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…

The Nelson fires and climate change…

Note to  self: Must stop going to the welcoming sunshine of Nelson.   Not because I dislike the  place – that’s impossible. It’s because the visits usually coincide with calamities of one sort or another.

First  a giant squid washed  ashore at Farewell Spit in 2011,  then the next year, a mass stranding of  pilot whales in Golden Bay in February 2017. And finally,  last month’s  Nelson fires –  the worst in 60 years and the third worst  in New Zealand’s history).

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March miscellany

The rains were coming, unusually, and the peaches we’d  been monitoring  in the burning  sun for weeks were flushed and  ripe on  our neighbour’s tree.  She invited us to take as many as we liked  because she didn’t want the birds to snaffle these delights. Neither did we, and so in her backyard  Griff welcomed me and watched as I took to a loaded branch with a six foot bamboo pole. 

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Superstitions and why we have them – Onions

Witches don’t like onions, so keeping one or two in the house is a good protection – but left whole, not peeled or cut.

However there is an ancient superstition that a peeled onion will ‘absorb’ germs, thus shortening the span of an illness by taking all the danger into itself and preventing others in the household from catching the affliction.  Modern medical experts have advised that  because something has been believed for a long time does not mean it is true, and the ‘cut onion’ information is not true and should be disregarded.

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Perspectives on Waitangi Day…

Waitangi Day…

This year we asked  some of our contributors to write about what the day meant to them. Their views show that there’s cause for celebration, potential  for greater involvement and appreciation of the day’s significance.  First off, freelance writer  Chris Horan:

Like most New Zealanders I’ve never been to Waitangi and doubt I’ll ever get there. What I’ve seen on TV has very often been divisive. However, a few years ago I happened to be in Oamaru on Waitangi Day.The event was celebrated a few miles from town. We drove over a grass track through a field ready to harvest sun-flowers.

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Apartheid’s good old days….really?

It’s a risky business looking beneath the surface of the social media midden, but hard to resist when the subject is close to your heart. I lived and worked in South Africa in 1963-64, where the reality of apartheid became a shocking formative experience for me. I’ve since keenly followed the politics of author Alan Paton’s ‘Cry The Beloved Country’, his lament for the arrival of a  rigidly segregated  country.

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Soggy pants flight

“Six o’clock!” she cried and the bedsheets undid. “We’ll miss the bus. Won’t catch the plane!”

So she ran and he ran and they ran, until they came… to the wristwatch which, glowing with a smug luminosity on the bedside table, told them: “It’s only five o’clock”.

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The virtues of gratitude

 How quickly 2018 passed, Time  now to pause, look back  and reflect on your priorities in  this brand New Year!

Personally  I‘ve looked at the gains and achievements of the past year.  From that I’ve also  tried to  find, and focus on a theme for the year ahead. There’s already an element here which needs more priority  – and it lies in the simple but neglected word,  gratitude.

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Starlings…

There she was – laid out like a trophy on the back lawn. First I thought it was a Tui, my favourite bird. Ashamedly, I was relieved to find it was just a starling.

Just a Starling – didn’t it have just as much a right to live, free from urban predators? I knew immediately who the culprit was – ‘Daisy’, our over-fed house cat. The self-satisfied – ‘what me?’ – look on her face was more than sufficient to establish guilt. 

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Gozzy’s Dilemma

The locals are restless. The roads are full of camper vans. There are so many people going up Mount Roy and Isthmus Peak that toilets have been put on the tops, to be helicopter serviced at our expense. The final blow, they’ve put trial traffic lights on Albert Town bridge over the Clutha. When you see traffic lights you know things have gone to the dogs. Even my dog, Gozzy, knows you can have too much of a good thing.

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