Outside the Auckland Town Hall there’s a statue of ‘Robbie’, Auckland’s most influential - and certainly its most colourful mayor. He saved the sparkling waters of our Waitemata from a proposed Brown’s Island sewerage scheme, which would have pumped raw sewage off the island into the harbour. Then he implemented his own sewerage scheme, in the Manukau Harbour using revolutionary oxidation ponds pioneered in California. Robbie pulled off this feat with passion, zeal - and a quality no local politician seems to have these days: imagination.

That statue seems as if it is rallying Aucklanders to rise up to save their harbour which is threatened by the Auckland Council’s plans to provide a 90 metre long extension to Queen’s Wharf - for cruise ships. Already 4,000 have signed a petition opposing the move, and questioning the economic benefits. It all says we’d like access to Queen’s Wharf back the way it used to be 100 years ago…

“This is not us…”

“This is not us” is the phrase many of us have used after the shock of the Christchurch Mosque massacres which claimed the lives of 50 Muslim worshippers. It may come as a surprise to Kiwis, but that sentiment is being challenged on a leading US website, Buzzfeed.

Australian  Buzzfeed reporter Hannah Ryan, found examples of Muslims who had been discriminated against or were the victims of hate speech – and actions.

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Religions, social media – and free speech

Television cameras and interviewers were present on Christchurch’s last vigil for the 50 Muslims who’d been slain a week before. A young Muslim woman said the “Free-speech people” had a lot to answer for.

She used the expression ‘free-speech’ people once more in the interview, clearly in the belief that the law allowing free speech was partly to blame for the massacre. Or did she? Was she referring to the hateful, divisive and unregulated racists ensconced on social media?

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Tolerance – and ‘us’…

The Prime Minister was right to announce to the world that in New Zealand we are all ‘us,’ but   although it made us feel virtuous to agree with her, we know that’s not true.

You could say that, in general, we have tolerated Muslims, but they will tell you about being held in Customs for longer periods than other New Zealanders and that they have a harder time than European immigrants trying to get their parents to visit from places like India and Pakistan. And that feels like discrimination.

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The Very Last Time I Played Rugby…

The last time I played rugby was when I was a (relatively) springy 34-year-old.

I’d moved from south Wales to take up a new job on the English north east coast 45 kilometres or so from the town where I was born.  The good news: We found a house in a small, pleasant and ancient market town of some seven thousand people. The not so good: we  knew  very few people apart from a handful of new colleagues.

How, I asked myself, could I make friends?  The local Clubs didn’t appeal  and that left sports clubs; why not try rugby again?

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Kindness the Core of Islam

Islam says that all guests should be welcomed and treated with kindness and respect –  Muslim or non-Muslim.   Haji Daoud Nabi  was at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque door and welcomed the shooter in to worship last Friday.

“Welcome brother,” were the last words he said before he was shot.  I have heard and read so many stories about this tragedy that have torn at my heart but, it’s this scenario which keeps running and rerunning in my head. And , it’s been made even more poignant for me  after seeing a photograph of  Haji , a kindly elderly Afghan man with a beautiful little girl who looks so like our own grandchild.

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A Stop/Go moment

Flowers left by Rotorua residents at the home of a local Muslim

On This Day – we can call it that now because of its notoriety – we drove through Mt Roskill and paused for the stop-go road worker. We sighed and complied – just another Auckland roading improvement. On the footpath beside us, a Muslim in traditional dress tugged at his reluctant son’s hand and dragged him home as he strode past, looking grim. 

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That was then…

One of the joys of de-cluttering for people who didn’t want to do it in the first place, is that you sometimes find unexpected treasures. Things that weren’t that special but for some reason you just couldn’t throw away.

As we foraged through paper mountains in a spare room, we found a special 100th issue of Metro magazine, dated October 1989 and called In Our time – Auckland in the Eighties.

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Thank God That’s Over: The 2019 Academy Awards

I watched a little of the television coverage of the 2019 Academy Awards and  briefly scanned the online updates from sources such as Variety and Indiewire., The was one bright moment in Olivia Coleman’s acceptance speech and the US audience ratings appeared to reverse last year’s slump, but it wasn’t essential viewing. It hasn’t been so for the past decade or more.

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