Friday, October 22, 2010


A random collection of photos from around NZ
from the top

Pohutakawa in full flower Dec/Jan.

Belted Galloway cattle grazing on my sons farmlet.

Sunrise one day, somewhere

At my mother's where the family will gather this Sunday

Winter sun on Matarangi Beach

Central Otago near Ranfurly

Luxury transport Coromandel style

Old Purple Bus freedom camping, (boondocking), at the Firth Tower Museum, Matamata.

Another row that has international connections and affects every New Zealander whether we like it or not has erupted. I'm hoping it will resolve with reconciliation but there are some stroppy people out there.

An actors gripe over pay has turned nasty. I understand that actors want more security and better contracts. I also understand that acting has to be one of the most insecure careers and not everyone is going to take home Star studded dollars. In this case the union got involved, an Australian based Union at that, and decided to weigh in using Sir Peter Jackson's new film, The Hobbit, as bait. Warner Bros, (Time Warmer), are the giants behind this film and they looked across the Pacific and took fright. They have all but finalised their decision to take the film elsewhere. We are all sad and hoping against hope that Sir Peter will pull a rabbit out of the hat he doesn't wear.

There is a lot of anger and I'm as upset as any NZer. The Lord of the Rings film has brought fame to NZ in ways we could never have dreamed about. Tourists come in hordes to visit iconic sites from the film. Sir Peter Jackson has put us on the World Map. At a local level, for instance, the town of Matamata has become a tourist mecca. I find it highly amusing to think of tourists bearing down on this little country town where I was once a doctor's receptionist. My parents farmed next to the Hobbiton site for several years. Later Dad decided to give up fattening cattle and grow maize/corn and needed a greater acreage of flat arable land than our rolling hill farm provided.

The greatest damage will be to our Film Industry. It is quite possible this fiasco will wreck our budding movie industry before it matures. If Warner Bros follow through and pull out, all movie makers will become exceedingly cautious and many years of hard work by promoters, and other associated organisations wil be lost. The movie industry has enabled many talented and skilled people to flourish and make a good living. We are in danger of losing some assets which are national treasures. It would be a terrible loss if Weta Workshops, which developed technology and art to a high degree for Lord of the Rings moved their main operation off shore. They are at the cutting edge and to lose this place, where imagination, technology and art flourish in combination, could cripple the development of our current and future artists and craftsmen.

I am not a fan of Sir Peter Jackson's movies. I've tried to watch Lord of the Rings but don't like it at all. It's simply not my cup of tea. As far as I know Sir Peter has not made one movie I would want to see. At the same time I have a huge respect for the man and his achievements. A while ago we read his official biography, A Film-Makers Journey Sir Peter deserves every accolade he has received and I don't doubt for one minute he can also be very difficult as most people with genius and passion sometimes are.

We wait with baited breath to see if Peter Jackson and his team can persuade Warner Bros that The Hobbit can still be produced safely within budget in New Zealand. Some important people at Warner Bros are coming out to NZ next week. Hopefully our Sir Peter will succeed. He has the weight of our Government behind him. Our Prime Minister, John Key, might even be in on the talks.

Prime Minister John Key, who offered earlier this month to act as a mediator, said he would do everything he could to keep the project in New Zealand and protect its film industry.

"I think we have a strong position, but the industrial action from the unions and the threat of industrial actions ... have substantially undermined the confidence that Warner Bros has in New Zealand," Key told Radio New Zealand on Thursday.

"The government will have to sit down and talk to them about what we can do to restore that confidence."

It may look like a storm in a teacup but it affects too many lives to be taken lightly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010



Gethsemane Gardens, Sumner, Christchurch

A few days ago I wrote about some of my favourite places in New Zealand, Margie had written about her favourite places so I thought it would be a good idea to do the same for N.Z. I managed to find enough photos to write about three of my favourite North Island places.

The Open Chapel at Gethsemane Gardens

Since then Margie and Bruce have been killed in a senseless accident while walking at Pismo Beach, California. I was shocked but what surprised me was how much I'd come to love Margie and her family through her Blogs. During the last few days as I've processed my grief I've realised that I'm a pretty poor and erratic Blogger and I could do with learning a lot from Margie's example. She left me a gift. The knowledge that this Blogging Community is real. I'm not just writing for fun and finally clicking a key to send my work into a vague blue somewhere, nowhere. I'm writing in the hope someone will read and enjoy my stories and my photos. I am now learning to respect my readers. They deserve better han what I've been offering.

Overlooking Christchurch out to the Canterbury Plains from the Port Hills.

John was born in Christchurch, where his grandparents had brought up the New Zealand branch of this English family. They had four sons and one daughter, all of whom found careers and married in Christchurch although there were a few changes after the Second World War. After serving in the NZ Engineers for the duration, John's Dad built up a small business refitting leisure boats. He was a talented craftsman builder, and something of a perfectionist. After a few years the harbour began to silt up and the Sumner bar became too dangerous to continue in that place. Instead of re-locating John's Dad moved his wife and two sons to New Plymouth in the North Island, where he joined one of the cities premier building firms. John and I met while I was working at the New Plymouth Hospital.

On the Port Hills looking East away from the City over the southern end of Lyttleton Harbour

John dreamed of a career at sea so to that end he did an engineering apprenticeship with a company that did a lot of shipwork. When we met he had recently arrived back in NZ after twelve months on an oil tanker mostly in the Middle East. My first trip to the South Island was around 1962 when John was a junior ship's engineer on the Hinemoa, one of the Inter Island Ferries. We sailed across Cook Straight and down the East coast to Lyttleton through the night. I can't remember how we got from the Port to the City but maybe we caught the train because we visited John's grandparents and some other relatives. It all seems a long time ago.

Canterbury Car Club Vintage Rally 2010

My second trip to Christchurch was a year or so later. We travelled to the South Island for our Honeymoon in April 1963. Our little car, a '52 Ford Prefect, was loaded on the ferry in a cargo sling designed for cars. A lot different today when we drive right onto the cardeck and park before going to the upper passenger decks. I was sea sick so not in great shape when we got our car and immediately set off for our destination, Queenstown.

After two weeks we returned to Christchurch and stayed with John's cousin. We drove around the city visiting John's relatives and finding the various houses John had lived in and other significant landmarks, like schools he attended. I don't think I really appreciated the city then. It was more of a time for acquainting me with John's childhood.

We try to drive over to Akaroa if we are in Christchurch for a week or more. In March we visited the
Giant's House the home of artist Josie Martin. Josie continues to designed and build an amazing and whimsical sculpture garden.

John and I settled in the Waikato region of the North Island. My parents farmed near Matamata and this town became our centre as we brought up our four children, boy, girl, and two more boys. Our children grew up and began to make their own lives. I think our eldest must have been about 22 years old when he decided to tour the South Island on his motor bike. One thing lead to another and he bought a piece of land, originally about 25 acres, 45 minutes SE of the city. Our youngest son followed him a few years later when he got work on a dairy farm milking 1000 cows to the west of Christchurch. He is now married and lives in the city.

We've had many trips to Christchurch and the South Island during the last fifteen plus years. I don't seem to have any photos of the city or it's wonderful parks. Next time we are there I will be taking photos with a different purpose in mind. I might need it one day in a post.'

The piano is a work of art

There have been more than 2000 aftershocks since the big earthquake on September 4th. This morning about 11.30 another shake sent objects flying, loss of electric power and liquefaction of the sandy soils. This one was closer to where my eldest son lives but he'd have been on the road driving his concrete truck. It was rather nerve wracking for some of the workers, especially these two removing the cross from the Cathedral.

This week people who have the most seriously damaged houses will be told what their options are for the future. It can't be easy. Many will be trying to survive in rented accommodation and those who live from payday to payday which is pretty much most of us, will be struggling especially if they have lost their jobs as well. I know we have good systems in place but whatever the Government provision is there will be many people in difficult situations.

We are looking forward to Labour Weekend, a three day weekend. Our youngest son and his wife are flying into Auckland from Christchurch where our middle son will pick them up. It will be wonderful to see them.

I've finished editing so hope I got all the kinks out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Margie from Bruce and Margie's Full-Time Journey started something when she wrote about her Top Five Places they have visited. So many have written about their favourite places or places they want to visit I thought I'd try to do a short post with photos of some of our favourites.

For many years I thought of Simpsons Beach, where my mother now lives, as the most perfect place on earth. It's still a special place.

Sunset on Oakura Beach near New Plymouth

TWJ and I met at the Oakura Surf Lifesaving Clubhouse way back in the summer of 1960

Pukekura Park New Plymouth

We both love New Plymouth and have many friends there. It's long past time we made another visit.

Takapuna Campground

We stayed in the Motel at this Campground on Auckland's Northshore a few times. It's my favourite place to stay when we visit the Big Smoke, away from the busy city streets yet only a few minutes drive from the Harbour Bridge.

Rangitoto Island one of the many volcanoes, presumed to be extinct.

Auckland is a city built on volcanoes, generally we talk about 12 but the list is far more extensive.

It's always hard to believe that this is part of our largest and maddest city/

City-Scape from the Auckland Harbour Ferry

Outside this photo to the right, is the Viaduct Basin, where the America's Cup was based, and away to the left of the brown Victorian Ferry Building is the proposed Cruise Ship Terminal.

That's three places. I don't have photos for other North Island places so I'll leave the South Island for tomorrow.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I thought it was time to re-open this Blog. There's been plenty going on and it's a shame I've not kept up with a daily or at the very least a weekly diary.


Today, well to be honest for quite some time. I've been wondering if our little paradise otherwise known as New Zealand has gone stark raving mad.

I'd like to write that it began with the earthquake in Christchurch a month or so ago but we've been having a weird old time for much longer even if I cannot recall any of the details off the top of my head.

This week we've seen Christchurch prepare to demolish one of it's significant buildings. There's been a row between the 'Save our Heritage,' people and those who want to get on with rebuilding and recovering from the earthquake damage. Finally the decision has been made because this once proud building is extremely dangerous, extensively damaged and that area of the street remains cordoned off. Manchester Courts, is a 104 year old brick building, standing seven stories high. For many years it was Christchurch's tallest building. While it's sad to see part of out heritage lost it is more important that people are given a chance to pick up the pieces and get on with their lives and make a living.

The so-called after-shocks are upsetting with some causing serious damage where there appeared to be none previously. I quote from this article filed today.

“If you went through the big one, these don’t scare you at all,” says Mr Sharplin. “But they’re unpleasant; we just want them to stop.”

Since the main quake there have been 1,575 aftershocks as the ground resettles.

And another quote from this article

West Melton winemaker Peter Gatehouse and his family got through the main quake with little damage other than a few smashed bottles of wine. But when the aftershocks hit on Monday - centred not far from his property - it was a different story.

A concrete outer wall of his home partially collapsed inwards, cracks opened up in a stone pillar inside his home, dropping chips on to the floor, and a large storage tank in his nearby winery fell down on to a grape press with a "crash, bang".

"It was a good reminder that all is not quite finished yet," Mr Gatehouse"

To add to our embarrassment we are all over the International media thanks to the idiotic words of one of our star TV presenters. Everyone from BBC to India are having a go at us for this man's warped humour. Our Governor General is of Indian heritage although very much born and educated in NZ. With the Games in India the TV man, Paul Henry, couldn't have chosen a worse time to be loose lipped. I don't have much sympathy for him although I'm sure he is feeling the heat and wishes the words unsaid. First it was a comment to our Prime Minister about the next Governor General which you can read about here and now fuel has been added to the fire by another example of Paul Henry's schoolboy humour.

Another piece of trouble in our Indian community was released today as it appears to be that the man at the centre of a voting scam is an Indian. We are on the eve of Local Body Elections for Mayors and Councillers. Auckland City is to become a Super City with many areas becoming one. I thought it was only four cities being amalgamated but I think there are 7 or 8 about to become ex-mayors lined up. This huge, for New Zealand, city will administer infra-structure and other local body matters over about 2 million people. You could say half the population of N. Z.

Here is n official description.
All eight of Auckland's current regional and territorial authorities are moving towards a single, unitary council for the Auckland region. The new Auckland Council will come into effect on 1 November 2010 following local government elections.

Meantime we have a very grisly murder investigation going on and two serious inquests which expose the ugly side of our society. The inquest into the deaths of twin babies who were killed 4 years ago is plain frustrating. It made us all think about the level of child abuse and hopefully be more determined to stamp it out, but there will forever be many questions as the extended family closed ranks and made the police investigation impossible. Now who knows whether we are hearing the truth or a whitewash of lies to cover up just how extremely disfunctional the whole family is.

Another very public inquest is being held for a 17 year old schoolboy who died from alcohol poisoning. This is a very high profile case since the boys involved were from one of Auckland's elite schools. It's also a very sad but inevitable result of the Binge Drinking Culture among our young people. John Banks, outgoing Mayor of Auckland, took the stand as the father of one of the boys involved. His emotion was raw and painful to see. He is a father grieving for his son's behaviour and as a friend of the dead boy's family. I felt for him. I can't imagine the awfulness of being a parent in the public eye.

All through September, the beginning of spring, we had WEATHER all over the country. In the south more than 5 days of snow storms killed tens of thousands of sheep, most of them new lambs. Heavy rain caused serious flooding in various areas and 3 landslides in different parts of the country. The slip north of Christchurch closed that line for a week when Christchurch was desperate to get supplies in following the earthquake. Freight had to be reloaded onto trucks for a road trip be re-routed over the mountains and taking an extra days. A milk train carrying 400,000 litres,(100,000 US gal). milk ran into the slip in the Manawatu Gorge took a day or so to clear. Imagine having to get all those milk tankers back safely. The last accident was near our capital city, Wellington. It was pretty much a head on collision between commuter trains when one hit a slip and jumped the track into the path of an oncoming train. Amazingly there were no serious injuries.

We got off lightly here on the Coromandel Peninsula with only small landslides here and there that were never more than a nuisance on our roads. We had some wild weather with gale force winds and lots of rain for days and days, weeks and weeks. Driving became nerve wracking as we recalled the flooding that came with the last storm. This last week the sun shone out in a bright blue sky for a couple of days. What a relief!

Oh and I nearly forgot this one. A Chinese group are trying to buy up a mass of dairy farms. We are suddenly waking up to the fact that NZ is small beer and almost any large international company could tuck our whole country in one of it's folders. Laws are being made to protect our land .... maybe!

The Commonwealth Games are in full swing in Delhi and we are collecting silver medals while the Aussies, in particular, keep on pipping us at the post. The rivalry between our countries is legendary and we are smarting with the pain of them beating us. Hopefully someone will win us a gold soon. One headline read 'Silver yet again as Kiwis bow to Aussies' While I was writing this our first Gold Medal of the 2010 Commonwealth Games was being won.I think our tally is something like this. 1 Gold. 8 Silver. 3 Bronze.

The wait is over. An exhausted Alison Shanks brought a heady mix of relief and joy to New Zealand after powering to a Commonwealth Games track cycling gold medal here, (Delhi), tonight.