been sent to pack its bags? Will I need to stop dusting off books on self-sufficiency and gardening - like “Dig For Victory” that my father used in the last depression?

Some financial commentators are expressing caution and the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Allan Bollard, has voiced his concern about our love affair with houses as the best investment. He fears that an economic upturn will again suck in overseas capital to increase our unrealistic levels of debt and so begin the property boom and bust roller coaster all over again. Perhaps he was trying to influence a Government committee on tax reform that is working, somewhere deep in the Beehive, on sorting out how tax policies have allowed harmful distortions in our economy.

Thirty years ago, when I bought my first property, it took about three times the average wage to buy a house. Today, it takes six to seven times the average wage to do the same. This must put an incredible amount of strain on young families. If I was in their situation, I would feel quite resentful seeing so many affluent Baby Boomers renting out several houses to those who cannot afford to buy them. They also seem to pay very little tax on speculative gains while claiming expenses against their other incomes.

How this came to pass would take more room than this column allows, but suffice to say, the Government wants to change this situation where too much money is being stored in paper values instead of productive enterprises.

One method to change this is a capital gains tax. However, these words put a chill down the spines of most property owners and it would be a very brave government to attempt to bring it in and employ bureaucrats to enforce it. Much more likely would be incentives to invest elsewhere, or even some coercion to save more.

In Australia there is a compulsory superannuation scheme that has an age limit before you can access it or pay your house off with the accumulated funds. These funds are now huge and I think this is how they managed to cope with the current recession much better than most other countries. We benefited too, because many of our banks are Australian owned and were therefore protected from the worst effects of the international ‘credit crunch’.

Another complicating factor in high property prices is the fact that the human population in our world is expanding and there is only so much land to go around. Our present foreign investment and tax laws are attractive to land hungry investors and this puts further pressure on land prices.

A recent article that I read in the Economist magazine claims that some of the enormous trade surpluses being accumulated by Asian and oil rich Arab states are being used secure land in Africa to grow food for their investors. This sounds very laudable, but in some cases aid money from elsewhere is being spent feeding starving people who have to watch food grown in their area being exported.

Obviously, Government reforms will have to factor in the risk that the same could happen here if we undervalue our independence and opportunity to own our own piece of dirt.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Farmers Go Ape Over Palm Kernel Imports

More Weddings And A Funeral

Writing this column can be a risky business, especially when I have a look at political issues. Events can quickly change in the time it takes to complete a draft with my pen and the printing of the paper – and when I looked at the creation of Auckland’s ‘Super City’ this week, the situation was changing day by day.

Auckland is certainly in need of local body reform and a Royal Commission on the matter gave its findings to the Government earlier this year. Local bodies, MPs and other vested interests persuaded a government committee to change the boundaries proposed, but excluded the recommended separate Maori representation.

At first these changes meant that the Kaipara District would gain the northern half of the Rodney District. However the Rodney Mayor, Penny Webster and others have managed to persuade John Key to return Rodney back to the Super City. The wishes of Kaipara’s mayor, Neil Tiller, to get control of the Kaipara Harbour and its rural hinterland, remain unfulfilled.

The Minister for Local Government, Rodney Hide, is one of the prime movers and shakers of the Super City reforms and it is curious to often hear him advocate “One man, one vote” as a cornerstone of democracy and yet deny Maori representation. He has also not offered residents in the greater Auckland area a vote on which area they would like to be in. Instead he has gone along with good old-fashioned “squeaky wheel” democracy.

This is probably the due to the prime ministerial power of John Key who effectively uses his skills as a risk management professional. His pragmatic approach appears to involve flying kites of intention, keeping the parts that have popular support and then ditching the rest without losing the essentials he was after.

Helen Clark labelled him “Mr Flip Flop”, but this label did not stick to him for very long. I would favour the name “Johnny Jandals”. I still have a pair of jandals that are proudly made in New Zealand and sure enough, you can hear if jandal wearers are about by the “flip flop, flip flop” sound they make.

Time and time again, I see John Key using a political style that reminds me so much of Sir ‘Kiwi Keith’ Holyoake, who oversaw an unparalleled period of prosperity in New Zealand. He kept most of the previous Labour Government’s reforms in place and encouraged New Zealand owned businesses to expand in a more market orientated economy - free from unfair trading practices employed by international competitors. Thanks to him, I was not sent to Vietnam as a National Service conscript and I lived to earn a good income from my craft.

Rodney Hide is another kettle of fish altogether. He says that he supports the principles of democracy and yet he appears to me to have autocratic tendencies by the way he has managed the establishment of the Super City. Whenever I draw him in a cartoon I cannot help following the tradition of other cartoonists who depict him as the Rottweiler of New Zealand politics.

On the plus side, I think he makes a useful contribution to New Zealand politics by representing a small but influential constituency – even so, I can feel his enjoyment of power as I watch him pursue his ideological ambitions. Thankfully, there are few like him and so far he seems willing to accept John Key’s leadership.

Green Party spokesperson, Sue Kedgely, says that Rodney wants to asset strip local bodies in the same way the various monetarist government regimes stripped nationally owned assets in the nineteen eighties and nineties. He denies this and it remains to be seen if the wedding of Auckland local bodies into a Super City will also mean a funeral for existing social infrastructure that culturally enriches all of the community and protects its poorer residents.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pigging Out

What is it about pigs lately? First it was ‘Swine Flu’ and then pigs in pens. Now politicians are being compared to pigs with their snouts in the trough, as their accommodation and travel allowances are exposed to public scrutiny.

I have often wondered why house speculation profits were not taxed like any other source of income. When I read about the goings on in Parliament over the accommodation perks, the missing part of the taxation jigsaw fell neatly into place. Many politicians own more than one house and some are doing ‘very nicely thank you’ out of real estate speculation and renting their surplus houses back to the State and collecting several parliamentary allowances.

Some might say that comparing politicians with pigs is an insult to an animal that is as noble as any other. The pictures I have seen of pigs in the wild show them as naturally clean and not much sign of the vices that we normally associate with their kind.

Obviously, pigs in captivity are a different matter altogether as they modify their behaviour in confined living conditions. This can result in two victims. Unhappy dysfunctional pigs and consumers who unknowingly eat their meat, which some chefs and nutrition experts say is very unhealthy to eat.

Perhaps we are doing the same to the politicians by penning them into parliament and in that situation we should not be too surprised to find that they take full advantage of having access to the pubic purse. No wonder the newspapers are running headlines of suspected abuse.

Pigs are more than intelligent than is commonly thought and a pig farmer told me that they responded to human conversation and also used their own language of at least twenty-six different sounds. This was brought home to me when a neighbour once invited me in for a cup of tea. While she was busy in the kitchen I saw a pig trotting into the living room. It grunted as it passed and made itself quite at home by stretching out on the carpet by the ranch-slider, to enjoy the winter sun.

I turned to my host and said, “Ahhhh…. Sylvia there’s pig in you house. Would you like me to give you a hand to get rid of it and help you get it back into the pen. “Oh, no need for that.” She replied, “It’s just George and he often wanders in and out.”

She could see that I was not totally convinced and so she continued, “He’s a Kunekune pig Dave and he knows not to make a mess in the house.” George looked at me from under his tufty eyebrows and appeared to grin and jiggle his tassels.

He has inspired me to make a brilliant suggestion to help solve the problem of some politicians misbehaving like perky pigs. Before we tick their boxes every three years, perhaps like Kunekunes, we should be shown some definite and reassuring evidence that they are house trained before they enter Parliament.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eat Your Crusts??

Did your parents make you eat your crusts? Mine did and often reminded me that there were millions of starving people in world that would be grateful to have such food. I suggested once that we post mine to them, but that went down like a lead balloon and my father said something like, “Come on Dai, eat them up, they’ll put hairs on your chest.”

Now that was a more compelling incentive for a young boy, but I did notice that my crust eating older sister did not have hairs sprouting out of her cleavage. For quite a few years I suspected that she secretly shaved them off like she did with the hairs on her legs.

When it came to raising my own children, I encountered the same resistance to crust eating and it did not worry me. For all I cared, the chooks could have any leftovers. My wife however, had a few sharp words to say about this, because she thought that it was wasteful and impolite to leave crusts on your plate. My attitude was coloured by reading books on nutrition that said; when children are given the opportunity, they will usually chose what is naturally good for them.

I knew that the radiated crust of a loaf was not as nutritious as the rest and so I was not surprised to learn, in a 2002 news item, that a research project on crusts (and other foods) had revealed that they had high levels of acrylamide. This is a chemical that is thought to be carcinogenic and is found in dangerously high levels in foods that are roasted, fried and baked. It can also be found in products such as coffee, some plastics and cigarette smoke.

This might well explain how cancer can strike individuals who seem to lead a healthy lifestyle. Radiation and frying changes organic molecules in a very unnatural way and most of us know that bread jammed in the toaster eventually turns to carbon, which is indigestible.

Our ancestors have of course eaten roasted and fried food for thousands of years and survived better than the raw food enthusiasts, who were probably exposed to more pathogenic bacteria and parasites. These dangers can be dealt with now by other means and in the U.S.A., the conservative FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has issued warnings about eating acrylamide rich foods such as chips, biscuits, roasts and fries etc.

The Processed Food industries quickly resisted these findings and raised a political storm that forced the FDA to do further research before coming to conclusions that would affect their revenues. That research is ongoing and its findings have received very little publicity. You can google the site and watch the progress. Results so far have indeed confirmed the presence and dangers of acylamide in our Western diet.

Does this mean in future that we will no longer smell the seductive aroma of coffee and toast in the morning if we want to stay healthy? Will visits to a bakery be a fond and distant memory like lighting up a cigar or puffing away on a favourite pipe?

Fear not, the cavalry is on its way with new research to confuse us. A study, presented in the European Journal of Cancer Research, suggests that there is an anti-cancer chemical (pronyl-lysine) in bread crusts that might reduce the high levels of colon cancer. Genetically engineered fungus is also getting into the act and its creators claim that it will block the action of acrylamides in fried and roasted foods.

So, do crusts put hairs on your chest or fears in your breast? Thank goodness we are fortunate to have a huge range of food to eat compared to our ancestors. We can increasingly make informed choices to what tastes good and improves our wellbeing, regardless of the advice in old wives tales and social conditioning.

Friday, July 31, 2009


This winter seems to be wetter and colder than most –but on the upside, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the past year and share our stores and time with whanau and friends. Some of the local wildlife seem to want to share my stores as well and the most annoying thieves are rats. They usually try and get to my pumpkins before I do, but this year they had to make do with an open bag of blood and bone.

Ever since I moved into the country, I have been battling rats. In my first country garden, I inadvertently created a kind of underground ‘Ratatropolis’ when I buried our kitchen waste as compost. I was worried about rat poison killing our pets, so I decided to try another means to snuff them out.

I knew that LPG was heavier than air and so I got rid of some unwanted butane by releasing it into one of their tunnels and blocking off all the exits I could find. I then gave into my addiction to pyrotechnics and tossed a lighted match down. The effect was immediate and not a method of rat removal that I would recommend. With a deep boom, the explosion blew compost and vegetables all over the place. Rat casualties – nil!

All thru’ history, the rat seems to have got a lot of bad press with its association with plagues and famines. The mere sight of a rat these days can activate aggressive behaviour in people and I well remember another episode of this, during a family gathering after my father-in-law died.

When the service ended, we returned to the family home and as usual, the women chatted softly over cups of tea inside. I joined the men in the yard outside as they opened a keg of beer and lit up their pipes and cigarettes. The general mood was gloomy, but it soon changed when we heard a woman screaming as she opened a rubbish bag.

We all turned and saw a huge rat jump out and run across the yard. When it saw us, it paused for a moment and then made the fatal mistake of making a beeline towards the incinerator and trying to hide inside. Several men jumped into action and quickly blocked off the grate and shut the lid. Someone else went into the garage and came back with some petrol, which he generously sprinkled into the incinerator. The poor rat did not stand a chance. Within seconds it was dispatched in a raging inferno of flames and smoke.

In those days, most men wore dark suits and ties to funerals and we must have looked like some kind of ancient religious sect burning a sacrifice to drive away any evil spirits that might endanger the dead. If it worked, I hope it did the trick and took my father-in-law to place his wife was sure his troubles would no longer rattle him.

However, I am sure my Animal Rights friends would have a dim view about the fate of the rat. Perhaps it is time to take a more kindly view of this furry little animal that defies all our efforts of eradication and insists that we share a part of our harvests with them. I can think of no better way of doing this than spending a chilly winter’s night watching the DVD of Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’. It is a masterpiece of animation and I have watched it with amazement and laughter, many times.

It tells the story of a young rat named Remy who dreams of becoming a master chef. After surviving a series of mishaps, he strives to succeed in achieving his goals and changing the status of rats forever in human eyes. If you have not seen this movie, I recommend you buy or rent it. It is really funny and visually delicious!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Flights Of Fancy

Now that the David Bain retrial is over, I guess that it is no co-incidence that the media is once again focusing on how we treat incarcerated offenders in general.

You might be, like me, somewhat ashamed to live in a country that ranks second in the world (behind the USA) for the number of prisoners per head of our population held in jails. Not surprisingly, we have been warned that we will soon run out of cells and so the Government is looking at its options as it faces a declining tax take during a recession.

It is a sad fact that it would be probably cheaper to send inmates on a world cruise on a luxury liner than building a new prison to house them. This situation crossed my mind when I saw that the Hon. Minister of Corrections, Judith Collins, was “floating the idea” of building containers to house offenders. I could see containers being filled with double bunkers and then stacked high on ships to be moved away into international waters. Once out there, low paid non-unionised Asian staff (with Khmer Rouge experience perhaps) could deal with prisoners until they were reformed enough to be gratefully returned to New Zealand.

However, the minister intends only to use containers to extend the capacity of existing prisons. Perhaps she has been reading at the same trendy architecture/design magazines that I have been looking at recently. They show, if you use some imagination, that you can indeed create very affordable and attractive pieces of accommodation out strictly function steel boxes.

The next questions I see arising will be: where are these converted containers going to come from and how much will they cost the taxpayer? I have seen figures quoted that range from $53,000 to $60,000. Now that appears incredibly high, but I suppose that it would be cheaper than building a prison that costs $643,000 per inmate.

Judith Collins initially said that there would be scope for prisoners to build their own cells (hence the above cartoon). A group trying to get poor people housed, have come out and said that this was a wonderful opportunity to kill two (jail) birds with one stone.

This scheme would give prisoners skills and a tax free asset to take with them when they leave. It would make them more employable and ease the pressure on the State Housing stock and prisons by encouraging more home detentions as a part of a prisoner’s parole.

I think we are onto some very useful lateral thinking here and I can envisage some additional uses for prison built containers, which could be built to be moved easily. If you put them on trucks they would make ideal mobile homes for seasonal workers.

Unfortunately, I doubt if Judith Collins does much lateral thinking and large numbers of inmates are very likely to be boxed up in places of ‘containment’ – to borrow an American expression from the dark days of the Vietnam War.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Wheel of Fortune

For some unknown reason, I seem to get a lot of phone calls from polling agencies. I would like to think that I have some special kind of social status in the community, but I suspect that polling is a big business in New Zealand and I am usually near to my home to pick up random phone calls.

The latest survey call was from a very polite young lady who asked me questions about the ads on TV depicting the consequences of gambling addiction. With some prompting, I did seem to remember seeing images of self abuse and feeling mystified why people get addicted to gambling.

Later on, I gave it some more thought and realized that there are all kinds of addictions and one that most Kiwis got hooked on was gambling on Monetarism (Rogernomics) as the best economic policy to get wealthier. This resulted in taking part in short term speculative gains (house and land price rises) that are now being eroded away by the current recession. For example, I have heard that the returns from milk for dairy farmers in New Zealand over the last twenty years have doubled, but the price of farms has gone up seven times.

If you want to make things or grow produce commercially in NZ, one of the biggest difficulties you have to deal with is the way our Government chooses to use a floating exchange rate to help regulate our economy. There are many economists who agree and disagree with this policy and I have not got space here to discuss their points of view. What really interests me is what is happening in the global market place and seeing if our trading policies are working well for New Zealand.

To get a take on what is happening overseas, just imagine how you would have to cope if the NZ internal economy operated like the global economy - where districts (or provinces) had their own exchange rate that was changed daily by professional gamblers in the Sky City Casino. To further complicate matters, some districts would also set their exchange rates to ensure a continual economic advantage over other districts.

If you travelled around NZ, imagine how frustrating it would be trying to work out the going rates every day so you could control your spending and income expectations in localities only a few hours from your front door. I think it would be incredibly complicated, inefficient and unfair.

Obviously, in our domestic economy, we need a single exchange rate for commerce to run efficiently along with one main language, commercial and social laws etc. Perhaps there is a solution here to help the World's economic woes by eventually having one world currency and the same commercial standards.

A logical place to start would be to get an exchange rate parity and a real free trade deal with Australia; then (in steps), negotiate the same sort of arrangement with the U.S.A., Canada, the Euro, Sterling, the Yen etc. If a shared exchange rate became established, as it does within our domestic economy, we would know at last the real costs of goods and services.

This concept might help stem the wealth transfer taking place between the West and Asia and allow wealth to be generated within each country influenced by its own natural advantages. It might also help environmentally by establishing the real cost of transport.

Initially, in New Zealand, export prices might fall. However quotas and tariffs would disappear and the economies of scale would reduce costs. Spending power would increase greatly and so input costs would decline as well.

I heard President Obama on the radio this morning saying that his government will strive to lift his country out of the recession by reforming the finance sector and promoting ‘Fair and Free Trade”. Could we do the same here? I would say “Yes We Can”.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

City Slickers

Buzzing Off

I have often heard tourists from Britain say how much the Kaipara landscape reminds them of home. This is not surprising of course, because most of the pioneer settlers came from there and brought with them the trees and the farming practices they were familiar with.

The traffic has not been all one way it seems. Flatworms, that are native to New Zealand, have somehow hitched a ride to Britain and are now causing havoc there. They are gobbling up millions of plumb British earthworms that farmers depend on to maintain the health of the soil. Apparently, just like the possums in New Zealand, they have no natural enemies to keep their numbers in check.

One British MP was reported to have said that the public should… “Tread on it, or pour something hot or salty on top of it.” This pearl of wisdom was questioned by another politician who asked, “Are you sure it’s effective to stamp on a worm that is already flat?”

Not all species native to our country are unwelcome in the UK I am pleased to say. Many gardeners there are including New Zealand plants to liven up their landscaping and I have seen photos of our cabbage trees “bringing a touch of the subtropics” to coastal areas of Scotland.

Even the humble Manuka has been planted by British apiarists to provide the magical manuka honey that is now so much in demand world wide for its healing properties. It is bound to escape into the wild and who knows, it might enjoy living there as much as gorse does here.

It seems our wildlife is not the only a source of desirable species. We have also been seen as a kind of Noah’s Ark for the Short Haired Bumble Bee that is now extinct in England. Small populations have been found in the South Island and so a hundred or so ‘Buzzy Bumbles’ have returned to their original territory.

Scientists hope to breed them up and release them into the wild to boost the declining populations of bumblebees there. Oddly enough, English farmers have been adopting the “more efficient” agricultural practices we see in New Zealand and this has put a lot of pressure on their wildlife and upsetting the natural balance in the countryside.

Rural England can no longer be generally described as a land of picturesque villages nestled into a landscape of pastures hedgerows and woodlots. Today, highways, urban expansion and ‘prairie farming” (without hedgerows) are putting pressure the ecological balance in the environment.

Sadly, it appears the little shorthaired bumblebee threw in the towel after being there for thousands, or even perhaps millions of years. I can see that there is a warning for us here, on our beautiful South Pacific Island, to take better care of the countryside and the bush.

At a time when we all need as much foreign exchange as possible to pay off our overseas debts, this kind of ‘eco-export’ could be the way to go. I can think of some more surplus introduced inhabitants here, that are on the protected species list in their country of origin – wallabies and possums.

Just imagine how pleased the Aussies will be to see thousands of their beloved marsupials bounding down the gangplanks put down by live shipment boats from New Zealand. They must surely be wondering how to restock their burnt out countryside after the devastating bush fires last summer. So, we ought to be able to corner the market and name the price.

What a “Lucky Country” they are to have us so nearby to help them out in their hour of need and also at the same time help us humanely remove our pests. Obviously, it would be a win/win situation for both countries and it goes to show that nothing is ‘impossumble’ when you use your imagination.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Junking Out

A Northland farmer has found an economic way to keep his cows happy when grass growth slows down - by getting reject biscuits and surplus bread from Auckland factories.

Monsters Vs Aliens

When I read that the various satellite cities and districts around Auckland were going to be herded into one Super Auckland City by the Government, I was very surprised to say the least. The Auckland area has, right from the very beginning, been an unruly congregation of competing voices and I did not think they would generally accept a centralised unity imposed upon them.

Mayor Banks obviously sees himself as the best contender to be Lord Mayor of a massively enlarged Auckland City. With his historical links to the National Party, he seems to think he has exclusive access to the ear of Government and dismisses any organized resistance to the current plan as the work of “Low flying seagulls” and ‘rain dancers”.

He will certainly keep the media busy as groups jostle for control of what will probably be the second most powerful political organization in the nation. Of particular interest to Kaipara folk is the fate of Wellsford, which has yet to be decided on.

Mark Farnsworth, chairman of the Northland Regional Council, has been quoted in the Northern Advocate saying, “The reality is that if Northland decided on the same model, we could do it tomorrow.” This sounds all very ominous to me and yet somewhat familiar.

I recall well the time I spent near Waipu before the Whangarei County Council amalgamated with Whangarei City. The County Council was very supportive when I applied for approval to set up a studio and I remember warmly the help I received from the local building inspector.

When I built my studio he called in and inspected the site and was a great help as he advised me all the way thru’ the design and construction stages. He also dropped in on his way to other jobs to check on problems while our house was being built. Without his help, we might well have ended up with a house full of the same problems suffered by the many “leaky homes” being built at that time.

Ten years later, I was doing some alterations and I was disappointed to hear that he had taken a job with the Kaipara District Council. So I went instead to another building inspector who used to work only in the city area.

I was confronted with a little man with a tight face who had quite a different attitude altogether. This building inspector was having a personal chat with a tradesman friend (who was not in the queue) and I suspect he was annoyed to be interrupted by a bearded hippie type like me. I asked for advice and got this reply.

“Now look here Sunny Jim, I’m not here to waste my time on stuff like that! Go find an engineer to draw it up, sign it off and I’ll look at the plan.” I then explained that I was going to do it myself. He got quite shirty and told me to clear off. As I left I turned and saw him laughing derisively with his mate as they watched me leave.

I was short off funds and really annoyed at having to pay a hefty fee for something I could do myself. Looking back, I think this episode nicely illustrates the difference between urban and rural ways of doing things.

In cities, people are more specialised and trade their skills at a premium. In the country, on the other hand, people need to be more self sufficient, multi-skilled and co-operate to cut costs.

If Mark Farnsworth is hinting that Northland should have one ‘monsterous’ Northland council to fend off the ‘aliens’ in the south - then I hope the Kaipara preserves its rural way of doing things if this idea becomes a reality. I believe we have something special here and we should be prepared to do what ever is necessary to preserve it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Because He's There

Two very different people found their way into the public spotlight recently when the question arose (once again) - who really got to the top of Mount Everest first?

The late Sir Edmund Hillary is still the top contender for most people. However, in England, there is a determined bunch of Poms who want to contest this and the latest leader of the pack is the notorious author/politician, Jeffrey Archer.

It appears to me that these celebrities fall into two camps. One has almost stumbled into public acclaim by pursuing his dreams and the other has sought the limelight by raking up a controversy.

Sir Edmund is arguably the most esteemed public figure in New Zealand’s history. He was an incredibly courageous achiever and a devoted family man who tragically lost his wife and daughter while helping the Sherpa people build schools and health clinics in the Himalayas. In New Zealand, we admired his modest and quietly determined character – a quality we Kiwis are often noted for.

Jeffrey Archer, on the other hand, has the reputation of being a discredited British Conservative politician who was jailed for two years on charges of perjury and obstructing the course of justice. When I saw his picture in the paper, unpleasant memories of the Thatcher era re-emerged and I was reminded of a very ruinous period in Britain’s social and industrial history. They are still paying the price and it is adding to cost of the current recession.

Archer’s other claim to fame is the ability to write a good yarn. Titles I can recall being very popular are, ‘Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less’, ‘First Among Equals’ and ‘Cat O’Nine Tails’ (Illustrated by Ronald Searl). He used the proceeds to avoid bankruptcy and writing has pulled him out trouble ever since.

Even when he was in prison he continued to write best sellers (Three volumes of ‘A Prison Diary’) and carried out research for his latest novel, ‘Paths Of Glory’. This book was published in March this year and makes the case for the Englishman George Mallory successfully climbing Everest in 1924.
The reaction in New Zealand was almost universally acidic. Mountaineer Graeme Dingle responded with, "He's dreaming. There's essentially no chance Mallory got to the top. All the evidence points to them not making it."

In 1999 Mallory’s body was found only 200 meters from the his goal, but his climbing partner, Andrew Irvine, has yet to be found. Mallory made a promise to place his wife’s photo at the summit and it was not found on his clothing. This has led to speculation that he might in fact have succeeded and was making his way down.

A crucial part of the evidence could be in Irvine’s clothing or pack, because he was the one who carried the Kodak camera. Despite the time factor, it is thought that the film would survive. The search is continuing.

A film clip I saw of Mallory in his climbing gear astounded me. Compared to Hillary and Tenzing, he was very lightly equipped – even for that time. Like Scott’s tragic Antarctic expedition he obviously belonged to the stoic British tradition of toughing it out – Man against Nature. It is very possible that he chose martyrdom ahead of safety and decided to soldier on to the summit despite the cost.

I guess we will possibly never find out the truth, but nothing can ever take away Sherpa Tenzing’s and Sir Ed’s amazing achievement and returning to tell the tale for many, many years afterwards.

I would not be at all surprised if the Poms tell us next that Hillary found more at the top than just snow and ask… “What did he mean when he said, ‘We Knocked the bastard off!’ Was it just one of those uniquely raw colonial expressions of achievement, or was it perhaps a Freudian slip?”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Potting Possums

Potting Possums

I would like to think that most people see me as a kind and considerate type of guy. However, my family says that this is just a front to mask the bloodthirsty killer that lurks within.

They are appalled at the personality change that takes place when I deal with possums. I have trapped them at night, shaken them out of trees (for the dog to dispose of) and swerved to imprint them with the tyres of my car.

It has been estimated that there are at least 70 million possums in New Zealand chewing their way thru’ our gardens and bush – so I have no qualms about sending another Aussie import to the Great Gum Tree In The Sky.

I must say that I am less inclined to use my present car for this task these days, because it is not fitted with metal bumpers. It has instead, plastic bumpers that are designed to reduce the damage on people and animals by collapsing on impact. I know to my horror just how expensive they are to repair or replace.

When I had a lifestyle block near Levin, I had a city boy’s reluctance to kill these furry raiders who were eating every fruit I grew there. I used to ring a local man who came to our place and killed them by grabbing their tails and swinging them several times before delivering a fatal blow with a spade.

When I told another friend how it was done, he said that he would give it a go too – so he reached into the cage, grabbed the tail and swung the possum. Somehow he lost his grip and I watched the possum fly skywards (minus the fur on his tail) and land in a nearby Karaka tree. He looked down at us with amazement and then he was gone. I never felt game enough to do this sort of stuff, so I drowned my prisoners after that.

As the recession bites deeper, I wonder if laid off workers and beneficiaries will be tempted to include possums on their menu. I know they are marketed overseas as “Kiwi Bears” to move them away from being associated with Australian wildlife and there seems to be a strong demand – especially in Asia.

This could be a thriving new industry for the Kaipara District and if we need some music to be used as an advertising theme, I know of one kiwi band who could be just right – ‘Fur Patrol’. They have a new (very good) cd out with the apt title, ‘Jingle King’.

I have never tried cooked possum, but I have heard that they are very nice in a stew. This culinary delight has not appealed to me ever since a relative gave me a lift home in his car after a wedding. It was late at night and yet that did not prevent him from stopping several times to pick up dead possums along the way. I can still remember vividly the stench wafting in from the rear of the hatchback.

I guess he wanted them for the fur and dog tucker. According to him, “There’s nothing better than possum to put a healthy sheen on a dogs coat.” The possum fur is of course becoming valuable once more as a blended fibre. When it is mixed with merino wool it makes very attractive and warm clothing.

If this sort of thing appeals to you, then I can really recommend the route from Paparoa to Oakleigh as a new source of income and protein. I have never seen so many dead possums on a road and alas, also the remains of harrier hawks scattered around them.

Now that drinking and driving is falling out of fashion, I wonder if the expression “one more for the road” will be replaced by “one more for the pot.”

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Tale Of Two Halves

A Tale of Two Halves

Living close to the Kauri Museum at Matakohe, means that I meet quite a few tourists and I often advise them about places to visit. I keep a Northland map handy and I have noticed that many women have a different way to approaching maps compared to men – especially when it comes to looking at locations close to Matakohe itself.

Men generally scan the map quickly and also ask if I have a larger map to see where the location fits in. Women often move the map around and line it up local features if the destination is close by. They are also inclined to write notes. I have read about this sort behaviour and I find it really interesting to observe it first hand.

A recent news report I came across confirms these sexual differences and added extra information on how both sexes react to works of art. Professor Francisco Aylaya, from a Californian university, has published the findings of his research that used magnetic field detectors to see which parts of the brain were being used when men and women were looking at art.

He found that men mostly used a zone on their right side and women used both sides. His study suggests that the right side is used for spatial awareness (seeing the big picture) and the left side focused on contextual relevance (seeing things close at hand and their connection to the surroundings).

Professor Ayala thinks that these differences have evolved to become hard wired ever since mankind became hunter-gatherers. Men tended to go on long hunting expeditions while most women stayed closer to the home base gathering nuts and fruits and dealing with other tribal activities.

When I think about this it makes me wonder what is going on in the left zone of men’s brains and the obvious answer came when I read an email sent to me from, of all people, a very staunchly feminist friend I know. At the top was picture of an old Native American chief with the title “Where did the White man go wrong” and below it was the following text.

“The Indian Chief, 'Two Eagles', was asked by a white government official, "You have observed the white man for 90 years. You've seen his wars and his technological advances. You've seen his progress, and the damage he's done."

The Chief nodded in agreement. The official continued, "Considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white man go wrong?"

The Chief stared at the government official for over a minute and then calmly replied. "When white man find land, Indians running it, no taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, clean water. Women did all the work, Medicine man free. Indian man spend all day hunting and fishing; all night having sex."

Then the chief leaned back and smiled. "Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that."

After reading this, I think perhaps many men need room upstairs for thoughts about women while out hunting and looking at art.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Dog's Tale

This cartoon was drawn to illustrate a tale about a farm dog that was locked up in the Pound for allegedly chasing a neighhbour's cat and threatening chickens.

Milking Monikers

Monikers Maketh More Milk

For most of my working life I have had farming neighbours and I have got on well with nearly all of them. My first impressions of how they lived and worked are still the most lasting and come from the time I fled the city to set up a studio in the country. I found a derelict farm house to rent and in order to get a regular supply of water, I had to sort out an arrangement with John, my sharemilking neighbour.

John had a British army background and he wasted no time in telling me what a lousy job it was - sloshing around in the mud and cow shit and putting up with bitterly cold southerly winds. To make the case clearer, he waved a piece of alkathene pipe in the direction of a few stragglers and roared profanities at the dog.

His milking shed looked like a battleground and it was so noisy, I left with my ears ringing. There was effluent all over the place and his young worker was just as agitated as the cows as he tried frantically to milk at the hectic pace that John had set.

My landlord, on the other hand, had quite a different approach. I went over to his place to have a chat once and as it happened, he too was finishing off a day’s milking. It was a balmy summer afternoon and we met by the railing around the yard.

He had the National Programme going at a moderate volume and the last of the cows were going thru’ the shed at a leisurely pace. While we were talking, a cow came up and sniffed around me. I stepped back (not wanting to get goobed on) and to my surprise Frank reached out and scratched her topknot, which she seemed to really like.

Frank explained that he knew this one as a heifer when she was struggling to survive and needed extra TLC. I gave her a scratch as well, keeping an eye on her huge salivary tongue. The farm worker gave me a smile when he saw me nervously approach the cow and I could tell he liked his job by the way he whistled along with a familiar tune on the radio.

I came away with a different view about farming and thought to myself “Now that’s the way to do it.” Because I had seen this way of working, it was not surprising for me to hear this week that naming cows could increase production.

Research results from Newcastle University in the UK indicate that this practice can yield up to 284 litres of milk annually. Keeping track of hundreds of cows this way might seem crazy at present. However, when robots take over in the near future, farmers might use the same automated voice recognition technology that Telecom employs to milk its customers.

“Hello Daisy, please tell me in a few moos how your day has been while I connect you to a machine that can help.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shadow on the Wall

Shadow On The Wall

My family caught me by surprise this Christmas with a new time eating distraction. I am now the proud owner of an iPod that has been loaded with heaps of music (most of which I have never heard before) and the full length movie “Transformers”.

It was a nice gesture, but what really made my heartbeat quicken was the microphone attachment that came with it. This nifty device plugs into the base of the iPod and it has boosted a hobby of mine, which is composing music. Up till now, I have used a tape recorder and struggled to get my tunes and songs out in a form my friends can easily hear – or to put into some form of notation for other musicians to play.

Owning an iPod has put me into the iTunes world and so I have become a member of the ‘cool generation’ of downloaders. I can make mp3 recordings, add extra bits to them in ‘Garage Band’ and send them over the Internet. I can also view movies that I take with my digital camera and add them to the movie theatre I carry in my pocket.

I was as happy as Larry until I heard a BBC radio programme recently, called Digital Planet (RNZ National 5.30 am Sat. morning). iPods were mentioned while they were talking about the emergence of our “digital shadows”. They explained that this term can be loosely defined as the recorded trail we leave behind us when we use the internet, cell phones and the digital surveillance cameras that detect our activities in public places.

In the days when analogue data (film, tapes etc.) was king, it was very difficult to assemble the huge amount of material recording our daily lives. Not so today! The Digital Age is upon us and believe or not, the activities of almost everyone on Earth can now be quickly detected.

Using reliable research from the International Data Group (IDC), it has been estimated that in 2007 the average amount of digital information being held for every person alive was about 45 gigabytes (GB) of data (1 GB = approx. 700 photos on my camera). Since then, it has been estimated to be growing at a rate of 60% a year.

This is scary stuff! It is like being told that there are more stars in the Universe than all the grains of sand on every beach on Earth. My minds boggles - and when I hold my iPod in my hands I now get a sinister feeling that I am being detected by the nerve ending of a gigantic new monster that we have created.

My misgivings were not helped much when I found out that a lot of this information is being mathematically broken down into useful data by “Numerati”. This term was coined by Stephen Baker, who wrote a book on how this data finds its way to those selling consumer goods, services and political influence.

No wonder I am getting so much spam, junk mail and offers over the phone. I have noticed lately that the spam I receive in particular, is looking more and more attractive, but I dare not open their attachments for fear of picking up the electronic equivalent of STDs.

In places like China, the government trawls the Internet 24 hours a day for any signs of political dissent or moral corruption that might upset its power base. In places like that, older technologies might be a safer bet for personal safety. In this country, analogue recording will more likely protect your privacy more from the prying eyes and ears of marketing types. Mind you, some animal rights people in NZ have good reasons to avoid the pointless attention of the SIS as well.

I heard a film archivist say recently that we should not be too eager to throw away our VHS recorders, tapes and films. He said they could be repaired mechanically if they get damaged and can last a long time if carefully looked after. I like my iPod, however hardcopy media can still offer us a safe and more uniquely personal experience than the digital shadows of our former selves.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Key Aura

Key Aura!

It was a holiday that Nick had been looking forward to for ages. He had been counting down the last days at school as he crouched over his desk scribbling words and numbers into his (“Could do better”) work books. He could not stop day dreaming of beaches and surf, as he watched the chalk dust drifting lazily to the floor.

When the holidays finally began, there were the usual family arguments at home over what to take or leave behind. Nick’s parents wanted “quality time away from it all”; whatever that meant. To Nick, it had sounded like being sentenced to a week of boredom away from Sky TV.

His mood lifted tho’, when they agreed to take along with them his best mate Tama and Rufus, his floppy eared Labrador. They were all soon travelling north and Nick began to catch tantalising glimpses of the deep blue sea between the passing hills of green farmland.

When at last the car wheels came to rest on the sandy car park Rufus bounced out first, followed by Nick and Tama. They raced up the nearest sand dune and were disappointed to see that the ocean was still some distance away. Nick felt the unpacking and raising the tent took far too long, but eventually they were on their way to the water.

The boys had not gone far down he track however, when they came across an old corrugated iron shack, with “The Foreshore and Seabed Act Sux” painted on the side. While they were having a nosey inside Nick’s Dad caught up with them. “Hey guys, get out of there, that’s private!” He said, calling them over.

“What does that mean Dad?” Asked Nick pointing at the writing. ”Not sure Nick, but I suspect the locals think they got a raw deal from our Government and they want more control over what goes on around the beaches and in the sea.” “Well I hope we can keep coming here if they win that court case they’re after.” Said Nick’s mum.

His dad chuckled the way he did when he was half serious, “Yeah well, maybe we will all have to get ID chips put in like old Rufus here to sort out who has more rights than others.”

The tide was out and the boys ran across the beach to test out their new boogie boards. They later got the call to come in for lunch and on their way back Nick saw a man, in some sort of uniform, talking to people digging up shellfish. Tama seemed to think he was a beach warden of some sort.

After a long and tiring day Nick and Tama were glad to get into their tent and they let Rufus curl up by the entrance. They talked a bit about who got the best wave and then both fell asleep. A couple of hours later tho’ Tama woke up when he heard Nick yelling. Tama gave Nick a poke with his torch to wake him.

“What’s up Bro? You having a nightmare or something?” Nick rubbed his eyes, “Yeah, I was being chased off the beach by a Maori guy like that Beach warden. He was waving a stick and trying to check if I had the right ID chip with some sort of scanning thing in his hand – scary eh!”

“Yeah, but that’s never goin’ to happen I reckon.” Said Tama. “You must have been worrying about what your dad said. My mum’s a pakeha and you know my Dad’s a Maori eh. Well, he said he couldn’t figure out why some people were blowing a fuse.”

Nick seemed more awake and slowly, some colour returned to his face, “You know what!” continued Tama, “Dad said, why worry about changing things – anyway, before long most of us will all be Iwi and paddling the same waka .”